Sony's PSP: A Review

Touted for all sorts of fancy multi-media capabilities, Sony's PSP is, in the end, truly only meant for one thing: Playing games. It's more then equipped to do just that. It even looks like it's ready to go with a stunning design that makes jaws drop the moment it's taken out of the box.

Touted for all sorts of fancy multi-media capabilities, Sony's PSP is, in the end, truly only meant for one thing: Playing games. It's more then equipped to do just that. It even looks like it's ready to go with a stunning design that makes jaws drop the moment it's taken out of the box.

The console is an immaculately designed piece of hardware, arguably the best looking portable ever produced. Pictures do not convey just how slim and small the system really is, dominated by the largest screen in the history of handhelds. Holding it is pure gaming bliss with a similar feel to a standard Playstation controller, just minus the extra thickness and second analog stick.

The included analog "piece" really isn't much of a stick though. Those who grew up on the NES will likely remember the rather odd NES Max, a goofy little controller with a sort of "gliding" d-pad. That's the best description possible, just now that pad automatically returns to the center. It seems to pick up on slight movement quite well during a test with "Ridge Racer."

The d-pad and buttons feel about the same as they did on the standard Playstation controller. They offer a little more resistance and the L & R triggers go a little deeper than you might be used to. They seem to be a little bit sticky, though this is a likely a problem because the console is brand new. The button configuration is the same as well, with the usual triangle, X, circle, and square designations.

Of course, it's really that screen that grabs you. This is simply an awe-inspiring display, and this time without argument, it really is the best portable game screen ever developed. The LCD nature of can cause a small amount of blurring with fast moving, dark objects. It tends to clear up rapidly without too many problems. The biggest issue is that this screen is seemingly made to clean your home from dust and fingerprints. Just the slightest touch smudges it and holding it close reveals just how much dirt you have on your person. Everything can be wiped off without too much effort.

There are plenty of buttons on the front, including the usual features like volume and start/select buttons. There's a small icon for sound that lets you choose from various audio presentations if you're using headphones. This can increase the bass, treble, etc. Finding a mix that suits you should be easy. The "Home" button takes you back to the main setup screen when in mid-game if you wish to quit.

The power switch is if off to the right, well out of reach of any buttons. There will be no turning your game off on accident. The switch on the left side turns on and off the consoles wireless capabilities. The memory stick slides in just underneath it; the battery under the power switch.

The UMD is a totally unique medium that will only work on this system. They're smaller than a Gamecube disc and come in a caddy for protection and portability. However, the caddy cannot be changed out if it becomes damaged. There's also a rather large portion on the back (where the disc is actually read) that allows dust and other unwanted materials to seep inside. If cared for properly inside the somewhat oversized cases they come in, this likely will not be a problem for you. If you plan on stuffing you pockets with software, you will likely have some games stop working after a while.

Once up and running (with the battery inserted; for whatever reason, the battery is not actually in the system when you first take it out of the box), the console unveils a rather sleek and elegant interface. Moving left to right lets you select from the available functions including music, video, games, and system settings. Once there, going up and down lets you select what you like to do with that specific feature. It's simple to use and more game machine designers should take note. Playing a game is a matter of sliding a switch on the top to pop open the back and putting the disc in. The UMD icon appears on the menu and you're set. Select it and you're set.

One thing that certainly deserves mention is the video quality of UMD movies. Though it's doubtful they'll ever become as big as Sony believes they will, their video quality makes you wonder if they won't take off after all. The included "Spiderman 2" UMD boasts stunning clarity and resolution, though it has been cropped from its original aspect ratio to fit (senseless, really, since this is a widescreen display). Audio quality isn't quite DVD quality, but still strong especially with a solid pair of headphones. Movement left to right is captured flawlessly and the same goes for the games.

One sticky point is battery life. At the most, you'll get five hours of gameplay. That seems bad, but this isn't the day of the Game Gear or Atari Lynx. This is a rechargeable battery so there's no need for desperate midnight runs to the store during a power outage. Plenty of accessories make sure everything stays charged as well, even in the car with the usual cigarette lighter adapter (though it's not included).

Sony has a fantastic, powerful, and simple to use piece of hardware here. If you're looking to learn about downloading movies and music to your system, that's an entirely different review. The system can do those functions and that's all that is important. This is a system made to play video games first and foremost, and it seems more equipped to do that than any of the competition. It's going to come down to the software battle and whether or not people are willing to spend more on this than the competition for it.

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Comments (5)

Matt, you got yours, and wrote a review, even before I got to the store. But then I had to work until 5 :P

I am glad I reserved mine because there were little left when I picked mine up at about 6.

2 Play had half of the games I pre-ordered. They did not have Untold Legends, which I found at Sam Goody, Lumines is not in until Friday at either location, and NBA Street Showdown got pushed back until the end of April!

I was not going to get Ridge Racer, but it looks so beautiful, and the car handles so well with the analog "nub" that I just had to get it. I have never bought this many launch titles before. But this is not your standard launch line up.

I will have my review of the PSP online soon enough.

Nick:

I came online to check out reviews of the PSP as i've had one for a few days and keep turning it off by mistake because the power button is right where your hand rests when playing games! I saw you comment "The power switch is if off to the right, well out of reach of any buttons. There will be no turning your game off on accident." But it really is a bad location for the button. Not a very good design. Sure certain games won't matter but i've been playing Burnout where you are going pretty hard on the R1 button and with that type of movement the risk of killing the units power is pretty high! Doh.

I have been playing Burnout on my PSP lately as well. Though I have not, in any of my games, had an issue with pushing the power switch on the side of the PSP. However, if you do, you do not kill the power. You just put it to sleep. You have to push and hold the switch for a while to actually turn the unit off.

I can say that after nearly a year, I have not pushed the off button in the midst of a game...

Besides, Madded does that for us.

Paul Sahai:

i keep turning it off by mistake

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