Not happy with having a strong hold on the console market,
Sony had launched their first effort in the handheld market
with the PSP. Released on 3/24/05, the PSP launched in North
America as part of a "Value Pack" for $250, along with a handful
of titles to augment the purchase. It doesn't take much time
to realize that Sony intends to make this gaming device capable
of additional features, like playing movies and music, to
enhance the worth of the product.
Out of the Box
Value Pack comes with a ton of accessories, most of which
prove to either be a necessity or completely replaceable.
Along with the handheld is the rechargeable Lithium-ion battery
and plug-in cords for recharging the battery or just playing
while near a wall outlet. Fortunately, you can play while
the battery charges, but when you are away from an outlet,
the battery has a life that varies depending on what you're
doing. I've read accounts of getting anywhere from 2-8 hours
depending on what the PSP is doing, but I've only managed
to around 4.5 to 6 hours of game time before needing to recharge.
The Value Pack comes with a 32 MB Memory Stick (see Memory
below), free earbuds and a remote, a sampler UMD and a free
copy of Spider-Man
2 on UMD. While some of the items are nice to have, others
are just a waste. The earbuds aren't all that great and the
sampler UMD is good for one look through, but without any
playable content, it will find its way into a trash can quickly.
The remote for playing movies and music is actually nice,
though I could only see it having use if you were to use the
PSP as a MP3 player on the go or had set up your PSP on a
stand while watching movies. The free copy of Spider-Man
2 on UMD (for the first million PSPs sold) is a nice tease,
but it feels like it may have been rushed to market. The video
quality is nice and looks sweet on the LCD screen and the
audio is pretty good, but the lack of scene select is disappointing.
You can skip through chapters with the shoulder buttons, but
if you stop watching the movie, unless you leave it in the
PSP and put the PSP in sleep mode, you'll have to click back
to your chapter when you return.
I would have to say that I'm impressed with what the PSP can
do. But, first and foremost, it's a gaming machine, and that's
the most important aspect of the unit. Graphically, the games
already available show off some nice power, putting the PSP
anywhere in the late Playstation, early PS2 range of visuals.
I wonder how the games will look once the PSP has a year or
two under it's belt. With the addition of a Memory Stick,
tech heads can view their own photos, listen to music and
watch downloaded movies on the PSP. Each section has a number
of options and serves the "all-in-one" aspect well
without excelling in any of these regards. The LCD screen
looks gorgeous and is bright on a scale that sometimes can
screw with your eyes when you look away. The speakers are
okay, but until you get a good set of earbuds, you're not
going to get the best out of the PSP's audio.
Drawbacks? The eject mechanism is a bit aggressive. When
you open the eject button for the UMD disc, be careful not
to launch the disc at any nearby friends. Also, the glossy
surface sucks down fingerprints like cookies at a fat farm.
Also, the first batch of PSPs seem to have issues with dead
pixels on the screen, so if you buy one, I'd suggest buying
from a place with a product replacement warranty for your
Patterned after Sony's controls for the Playstation and PS2,
the PSP features four face buttons, two shoulder buttons,
a D-Pad and Analog "Nub" (for lack of a better term).
Except for the Nub, none of the buttons feature analog support,
but that really doesn't seem like much of a limitation. The
D-Pad is useful for most games, except for the fact that Sony
style D-Pads have never felt 2D Fighter friendly. The Analog
Nub looks like a control stick, but slides around in an odd
manner that takes a little bit of use to get the handle on.
When you do, it controls pretty well, though I usually find
myself defaulting to the D-Pad. While there were reports that
Button has response issues, I have found no such problems.
Grade: Out Of The Box Gaming: A,
Out of the Box Multimedia: D-,
With additional purchase: A-
The 32 MB Memory
Stick Duo that comes with the PSP is purely a tease if
you seriously want to use the PSP for anything more than gaming.
For gaming, though, it proves to have more than enough space
for your gamesaves. Since the 32 MB Memory Stick comes with
the PSP, at least you won't have to buy one right away to
play games. But, if you want to do any serious music or movie
(non UMD) storage, you better start looking into the bigger
Memory Sticks put out by Sony or SanDisk,
ranging in size from 128 MB to 1 GB. Don't expect any of these
to be cheap and you may have to do some looking for these
as they are a hot commodity right now. Also, be sure to get
the Memory Stick Duo or Pro Duo as those seem to be the only
ones that are compatible right now.
