Leaked DS specs reveal touch screen, wireless LAN, 3D graphics

A very different beast to the GBA.

A document leaked onto the Internet purporting to be a full specification for Nintendo's forthcoming DS handheld includes features such as a touch panel input device, 802.11 wireless LAN and a 3D graphics system.

The one-page specification summary, entirely in Japanese, also provides further confirmation of many things we already knew about the DS (which has recently been revealed to have the codename "Nitro", although it's not clear whether that is purely a development codename or if it will find its way onto the final product branding).

As expected, the system will have two processors, with an ARM-9 CPU running at 67Mhz and an ARM-7 unit running at 33Mhz. Retail DS devices will have 4Mb of main RAM (while debug development units will have double that), with additional chunks of cache and shared RAM for the processors and 656Kb of video RAM.

The real surprises, however, come from things which Nintendo didn't even hint at in its original announcement. The system will possess decent 2D capabilities, but it also has a 3D graphics system which, the spec claims, is capable of drawing 120,000 polygons per second, representing a fill-rate of 30 million pixels per second.

That figure hardly puts it into the same league as the PSP for 3D performance, but it's the first time that a Nintendo handheld has featured hardware accelerated 3D, and should open up significant new possibilities for games on the device.

As, indeed, should the other two revelations on the leaked document - namely the inclusion of 802.11 wireless LAN technology (the industry standard used for wireless networking), and of a touch panel input device.

Nintendo president Satoru Iwata had already indicated that the device would have wireless capabilities of some description, but most commentators expected that to be the short range Bluetooth system, rather that the much faster and longer-range 802.11 protocol. We wonder what kind of functionality Nintendo has in mind that could call for wireless connections over 50 to 100 metre distances...

Sadly no further information is given about the touch panel (the spec simply says "touch panel" in a section on input devices, where it is listed alongside the standard Nintendo handheld input system of D-pad, four buttons (A, B, L and R) and Start/Select buttons), but it seems fair to assume that one of the actual screens may be touch sensitive, which would again open up an intriguing number of possibilities for designers.

The screens themselves are marginally more high resolution than the GBA, with two 256x192 resolution panels included in the spec, compared to the 240x160 panel in the GBA. Speaking of which, there's no indication here that the system will be compatible with GBA games, as has been suggested by many commentators, but equally the possibility isn't ruled out and the system should certainly be more than capable of running GBA titles if Nintendo wishes to do so.

Of course, a single leaked screenshot of a Japanese document doesn't constitute hard proof of any description, and this document should be taken with a pinch of salt - but if it is a forgery, it's a rather good one (at least to our pidgin Japanese reading eyes). The Nintendo DS remains one of the more unusual propositions for a game console that we've seen for some time, but if the document is for real, the inclusion of 3D, wireless LAN and touch panel hardware certainly just made it a lot more interesting.

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