Well, being as I've now had my PSP for over a week I thought it was about time to post a few fuzzy pictures of it and write a loose, badly worded, comedic piece called a 'review'.
Being as nobody reads this site it's a futile gesture, but in order to attract even crows, you have to have breadcrumbs. So here we go.
By far the better part of the PSP is it's design. It's sleek, well made and fairly compact.
It comes in a variety of colours and whilst my loving partner managed to avoid the temptation of buying me a pink one, mine's black. For anybody that's had a fiddle with a GBA SP, or a DS this one will feel a little 'wider' in your hands. Not original X-Box pad wide, but wider than others.
The controls are firm and don't fly around too much, the mini-thumbstick is well designed and doesn't stick out enough for the thing to get broken off.
The L and R shoulder buttons again are unintrusive but they do wiggle back and forth a bit, not too much but there's more play there than there needs to be.
Everything else is normal for handhelds, it doesn't boast the DS touch screen or the compact dimensions and 'cute' factor of the SP but it does have the biggest screen of all three. And for purists I'm not adding the two DS viewing areas as one, they are separate screens and used predominantly for that purpose.
Although not technically a 'design' feature the battery life and backlighting are good. I've had no trouble seeing the screen in dark environs (Not so for the early GBA's) but it does reflect a lot of light. Watching the screen in broad daylight can be difficult, and when you figure that portability is about being outside then that may be a drawback. But if you're sensible and don't try to sit on the beach below a blazing solar ball of hydrogen you're usually ok.
The battery life is exemplary for something of it's capacity, variety and size. From listening to MP3's with visualisations, to full length movies and also games, all of which include accessing the memory stick, it's really quite formidable. Sony have obviously tapped into their experience in digicams and phones to make the most of battery life in a hand held device, roughly once every three or four days of average use I have to charge the battery, so I'm happy. The annoying thing is of course the AC adaptor is Sony patented so I'm guessing a new one would cost me an arm and a leg, but that's what I expect with a product of this quality.
Next on the design front would be the UMD disk tray at the rear of the console:
Ive taken a shot here of the open innards of the PSP so you can see what's exposed when you load a game disk or UMD movie. To be honest this is my only gripe with the PSP's design. The opening tray at the back accompanied as it is by PS2 style springs and a loading draw for a disk, whch obviously includes a reader head and a spinning axle make me uneasy. They are firm and well put together, dont spring, click or creak in any hideous way but there is that feeling that if anything goes wrong on consoles it's moving parts.
I'm not sure why Sony opted for a proprietary disk format in UMD, being as catridges can offer as much data storage etc. I suppose it allowed the film industry a similar enough tech to DVD to burn UMD movies. What annoys me is that catridges are just plain, simpler, easier, smaller, less likely to bust etc. That said I've not yet (touch wood) had any problems with either the loading tray or any disks. It doesn't make a lot of noise nor does it hiss or click when loading (Pretty impressive when you consider it's being held upright) and I've had no misreads either. For the sake of journalistic integrity I even threw it around a bit whilst it was trying to load. The jitter correction and read speed must be pretty good because it didn't fault. That said I wouldn't make a habit of shaking it while its loading. The only other downside would be the PSP's size, it isnt annoying to hold or carry, weighging in at very little, but if you want to sling it in your pocket and listen to MP3s you'll be dissapointed. It needs a jacket pocket or aside vent on cargo pants to slip in properly, aditionally if you don't have a case you'll be worried about scratching the large screen when walking. A problem not encountered on folding GBA SP's or DS's.
One of the strengths of Sonys platforms is that they usually have a nice interface. The general rule of thumb is don't add more stuff than the user needs to do or know. With the DS and similar compteting systems it's hard to not follow this rule. They basically play games and that's about it.
The PSP is a slightly different story.
The initial menu depdns on your firmware but it's a beautiful and relaxing thing of pulsating gentle colours and an intuitive side scrolling list of options, here for your viewing pleasure is a fuzzy example:
The PSP boats multiple features aside from games, including movies, music, internet browsing and screen show menus. This plethora of features has been well dealt with and is always accessable even without media present (A feature admired by admins) but also occasionaly auto-runs for basic tasks (You put a game in and it runs, a favourite for dumb asses).
Simplicity is nice and each overall menu drops down into several sub menus you navigate via moving the highlight up and down. It feels a bit like Vista without the perspective but is pretty to look at whilst being functional. Downsides of the interface are that with every firmware upgrade the PSP goes through (Similar to DirectX these come with many games for play) are hard to reverse and often add more icons in the context menus. I'm a fan of more functionality and greater power to the user but I hope Sony are careful in the number of features they introduce in this way, sometimes it can be an ass to have lots of icons I dont need. The interface is designed so I dont initially see the things I dont want but they do get in the way when Im doing other functions in the same menu.
That said the PSP is about media and games which means, aside from linking it to WAN's and Wi-Fi hunting, I dont spend much time going through menus, which is nice.
Gfx / Sound:
This is where the PSP really stands out for me. The sheer quality of the graphics and display, kill the competition. The cute but unerpowered graphics offered by nintendo (That sentence could describe all their consoles, let alone handhelds) are dwarfed by the more mature, contrasted and richer display of the PSP. Not only is the screen bigger but Sony do more with the space. I feel more like I'm using a decent multimedia device than a souped up mobile phone which has mario.
