Nintendo has revealed details of the GPU which will form the heart of its 3DS hand-held - and in a surprising move, it's not one you're likely to have heard of.

According to THINQ.co.uk, earlier rumours that the device would be based around Nvidia's Ion chipset are untrue - instead, Nintendo has opted to use a graphics system from a small start-up local to Japan called Digital Media Professionals.

The DMP PICA200 chip will form the heart of the 3DS platform, and is due to offer Nintendo a major upgrade from the 2004-era technology that makes up the DS hand-held: with the PICA200 under its belt, the 3DS will become the first console in the company's history to feature programmable shaders.

While programmable shaders on their own don't necessarily correspond to a confirmation of claims that the 3DS would be more powerful than the fixed-pipeline GPU found in the Wii, it will offer the company - and, more importantly, developers - more flexibility, which could well correspond to more impressive visuals.

As well as the programmable shaders, the PICA200 - originally shown at the Siggraph conference in 2006, so a proven if slightly ageing technology - will bring 2x anti-aliasing, per-pixel lighting, and soft shadows to the platform, along with full support for OpenGL ES 1.1.

With an expected performance somewhere around that of the original Xbox console - which, for a hand-held, is high praise indeed - the PICA200 chip could well be the secret sauce that wins the hand-held console war for Nintendo, providing performance and power usage characteristics quoted by the company prove true.

Are you impressed at the possibilities offered by the DMP PICA200, or would Nintendo have been better of partnering with one of the larger graphics outfits? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

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