Sony PSP First Thoughts Review (pics)

by Reads (140,338)

Ok, so it’s not a PDA, notebook or a perfect fit for any of our family of sites, but the Sony PSP is a mobile device that is extremely popular, so it’s our duty to play several hours of games to tell you if it’s a worthwhile purchase. And given Sony’s departure from the PDA world, we’re frankly quite starved for any tiny computing device with Sony’s name on it. Lastly, there are plenty of rumors that these Mobile Gaming devices will ultimately include PIM and other productivity oriented applications. All excuses to buy a PSP and a few games aside, how does the PSP perform and does it stack up well against the Nintendo DS? Read on…


Back of the PSP

The design of the PSP is really quite amazing. Sony has always fought Apple for best designed computing devices, and the PSP is not a letdown in any way. The sleek black body is dead sexy. Everything from the casing down to the clear buttons on the corners exudes class and a refined, yet fun, attitude.


Main launcher screen

Once you get over looking at the PSP, powering it up reveals a display that can be summed up in only one word; awesome. The screen is simply phenomenal, with bright clear colors even on medium settings. And it’s huge as well, 4.3 inches (480 x272 pixels), in the 16:9 widescreen format, perfect for gaming and watching movies.


Twisted Metal UMD

The games and movies run from the UMD (Universal Media Disk) drive. The UMDs are basically mini compact disks that come in a plastic tray that slides into the back of the PSP. And yes, I did say movies. If you haven’t kept up on the PSP, it’s much more than a video game machine. The first million units to the US come with Spider Man II on UMD. Sony has plans to release several other movies in the future, including four on April 19th (XXX, Hellboy, Resident Evil: Apocalypse and Once Upon a Time in Mexico).


UMD drive on the back of the unit

Beyond the UMD slot, the PSP has plenty more to offer. The unit features 802.11b for wireless gaming via ad hoc (connection between two PSPs) or over wireless network. There’s not any online gaming yet, but that’s something we could certainly see going forward. The PSP also has a mini USB connector, infrared and of course a Memory Stick Duo slot. A 32MB Duo card comes with the PSP and is used for saving games, profiles and such. Larger cards can be purchased to use the PSP as an MP3 player or picture viewer. The picture viewer works very well, picking up photo folders with zero user intervention.


PSP with case, Spider Man II, remote and headphones

Sony has included several goodies with the PSP. Already mentioned are the 32MB Duo card and the Spider Man II movie. Sony also includes a neoprene case that is an essential and effective tool to protect the device from scratches while in transit. An earbud set and remote are also included. The earbuds are terribly uncomfortable for my ears after just a few minutes, but they do provide reasonable sound. The remote can be used with any headset though; I recommend something in the noise canceling family for best results. Lastly, a lanyard that will never see the light of day, cleaning cloth and sample disk, with movie and game previews are also in the package.


Top of the PSP

From a performance perspective, so far the PSP has excelled. The 333 MHz processor keeps up with all the games I’ve played and the Spider Man II movie ran without hesitation. I’m not throwing easy puzzle games at it either. I’ve run some of the more action packed games, Wipeout Pure and Twisted Metal for a few hours already. The PSP keeps up brilliantly with no lag or hiccups to speak of.


Notice the smudges and analog stick

One of the problems with Mobile Gaming devices is the lack of user inputs. Since the Game Boy’s debut with two buttons years ago, only the DS offered a revolutionary update. The PSP one ups the DS, adding an analog thumb stick that works very well, in addition to the directional buttons, action buttons and L/R buttons. All the input options are responsive, with the analog joystick being a special treat; that feature alone with make the PSP a huge favorite with gamers.

Largely the PSP is a fantastic device, but I do have a few early nits. While the case is beautiful, it’s going to get marked up with nasty finger oil unless you wash your hands every ten minutes. Sony was wise to include a micro-fiber cloth to help keep it clean, you’ll need it. The audio volume could be stronger. While the external sound is pretty good in a quiet environment and the headset performance is clear, the actual volume level presents a problem. I found myself routinely at 70% with the included headset and even at 100% on speakers; sound was easily washed out by other noise.


PSP and DS main screen comparison


PSP on top of the DS

In comparison to the Nintendo DS, the Sony PSP excels in almost every way. The construction is substantially better, where the DS feels cheap; the PSP is more sturdy and firm. It doesn’t even seem fair to mention display, the DS does offer a gimmicky second screen, but the PSP is so much more bright and huge, you could put three screens in the DS and it wouldn’t matter. The PSP also brought as many games to launch as the DS has after several months on the market. The only real advantage the DS has is price and availability, along with their chat application that might be a nice to have if you are in a group of mobile gamers. All in all though, the PSP puts the DS to shame in quality, display and functionality.

We’ll offer a more in-depth review and comparison with the DS in the coming weeks, please feel free to post any specific questions or comments here and we’ll do our best to cover them in the review, or at least reply to your post. My thoughts are subject to change, but if you have the cash and opportunity to buy the PSP, I consider it a must have for even the casual gamer. It’s just that good and will provide a welcome diversion during your next flight, layover or the 15 minutes you need to kill between meetings.

Sony PSP Games and Price Comparison

Nintendo DS Review

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