Once you format the Memory Stick, it'll have folders for photos,
music, saves and games. Since there is no extended file structure,
you'll have to dump your music and photos in a single folder,
which makes it harder to group by subject or the like. Though
the PSP uses a USB Mini-B cable to connect to your PC, it
doesn't come with one. They aren't too expensive to buy if
you don't have one lying around. With the USB cord, you can
hook your PSP up to your PC (or maybe Mac, but I haven't tried
this) and toss in files that you want to view/listen to/etc.
When it comes to adding videos that you downloaded to your
PC (legally or illegally - I don't want to know), you're actually
going to have to do some work as Sony didn't give you the
required folders to place your movies in (God only knows why).
has a lengthy How-To on how to get videos onto your PSP. The
gist is that you need to download a converter
that converts your video files to the MP4 format that is supported
by the PSP. You'll need to download the folder for videos
from a number of places, including at PSPConnect.
Once you do that, you can drop your files in there and watch
away. You may have to tool around with the converter to get
decent audio and video. My first attempt was a low res music
video found on the new Otep
album which looked and sounded pretty good despite some
issues with the low quality conversion.
Online and Multiplayer
Right out of the box, the PSP has the ability to play multiplayer,
whether it be locally or over the internet. Fitted with WiFi
wireless LAN, the PSP can play against other players locally
in an Ad-Hoc mode. This mode allows up to 16 people to play
at one time, though the most I've seen listed for a game is
6 players at this time. By using a wireless router, players
can also play online against other people. Much like XBox
Live, the online component for the PSP will offer downloadable
content, most notably in WipeOut
Pure. One of the more interesting things to come out of
this is the fact that gamers have already used a "glitch"
in Wipeout Pure to browse
the Internet While there were some hiccups in the
online gaming experience early on, things seem to have ironed
Games - Launch
It seems that Sony must have learned something with their
less than wonderful launch for the PS2. The PSP has the good
fortune of launching with some familiar names and a number
of excellent, worth-your-money titles. Along with first party
titles like Twisted Metal:
Head-On, Wipeout Pure and Ape Escape, the
PSP benefits from the likes of the puzzler Lumines,
a card-based strategy Metal
Gear title, and handheld versions of THUG2, Spider-Man
2, and Darkstalkers, giving a good base of games
to start with. Puzzle, racing and sports games are readily
available, leaving other genre to be filled in as the gaming
Games - Short Term
Okay, so there are some games coming out for the PSP after
the launch, like Hot Shots Golf, Midnight Club 3:
DUB Edition, MVP Baseball from EA and Dead To
Rights: Reckoning, but these releases feel like the calm
before the storm. After the nice launch, the release list
feels more like a trickle of console ports and a few Sony
titles to hold us over until more games are being developed.
Fortunately, the launch came with enough good titles to hold
most people over until a later date.
Games - Long Term
I can only give the PSP a B for Long Term game library
because honestly, I have no damn clue what the extended product
line is going to look like. There are a lot of names being
thrown around, like Grand Theft
Auto, Devil May Cry,
Persona, and a Final
Fantasy 7 spin-off, but until E3, there are next to no
hard details. With what's being rumored, though, the game
lineup for PSP could potentially be great, but I can't make
that kind of assumption. I doubt Sony' going to squander what
they've already built up, marketing-wise, but they and the
third party developers may need to focus on specific genres
to balance out the library. Hopefully by the Holiday shopping
season, the line-up will be fully fleshed out.
Overall, I'd say the PSP has launched well and will likely
survive against the titan that is Nintendo's handheld dynasty.
While the initial Value Pack bundle can be a bit pricey and
the handheld still has some growing pains, the PSP does offer
a good selection of games to start with and enough additional
options to make tech heads happy. Considering the online options
and the ability to hook the PSP to your computer, I fully
expect to see some interesting homebrewed software turn up
before too long. Sony would do well to embrace some of this
additional content as it's sure to add value to their handheld.