Gadget Review: Sony PSP

PSP Deep Red

I know the PSP has been around for a few years now, but it’s only recently when I actually got a unit of my own to judge the system myself. Anyway, this is also a good time to review the system since it has lasted and will it last as Sony wants it to be? This game console has been selling like wildfire here in the Philippines. So far it seems like a best seller and it may be even outselling the DS, Xbox360 or the PS3.

Okay, here’s what the PSP is for me… a big portable media player and it plays games too, even has a bigger screen than the popular iPhone. That’s how it is for me in general. Yeah, the PSP has some outstanding games like God of War Chains of Olympus, Patapon, Crisis Core to name a few. But as I said the first time, this system feels like it was designed to do so many things and gaming seems like it’s just part of it, not the main feature. If it’s supposed to match the Nintendo GameBoy Advance, it has succeeded. If it’s supposed to match the Nintendo DS, then it has something lacking a bit.

There is nothing wrong with PSP in terms of construction, it plays like a good portable system, it’s just a bit bulky than the GBA or even the DS Lite. The GBA and the DS Lite can fit snugly in your pocket, the PSP needs one big pocket or a bag. Although I do have to admit that it has a wonderful build, it doesn’t feel like most gaming systems, it looks and feels expensive and more impressive than the DS. The screen is amazing, it’s like a looking at a big theater screen compared to a GBA or DS. As you watch movies, especially in the dark, it does feel like you’re in a theater. I can really say, if you want to watch portable movies, the PSP is a better way to go than getting yourself an iPhone. The only thing I usually worry about is the analog control… it feels like it may break off. The buttons and the directional pad feel very comfortable, but because of this I usually prefer using the D-pad than the analog controller in this case.

The interface looks okay as long as you are comfortable with the Cross Media Bar menu system. If you’re not familiar with the menu system, it goes like this; horizontal icons show the main categories like settings, music, pictures, games and more; while vertical icons show the items or files in those categories. This system can work fine as long as you don’t have a long list of files. It can get to be a problem if you have tons of things to look at. This can get a bit inconvenient when playing MP3 files; it’s a good thing that it can also handle playlists. The XMB is also used by the PS3, so if you have seen how the PS3 works, it’s pretty much the same.

The games graphics look good, as a portable system, it is a lot better than looking at the DS’ blocky graphics. Just look at God of War Chains of Olympus, it’s not as good as the PS2 version of GOW but the effects and the smooth visuals can’t be matched with any DS game. So far the best graphics I’ve seen on the DS is the new Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Rings of Fate, and even though I was impressed with how it looked, the PSP is still a top leader in graphics in terms of portable consoles.

The onboard speakers are not as loud as I want it to be, but hooking up good earphones can really show off what this handheld really can do. It sounds impressive even with standard earphones and again, you really can’t match hearing this compared to a DS system. Listening to music, watching movies and playing games can be an immersive.

The battery life can be disappointing if it’s compared to the DS. First thing, I like the indicator which it tells you an estimate time of how much long you can use the battery, but this very inaccurate because the time really depends on how much you use the system. Using the UMD, using the Wifi, using 3D graphics, the backlight, speaker volume and other things can really drain the battery faster than the indicator estimates it. The system does show you at 100% which can give an estimate of 6 hours, but it can be even less than 4 hours if you play a lot. So if you plan on travelling with the PSP, make sure you have an outlet to keep playing for hours.

About the games, so far most games that I have tried displayed very well and are responsive enough to the controls. The only thing I have a problem is that some action games like first person shooters don’t do very well here in terms of the controls. The graphics are fine… but the DS has more precise controls than the PSP. After seeing the Nintendo DS, the DS opened up more possibilities in gaming because of the touch screen, you can play traditional console games with the directional pad, but the DS did what only the PC and PDA systems can do… point and click, which the PSP can’t do precisely with an analog controller. If you haven’t played a first person shooter on a DS, you would be surprised how better a DS can play these games than on a PSP. The DS’ stylus has an edge in terms of innovation; the DS can crank more interesting games than the visually appealing PSP. Interestingly enough, the PSP is coming out with some interesting game concepts like Patapon or Echochrome, not sticking with what works is good, the only problem I see is that there’s not much of it to match DS’ list of games.

What’s great about this system? It’s that you can really appreciate this system once you have a PS3. It’s like the PSP was really designed to be a companion of Sony’s high end console. To achieve this, you will have to set up Remote Play. Remote Play works using Wi-Fi, but you can only set it up by hooking up a USB cable. If you are used to having a PS3, this is a very simple process, but you have to set the PS3 and PSP properly before the setup can be completed. Once this is set up, you can actually turn on the PS3 control, see the menu and hear the sound of the PS3 and turn it off all from the PSP. Through this, you can watch videos, listen music, look at pictures that are all loaded on the PS3, since the PS3 can read FAT32 hard drives, it can be an unlimited amount of media that you can enjoy (not limited to the internal hard drive). If you are fortunate enough to have PSOne games with a similar Region for the PS3, you can enjoy playing PSOne games streaming to your PSP. If only you can play PS3 games streaming thru your PSP. It’s amazing to see that your handheld console doing graphics that PS3 can only achieve, because it seems technically, it’s possible, the only thing holding this back is that PS3 games uses too much control that the PSP can’t accommodate the game. You can even browse better since the PS3 browser is more impressive than the PSP. I do have some issues with the PSP Remote Play. It seems like the PS3 doesn’t install games thru Wi-Fi, the system recognizes the PSP is not connected; you still have to connect it using a USB connection. It feels like it didn’t make sense since it should be technically possible.

The PSP Slim is a slightly upgraded version of the original PSP. The only major difference that you will notice that it is lighter and the UMD drive is less technical. The Slim version is also different because it can do video output too. Although I don’t see why you can’t do video output through Wi-Fi thru the PS3 since you obviously are going play near a TV. The video output is also questionable because the PSP can only display games on a TV with a progressive scan, unless you can have a TV which can support it, you can only play videos, menu and everything else (not the games). If you have a TV with progressive scan, playing games on the big screen and the graphics can also match graphics of some PS2 games, it is very satisfying.

What I think of the PSP? It’s a technical marvel, it does things I didn’t expect it to do. It’s an amazing media player and an excellent gaming system. Personally, as a media player, I can enjoy this more than looking at an iPhone or an iPod Touch. As a gaming system, it’s very impressive, but there aren’t much games to choose from compared to the library of games the DS has. In terms of gaming, the hardware offers nothing new when it is used alone. But the PSP has an ability to connect to the PS3, which can expand what the PSP can do, but that is something we already have seen with the GameCube with the Gameboy Advance. So, is there anything innovative and new? With games in mind, no, but they did take it to a high tech level. New innovative games will still rely on the game developers’ imagination.

Overall, the PSP is an amazing system. I’m impressed with the overall quality, Sony took everything we knew about game consoles and took it to the next level. In one hand it did achieve its goal as better hand held game console than any other, technically it is. On the other hand it did nothing new to offer new types of games. The PSP as a gaming console feels incomplete, you can only appreciate this if you had tons of media that you can bring or even have a PS3 to store all your media and go to a Wi-Fi café to watch your media from home away from you. It’s an astonishing package, if you think about it, as long as you have enough power to keep it playing.

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