The visuals are rich and organic, obviously way below the PC's capabilites and those of the PS3 or even more sophisticated PS2 titles but still very capable. I'd put the graphics as PS 1.75 or PS2 on occasion. There are decent particle effects, good polygon count and the machine seems able to display different framerates via movies etc with no problem, no dead pixels or late transition of colour. The only downside is that I've occasionally noticed a 'red bleed' on some movies. I think this is down to encoding however as I've not seen any such problems in the games or on other titles. There's no blurring either and overall the screen is really top quality.
When I first tried my PSP on a train during a commute I was wearing £3 aeroplane earphones which gave me pause. I was trying hard to watch an episode of the Simpsons but the sound was drowned out by the train. I then tried a game and wacked the sound up to full and found the same problem. At this point I was annoyed, the max volume without headphones isnt bad but it drains the battery more and annoys other commuters.
I decided to give the PSP a fair go and borrowed by partners cheap but effective, Sennheiser, noise cancellation, in-ear phones.
The sound is crisp and clear, no hitches, or stutters. There are no pops, clicks or even over bearing sounds as the machine transitions from one effect to the next. The MP3 playback is exemplarary too. There's no digital noise in the background or sound of processing or interference messing with your signal (A bane on my cheap mp3 player) and there's even no pause between songs in MP3 mode with the player buffering the next up before moving on a file, avoiding loading.
With a decent pair of noise cancellation phones this baby really immerses you, the screen passes the big enough to be engrossed in' test too. I've sat watching a film with my earphones on whilst angry train guards literally wave ticket inspection mahcines in my face. Gone to the world.
To give you an idea what benfit you get from the audio with an average pair of in-ear phones, I can sit on a tube going full speed through a tunnel with the carriage windows down so air is rushing through and the sound of the train crashing along the tracks is reflected back into the carriage, with the PSP on 75% volume and not notice a thing. For someone with tinitus that's a good thing.
Although not technicaly an audio feature I would say that the PSP's ability to have several cool equilisers to watch whilst playing MP3s is nice too, they react well to the sound and are co-ordinated and synched properly, no random 'why did that happen? moments, which I've had with Winamp.
I can't try to come across as too much of an expert here, being as I've only played one title. What I would say is this. But that in itslf is ok, because if you like strategy games and Im reviewing the PSP base don my love of sports titles you'd get just as little from it.
What I will say is that the initial catalogue for the PSP was small and Gonz had repeatedly told me he didn't know of one 'must have' game that sold the PSP. Well the library is much larger now and better games are coming along all the time, for me the question of a 'must have title is more reserved for consoles. In a handheld I want titles I can pick up and play, that look a lot like if not exactly the same as their console equivalents.
I'm also a big fan of retro games. Therefore when Midway, Namco and Capcom all released their 'best of' series on PSP I wet my pants. I can now play the Arcade version of SF2 and all the old megadrive classics at their intended graphics and speed on my PSP. Here's another bonus of the PSP over the other traditional handhelds. Im an adult gamer, thats why Im always drawn to Sony or Microsoft in consoles rather than Nintendo. The array of titles available for PSP includes plenty of platform and puzzle games but its also got lots of arcade classics, converted truly (All death moves, blood etc) I like that. If I want cutesy, save the world and stroke puppies Ill play a DS. If I want harder, darker and more involving games that dont shy away from blood, sex and gore because they have to I'll play the PSP.
This is a key feature of any handheld or console for me. As a PC person from the outset, I've always needed connectivity, functionality and best of all the ability to play with the hardware a bit. Being a Sony product I was very wary about the PSP's abilities in this field.
What with Sony installing spyware with their albums and mp3's, making firmware checks on games and other drives and owning half the music and film industry I didnt expect much by way of adaptability.
Thankfully I was wrong.
The PSP comes with a handy USB port at the top which connects to your PC. No doubt the later versions wof the firmware will require software on the PC but this one doesnt. Plug your PSP in, have a memory stick inserted and your PC just treats it like a large removable drive. Make sure to format the memory stick on the PSP and itll helpfully show all the root folders etc. What this allows you to do is load up movies and other titles tot he PSP after you've converted them into the right format and put them in the right place.
With a little mucking about you can get full length movies onto your PSP and all the MP3's you want. You can also put in save games and other such fun items to unlock bonuses and endings on games you may have purhased.
The games piracy tech is a little more sophisticated than that, and I havn't seen a sucesfull crack of it with the latest PSP firmware. But to be honest that's fine by me. I dont mind paying for the games in the least, I just want to be able to use the media functionality the way I want to. If I want to back up my DVDs as DivX and then play them on the move, I expect Sony to let me do that. And whilst they dont help it isnt too difficult to do either.
In summary I'd say this was the best handheld out there for a guy like me. I like the multimedia functionality, I like the game I've played, the audio and graphics destroy the competition (I'm not counting rare Japanese handhelds here) and its all presented in a neat, slick package. Sure the downsides of moving parts, size and a proprietrary game format aren't negligble but being as PSP's are now sub £100, the library has expanded and many are availalbe in deals with 2 or 3 titles I'm a fan.
For those of you who are worried, dont be concerned, I still hate Sony, but theyre winning me back a PSP at a time...