Sony has upped the ante against Microsoft's Xbox even further in the run up to Christmas with the announcement of a new slim-line version of its PlayStation 2 console.

Aiming to be the hottest Christmas present this year, the new model will go head to head with the Xbox to decide who will become the console king of 2004. The announcement follows hot on the heals of price reductions from both manufacturers last month. However hoping to repeat the success of the PlayStation when it was remodelled, Sony has launched a slimmer, more lightweight design PlayStation 2 in a global launch to 16 countries.

While the specifications remain the same the redesigned unit has been heavily condensed in size. The overall size has been reduced by 75 per cent, the weight has been halved and the thickness trimmed down to 2.8cm (it was 7.8cm) making the model roughly the same size as a hardback book. Also built-in to the unit is an Ethernet port allowing users to connect to the internet via broadband and play games online.

Sony has sold over 6 million units of the original model in the UK in the five years since its launch and following a price drop to £104.99 in August has seen sales double week on week. Sony are hoping that the new design will give it the edge over the growing popularity of the Xbox, which also dropped its price of its console in August to a more appealing £99.

Following the price drop last month Sony has said that it is up to the retailers to decide whether people who have bought the old model since the price reduction be entitled to a replacement new model or not but they very much doubt they will. Meaning those who cashed in on the price crash early will surely be disappointed now.

This is not the first time that Sony has shrunk its gaming console, In September 2000 the same treatment was given to then popular PlayStation when it was nearing the end of its lifecycle. That time the console received a large boost in sales as new customers where drawn in by the new design and the same is likely to happen again with this new model.

The announcement of the PlayStation 2 kicks of a busy six months for the entertainment giant with its portable handheld unit, the PSP, launching next week at the Toyko Game Show up against Nintendo's handheld unit, the DS, and its next generation console the PlayStation 3 which will be up against the Xbox2 due to launch in the UK and US in March next year.