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Exclusive Hands-on with Sony’s PSP replacement

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The so-called PSP2 was one of the worst-kept secrets in gaming before it was announced in January. Right up there with the PlayStation-certified Sony Ericsson phone. And the slim PS3. Do you notice a Sony-themed trend here?

At least Sony has managed to keep the real name of its new handheld secret.

You won’t be playing announced titles such as Uncharted, Wipeout 2048 or the existing library of PSP games (tweaked and improved for the new console) on a device called the NGP. It will be called something far slicker than that. We hope.

Still, as we wait for the name, the fact that its existence has been confirmed by Sony meant we were keen to test it. And at last we were able to following an invite to a top-secret London location (OK, Millbank Tower) to try out this latest piece of hardware.

The verdict? We were hugely impressed. The slightly more detailed verdict? Eyes down...

There are front and back cameras with face detection and head-tracking capabilities. This not only allows you to make yourself a character in games such as side-on brawler Reality Fighters, but it also supports augmented reality.

The NGP (Next Generation Portable) has two analogue sticks replacing the PSP’s widely criticised and difficult-to-use ‘nub’. It’s an immediate improvement, giving you a similar level of control to a PS3 gamepad.

Inside the device is an ARM Cortex-A9 core processor and a SGX543MP4+ graphics processing unit. But we wouldn’t expect you to understand (or even remember) all that. What it means: you get PS3-aping performance and graphics in a portable device.

The screen is an OLED touchscreen, measuring 5in diagonally across. But it isn’t the only touch-sensitive area — there’s a rear touchpad that’s surprisingly intuitive. It’s utilised in games such as Uncharted for climbing vines and avoiding obstacles.

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