Review by nightmare75

"A Good Piece of Hardware"

First off, I won my PSP as a door prize. I'd like to think that since I didn't actually buy anything, I felt no need to justify my purchase to myself or anyone else. As a result of that, I feel like I can give a pretty unbiased review of this handheld.

And for a little more context, the last handheld that I actually owned was a Game Boy Color. I've played a few DS games, but not for more than an hour or two total. Anyway, to the review.

Physical Attractiveness: 9/10

A very attractive piece of hardware here. I got the special white edition with the Darth Vader silkscreen on the back. My only gripe is that the entire thing smudges really easily. I recommend a screen protector or some other form of protective case to keep it looking good.

Controls: 9/10

I feel like the input interface of any device is crucial and I think this one is done really well. The buttons are large, especially for a handheld. This makes them easy to press. The face and shoulder buttons provide very good feedback when you press them. The shoulder buttons seem a little flimsy to me, but I haven't yet run into any problems with them. The analog "stick" (more of a nub than a stick) is very nice. It seems like it tracks very accurately. It too seems a tad flimsy, but once again, I haven't had any problems. Basically, the only reason this doesn't get a 10/10 is because it's not quite a DualShock 2. I think another analog nub on the right side would have made looking around in shooters a little better, but might have mad the overall layout a little clunky. I also miss having two extra shoulder buttons. That said, this is an excellent control layout. Even if this wasn't a handheld, you couldn't complain about this set up.

Functionality: 8/10

Games, first and foremost, followed by movies, music, web browsing, and pictures. The PSP does a decent job of encompassing all of these roles. However, these are really only good if you've got the money to spend on them. To watch movies, you either need to buy the PSP compatible editions of the movies (annoying if you already have them on DVD) or convert them on your computer, in which case you're going to need a rather large memory stick (read: a rather expensive memory stick). With music and pictures, you are once again limited by the amount of memory you're willing to pay for. The web browser is sub-par as well. Unless you're going to websites designed for mobile browsers (like the one found on here as well as various cell phones), you're going to have to wait a while for your page to get loaded and fully rendered.

I will say however that despite gripes with other media, it plays games very well. The playability of games goes back to controls for me.

Display: 10/10

The 4.3" LCD screen on this thing looks absolutely great. The colors are sharp and vibrant. This is undoubtedly the best screen to have graced the front of a handheld. A nice feature that I like is the ability to turn the brightness of the backlight up and down with the touch of a button. Both movies and games look very good on this spectacular little screen.

Graphics: 10/10

Maybe I was spoiled by the PS2 counterparts to a couple games, but the graphics on here aren't really comparable. But since I'm reviewing a handheld against other handhelds and not against any other type of console, that point is moot. The fact is that these are the best graphics available on a handheld. The DS is not able to offer the same visuals that the PSP does.

Onboard Storage: Wait, what?/10

One of the biggest downsides for me was the lack of any onboard storage. The PSP I received did not come with a memory stick. And with a system like this, memory is a must. That means you have to go out and buy a memory stick, which can run quite a bit for a big-ish one with decent read/write speeds. This is quite annoying to me. It seems like it would be reasonable to include at least a little onboard storage to start playing games out of the box without making an extra trip to Best Buy.

Battery: 6/10

The six here is significant because that's the maximum number of hours you can play this baby without charging. In normal situations, this won't be a problem for you. If you're playing at home, chances are you aren't going to spend more than six consecutive hours playing and if you do, you'll be near a power outlet and can use the included charge cord. But problems arise if you're stuck in a car for six or more hours. A car charger can alleviate this problem, but that's just more money to spend. This may not even be an issue for some people, but if you live out in the middle of nowhere like I do, then long car trips are quite frequent. Handhelds have always been an ideal source of entertainment for me in cars (and to this day I still use my GBC in the car) and the battery life of this handheld is almost a deterrent to that.

Software: 8/10

You might not think it's absolutely fair to talk about a game platform's software support in a review of its hardware, but I think it's a valid point. Software (read: games) are what makes a console fun to play.

The software for the PSP is a little bit of a mixed bag. There aren't really any marquee series out for it. Nintendo has Pokemon, Zelda, and Mario out for the DS. The PSP doesn't really have an answer for any of those. It does have some gems, but chances are you haven't heard of them if you don't own a PSP. Many of the games for the PSP are just ports or re-makes from other consoles. This can be a little disappointing if you own a PS2 and have played these games on that system. But what it lacks in games, it makes up with other things. With custom firmware, you can do a lot of cool things with a PSP, most of which I haven't even explored yet. It's possible to emulate games from various Nintendo handhelds, for example (:D). This wide array of things to do outside of gaming and the wide array of games you are able to play that were not originally designed for PSP makes for hours of enjoyment. However, you'll need to do some research and buy a few more accessories in order to go the custom firmware route.

Overall: 8/10

I think if money were no object, this review might be a 10/10. But the number of accessories you are forced to buy can add up a little. I realize that that's where Sony makes money on its consoles, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. Other than the price factor, this is a very good piece of hardware. It does everything it was advertised to do and looks good doing it. To me, the pros here far outweigh the cons. If you were on the fence about purchasing a PSP, I'd highly recommend it.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 06/09/08

Game Release: PSP Hardware (US, 03/24/05)

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