Review by King_Lueshi

Reviewed: 10/31/05 | Updated: 01/24/06

Sony's PSP almost achieves perfection

By now, you've probably heard a whole lot of buzz about the Playstation Portable. If you follow games at all, you're bound to have noticed something about Sony's entry into the handheld market. Maybe you saw a screenshot showcasing the PSP's insane graphical prowess. Maybe you saw that it played movies and music along with games. Whatever the case, you've probably had some thoughts of getting your hands on one. Well, let me tell you: it's awesome.

The system:
The PSP has the standard PS1 button setup: the d-pad, four face buttons, start/select, and L and R buttons on the shoulders. The system also includes one analog nub. Yes, you've probably heard about the nub. Also, it's missing the standard dual analog set-up of the PS2. It's also missing R/L 2 and 3.

The controls aren't bad. In fact, they're pretty good. I have a gripe or two, though. The analog nub is placed in a position so that you have to hold the system up almost entirely with your right hand. Also, I've always been a bigger fan of the Gameboy-style d-pad than the Playstation style. However, both issues are hardly issues at all; the d-pad is responsive, and the nub feels pretty good. It should be noted that it took me a minute to figure out the best way to hold the system.

As for the size, the PSP manages to stay small enough to look like a handheld without being too small for your hands. I'm a very small guy (5 foot 5), and the thing fits in my pocket. I would assume that all people that aren't hobbit-sized could fit it in their pockets, too.

As for the storage mediums, Universal Media Disks are small (smaller than GCN discs) and are protected by a plastic shell. Only a small part of the disc is actually exposed. This is good. They're very easy to get out, as are the Memory Stick Duos.

The speakers are ok, but not awesome. They're loud enough for me, but if you're trying to use them in a crowded, loud-ish place, you probably won't hear much.

It's got a very attractive design. It certainly looks very stylish, at least to me.

System power:
This is a heated topic of debate, but I'll give you a basic rundown of my opinion on the graphical output:
DC < PSP < PS2
The PSP has some games that look better than their PS2 counterparts, like Ridge Racers and WipEout Pure. Then again, some look worse, like Need For Speed Underground Rivals. Overall, though, the PSP has simply fantastic graphics.

The screen, while being fantastic in brightness and rsolution, has a drawback. In Tony Hawk's Underground 2 Remix, I noticed ghosting on blocks of black, like open doorways. I've heard many complaints of ghosting on other games as well. This might not annoy some, but to others, I'm sure it would absolutely kill them. I don't mind it, since I'm busy looking at the wondrous graphics of the game. As for the screen, it's big and it's bright.

The games:
Right now, many call the PSP the Ports and Sports Portable. Clever, eh? Anyway, they do kind of hold a point: the PSP is very strong in sports and racing games, and relatively weak in some other areas, like platformers and RPGs(although a bunch of RPGs are coming out soon). Obviously, this category is entirely objective, so you'll have to do a little research to know if you're going to like the games. I'm not going to just flat-out tell you.

The Package:
Included in the PSP value pack is:
-The PSP
-A soft case. It keeps the PSP from getting scratched, but won't help much if you run over it. Of course, if little grains of sand get stuck on the inside, then it will scratch your PSP. You'll want to buy a third-party case.
-Headphones and remote. they're good if you're a casual music fan, but audiophiles will want their own. Of course, audiophiles will already have their own, so I guess this doesn't really matter.
-A cleaning cloth. This thing is god. Seriously.
-A wrist strap. Some users on the boards say it's saved their PSP many a time; I don't really use it. I sort of wish it was a little smaller.
-32 MB Memory Stick Duo. This is MONSTROUS for game saves, but it will only hold around twenty-five minutes of music, or 5-10 minutes of video. Also, this won't hold much downloadable content, for those thinking about getting Wipeout Pure.

Now, at $250 USD, some think it's a horrible value. I think it's for the most part worth it. Sure, I would rather be able to buy a stand-alone system for < $200, but I guess Sony's figuring they have to make a profit somewhere, so they need to force us to buy stuff we don't want or need.

Extra features:
The PSP supports playback of JPEG images, MP3 and ATRAC3 music, and MPEG4 video. If you get your PSP after the release of this review, it will come with firmware 2.0 or higher, meaning it will also play back TIFF images and AVC-encoded video. Oh, 2.0 and higher also have a web browser.

The photo capabilities are probably there because it would be weird without it. However, I don't think it serves much of a purpose. Unless you put pr0n on it.

The music capability isn't very good. Playlists are implemented by putting songs in folders inside the MUSIC folder on the memory stick. When playing songs, you have the basic pause/play/etc. options, as well as repeat all/one/etc. The equalizer settings are limited to only five options, which is a small problem. Anyway, if you want to play all the songs from all your playlists... too bad. You lose. Oh, one more thing: if you can, encode your music in ATRAC3+ format, not MP3 format, because AT3 uses like half the space for the same sound quality.

Video playback is good, but it's somewhat hard to pick up at first. You have to create a few folders on the memory stick yourself, unlike the other media formats, where the PSP will do it for you. You also have to create movies in a specific MP4 or AVC format. There is an excellent FAQ on this very site explaining how to do all this, though. FYI: AVC >>>MP4. AVC achieves higher/similar quality to MP4 at like half the bitrate.

I guess I'll throw in here that the cross-media bar is simple and intuitive, and doesn't need to load for ten seconds every five seconds like on the PSX.

The PSP seems fairly durable. I'm not going to test by throwing it out the window or something, but it seems like a system that could withstand some small beatings, say, while it's in your backpack (as long as it's in a case).

It's important to know that the front of the PSP is very... fingerprint-y. Fortunately, Sony included a cleaning cloth that gets rid of any fingerprints very easily.

As for some flaws you may have heard about...
-The square button
The Japanese PSP had a square button that was unresponsive or sticky in some cases. Fortunately, Sony fixed this for the US launch. It feels just like any other button on the system.
-The flying UMDs
You've probably seen that this is fake by now. If you haven't... it's fake.
-The battery life
It's not two hours. I get 5-7 hours playing THUG2 Remix and WipEout Pure.
I think I've addressed them all.

Note that there are a bunch of problems users have reported with new PSPs. I can't remember them all, but it's stuff like totally permanently dead batteries, broken UMD drive, crap like that. So be prepared to return your PSP when you buy it, although this kind of stuff only happens to like .1% of the people.

+Has buttons (wow, what a concept)
-Doesn't have dual analog, analog nub isn't the best
+System fits in pocket
+UMDs are well protected
+Speakers are more good than bad
+PSP is teh sexay
+The thing is a graphical monster
+Screen is big and bright
-Screen has noticeable ghosting
-Stuff included in pack is for the most part kinda cheap-feeling
+Photo capability is good, can't think of how it could be better
-Music capability isn't good, you'll be much better off getting a standalone MP3 player
-Not the most durable thing in the world
-Can come with some defects, although you could just return it


Looking over my review, you might think that there's way too much negative to justify a 9, but to me, most of the negatives don't really matter much, and the positives are really a whole lot bigger than the negatives. I just tried to cover everything in case someone really, really hates fingerprints and ghosting or something.

Basically, if you're looking into getting a PSP, make sure you really want it first. Look at some games lists, try it out firsthand, and do your homework in every way. However, unless you're really trying to hate the thing, I think you'll find that buying a PSP is a good move.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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