|Home Theater Accessories Game Systems|
|Written by Bryan Dailey|
|Wednesday, 01 June 2005|
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Let me come right out and say that in the 20-plus years that I have played video games, from the Atari 2600 to the Microsoft X-Box and Sony PS2, I have never been more enthusiastic about a video game system than the handheld Sony PSP. This brand new, handheld gaming system from Sony is not the most powerful game machine on the market. It packs a modest 333 MHz processor and there aren’t a great deal of games available yet, so why am I so up on this system? The answer is simple. A video game system is only good if you actually end up playing it. I almost always fall for the hype and buy the newest home game systems. I currently own an X-Box, a PS2 and a Nintendo Game Cube. I’ll probably be replacing them with the next generation versions when they hit the streets, but I can already tell that I’ll be playing my PSP more than all of the aforementioned systems. All too often, I find myself getting the next big thing in video gaming. However, in a week or so, the system ends up collecting dust. From the moment I got my PSP a month ago, I have probably played it more than all of my current gaming systems combined in the last two years. For me, the PSP surpasses my Apple iPod as the ultimate portable pastime. Whether you are sitting on the sofa watching a baseball game or flying cross-country with nothing but time on your hands, the PSP is pure entertainment.
With a slick-looking black finish and a ton of technology packed into the palm of your hand, the Sony PSP features a 4.3 inch, 16:9 Widescreen TFT LCD display in the center that has a resolution of 480 x 272 pixels and is capable of displaying 16.77 million colors. The PSP is very thin at only 0.9 inches thick. The shape is like a rectangle with rounded ends and the dimensions are 6.7 inches wide x 2.9 inches tall. Fans of vintage gaming systems who are familiar with the Atari Lynx can think of the PSP as a Lynx on a diet. It weighs in at a very comfortable and easy to hold 0.62 lbs with the battery pack installed. This is just heavy enough to feel solid without being fatiguing to hold for long stretches.
Priced at $250, the PSP’s current competitor is the $150 Nintendo DS that features two screens, one stacked on top of each other. There is more surface area on the DS screens, but there is a seam in the middle where the unit folds up, so if action takes place on both screens, this gap can be hindering. The PSP has a widescreen format that lends itself to sports games, while the DS seems more at home with adventure games where the action takes place on one screen and maps and other details are located on the other screen. The DS has more games available and is less expensive. However, it pales in comparison with the multimedia capabilities of the PSP. Both the PSP and DS would probably make any kid happy, but if an AV enthusiast wants a portable game machine to take on the road, the PSP is the way to go.
For controlling games and menus, the PSP features standard Sony Playstation 2 X, O, box and triangle buttons on the right side, four directional buttons on the left and right and left buttons on the top that are made to be pressed with each of the player’s index fingers. Sony’s PS2 controllers feature a second directional button called the “analog directional stick.” The PSP also features an analog control stick that can be moved in any direction. The four directional buttons are used more often in most games. However, a more exact sense of control and the ability to make more subtle diagonal movements make the analog stick a useful tool.
On the right edge of the PSP is the power button. Smartly, Sony has created the PSP so that by pressing the off button quickly, it turns the machine off but puts it in “standby” mode, so you can resume your game as if you had paused it. Holding the button for three seconds turns it completely off and you’ll need to start your game or movie over when you turn the machine on again. On the left side is a slot for putting in an external memory card. The PSP comes standard with a 32-meg card, but it can be upgraded to as much as two gigs. This is very useful for storing music files and video clips, as well as saving the data from a large number of video games.
As I kept reading through the incredibly fat instruction manual for the PSP, the feature list is absolutely dizzying, considering the fact that this system is about 1/20th the size of a regular laptop computer. Wireless gaming and high speed data transfer are available via an internal wireless 802.11b card. This will allow up to 16 PSPs to link together for insane group gaming possibilities. A USB port on top of the PSP lets the user connect to his or her computer and upload movie clips, sound files and photos. Depending on the amount of data available on the internal storage card, the PSP can also be used as a portable slide projector. Images can be placed directly on the storage card in the user’s computer via a media reader/writer or can be sent over directly with the USB connection. A simple onscreen interface gives users a great deal of control for showing images either individually or on a timed slide show format.
The open button, home button, volume controls, brightness control, audio control and the select and start buttons round out the controls on the front of the PSP. The back of the unit has a round silver ring around the word PSP. The battery cover is on one side and a small hatch for the external memory cards is on the other. You’ll want to take care to shut off the PSP completely before removing the external memory, as the removal may otherwise damage the device. Some games that are loaded completely into internal memory can be removed while the PSP is on and the game will still continue, but the idea situation is to avoid opening the game compartment while playing a disc.