Nintendo to release multimedia adapter for GBA & DS

A new adapter from Nintendo will give both handhelds multimedia functions that rival the built-in extras in Sony's PSP.

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TOKYO--Less than a week after Sony's launch of the PlayStation Portable in Japan, Nintendo has announced that it will release a new adapter for the Game Boy Advance SP and Nintendo DS. Tentatively named Play-yan, the adapter will let the handhelds play back MPEG-4 video and MP3 audio files much like the PSP. No date or price has been officially set, but Nintendo is looking at a release date of mid-February and a price of close to 5,000 yen ($48).

Nintendo's Play-yan will use an SD card instead of a Memory Stick Duo, like the PSP. While the released designs of Play-yan aren't set in stone, the adapter at the current time seems to be about the same shape and size as a GBA cartridge. The SD card will snap into the side of the Play-yan, making it irremovable as long as the Play-yan is firmly set in the handheld's cartridge slot. And because the Play-yan doesn't come with any PC connectivity, owners will need an SD Card writer/reader to record data from a PC.

Play-yan will run on the GBA SP, but it won't be compliant with the standard GBA. The Play-yan can connect to the DS through its GBA cartridge slot, and it will be displayed in GBA resolution on either the top or the bottom screen. The Play-yan can run up to four hours when playing back movies, and it can play for 15 hours or eight hours for music, depending on whether the LCD screen is turned off or on through the adapter's menu options.

According to Japanese gaming Web site Impress Gamewatch, Play-yan features a Broadcom (Alphamosaic) VC01PXX-ES2 as its hardware decoder. The decoder allows the playback of ASF format MPEG-4 files with support of resolutions up to CIF (320x240) and bit rates up to 1.5mbps. There will also be a mode for recording two hours of MPEG-4 on a 256MB SD card. However, the audio will be monaural when playing back MPEG-4 files.

The Play-yan will also support SD-Video format, which means that users with hybrid digital recorders, such as those from Panasonic (FMR-E500H, DMR-E200H, DMR-E100H), can record movies onto an SD Card with the digital recorder and then play them back on the fly with a GBA SP or DS. Play-yan doesn't support SD-Video in extra fine mode (320x240/30fps), but it can play back ASF-format MPEG-4 of the same quality. In addition, Play-yan also supports movies that are created on PCs by Fujitsu and Hitachi, which come installed with Panasonic's MediaStage application.

The movies in the SD card will be selectable for playback through animated thumbnails displayed on the screen that give users convenient checkup abilities over them. Fast-forwarding and rewinding is done with the directional pad's left and right keys, and holding on to them will increase speed. Meanwhile, the L and R buttons let the user change the brightness of the screen in four different levels.

The Play-yan supports VBR and allows playback of MP3 files with bit rates of 32-320kbps. Play-yan features folders similar to the PSP, meaning users can separate tracks into different categories for playback. The adapter will also support ID3 tags and Japanese text for its track titles and artist names. The playback functions for MP3 files, such as shuffling, are still in the works. The Play-yan comes with its own ministereo plug on its end, allowing users to directly listen to audio that hasn't passed through the GBA SP or DS hardware.

Nintendo currently only plans to sell the Play-yan though its official Web site. The company will begin taking preorders in mid-January, and it expects to ship Play-yan a month later. Currently, there are no plans to sell the adapter in North America. More details on Play-yan will be disclosed when Nintendo begins taking preorders for it.

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