Portable Playstation

I rarely catch public transport on a regular basis, there was a while there when I was bus'in it to work and back, that lasted a few months, alot longer than my friends thought it would, but that came to a stop when I managed to secure a cheap car spot near work. Because of this, even though the PSP intrigued me, I really had no use for it, I mean why would I want to sit on a couch at home and play this when I could use my Xbox 360 or PS2 (now PS3)? I decided as soon as an excuse to buy this becomes available, I will. This oppurtunity came up late last year before my end of year overseas trip. I was going to be on approximately ten flights during my break, including couple of flights as long as 11 hours on aircraft with very limited entertainment options, plus being on holidays for close to 7 weeks, you invariably have a few days here and there to kill, so what better excuse was I going to get to purchase this portable playstation? None.

After a bit of shopping around I found a good deal, a PSP with a game for AUD$269, I thought that was a great price considering these were $400 when they first hit Oz shelves, I also picked up a nice big 4GB Sony memory stick so I could put on a decent amount of video to watch, I certainly wasn't going to lug around even more UMD discs than I had to. The PSP feels really nice in your hands, great size and just the right weight, not too heavy or light. It also has a fantastic widescreen that appears can produce the quality of playstation 2 games. The thumb joystick has been designed very well and feels very natural to use. Arrow keys are quite standard as are the famous Playstation XOtriangleSquare keys. The mobile phone type way of typing characters onto the screen works surprisingly well, and you can input text quite quickly into the device. It also has a predictive text database and a previously typed database which is very handy, particularly when browsing.

In a nice clean black with some clean silver lines the PSP is a pretty neat looking number, with a matt finish on the back and a glossy type look on the front it sets the stage for what to expect when you turn it on. As briefly mentioned above the screen is fantastic, the LCD is super bright and very fast, I couldn't find one game that would ghost at all on it, which was pleasing. Despite the inability to be able to run 'homebrew' on the PSP if I updated the firmware, it's one of the first things I did, why? Because going overseas in a couple of weeks I didn't want to mess around with the PSP and potentially have it out of action for the trip, I also wanted to use it with the PS3 when I got it, and I knew that would require constant updates for this to work, I smiply don't have the time to consistently be battling to get my homebrew stuff working, so from the get go I decided against it. I had to configure the PSP's wireless networking to connect to my home WiFi setup, this was surprisingly easy. Soon after I was connected to the internet and updated my PSP

You can't do a great deal on the PSP with built-in features, there's video pictures and music, which we'll go into later, but apart from that you can browse the internet with the provided web browser, while this is a novelty, its pretty useless unless you can use it on the go with an available wireless network, however I would rather just power up my little Fujitsu notebook and be able to browse without going insane. However typing in URL's was actually easier than I first thought would be, you can of course save favourites and the predictive text cleverly has stuff like 'http', 'www' and '.com' etc in there to choose. When you have to type, a screen pops up similar to a number keypad on a mobile phone with the 3 letters or so per number, you can then cycle through the available letters on a given number much like mobile phones. You can't really browse for too long on this size and format of screen without going crazy. So yeah, after about 10 minutes you run for a PC. All the games I have for the PSP are very playable, this kind of surprised me a bit, I really thought I'd some issues controlling some games but all feel great, the one problem, which isn't specific to any game is your thumb can get a bit sore from the joystick after playing continously for a while. some of the titles I really like are 'Everybodys Golf', 'Capcom Classics', 'Midway Arcade', 'Outrun 2006', 'Colin McRae Rally 2005', and 'Mercury', I have a few more but didn't really get into them.

Another title I have, that's not a game is 'Passport to Prague', this is an offering by Lonely Planet, which is, as the name suggests, a guide to the city of Prague, its has pictures, video, audio tours, maps and a whole heap of phrases that the PSP will say in Czech (and a few other languages like German) for you. It's a very useful tool to have while away and is available for quite a few different cities, especially European ones. The PSP is quite a capable device when it comes to mulitmedia as well, music and pictures are a pretty standard fare, you just load MP3s and Pictures onto the device and select the appropriate item from the menu. Video however is a different story altogether. To get Video to work you need your files in the format of MP4 (MPEG4), on top of this you need the files in a specific directory and to be named specific file names, unless this is the case the PSP will ignore the files and claim there is no files to be played. One strange thing I noticed was that all the video I had for my iPod which also plays MP4 files didn't work on the PSP, I had to process them through the PSPVideoConverter before they would work, so there's obviously some codec difference there, not sure what but it's bit annoying, just wish there was a standard video format that people stuck to. Anyhow, once you get the video working its great and nice to watch anything on the great widescreen LCD screen on the PSP. I just wish the volume of the PSP could go higher, some video files have low volume, having LOUD volume on the PSP would have been great.

Apparently you can hook up two PSP's together via an AdHoc wireless network, however I didn't get the oppurtunity to do this so can't really talk about it. I did however browse the internet with the PSP, and as mentioned earlier, they have made it about as good as they could have given the fact there is no mouse or keyboard. It's still very tedious and really, if you're used to broadband speeds you kinda lose it after about ten minutes, only good for use in an emergency to check something quick. What I did was to take some time aside and spend 15 minutes or so setting up a few different bookmarks for useful sites that I would like to access for quick information like google, whitepages and the paper. I haven't used it since. In my review of the PS3 and XBOX I mentioned that the PSP can connect to the PS3 for viewing of multimedia, there's a few limitations like the fact you must set the PS3 to remote play mode first, this means you cannot just pick up the PSP and connect to the PS3 whenever you want. Also, all you can do is really watch videos, play music and look at pictures, perhaps they'll extend the capability of it soon, and again as mentioned in the PS3 review Sony is rumoured to be toying with the idea of using the PSP in PS3 games to enhance play, like using the screen on the PSP as a rear view mirror for racing games on the PS3. Sony has again released yet another proprietory format, the UMD disc, this is of course used for the PSP games, and Sony also release movies on this format, which in my opinion is a total waste of money, buying the DVD and converting it to a format to watch on the PSP via memory stick is definitely the way to go, this is yet another way Sony milks the technology naive and/or apathetic public.

If you get a PSP, one accessory that is a MUST is a cover of some sort for it. The one I went with was the Logitech Hardcover, this is basically just a hard plastic cover with a soft rubber inside. You can, apparently drop the PSP from waist height when it's in this cover and it will not suffer any damage, something I haven't actually tested. I will say though the cover seems very sturdy and the PSP is indeed safe when inside it. When the cover is closed you can still acccess the power button, the DC IN for charging, the headphone jack and the top left and right buttons, presumably so you can switch music tracks without opening it up. I don't have a screen cover or any other surface protector for the PSP, I only use this hardcover and am very happy with the AUD$37 investment to keep the PSP safe. Battery life on the PSP was very good, I rarely ran outta power, it comes with a cable that allows you to charge from a USB port, which was what I used to most, and to be fair, because I had my notebook with me throughout my whole trip it was hard for the PSP to run outta juice. I did however once, on a flight, it seemed that the PSP went a good 4 - 5 hours of a mixture of gaming and video playback, I thought this was rather reasonable, and was pleased it was able to keep me occupied for around half the long haul flight.

In conclusion, if you like gaming, you travel a bit, whether it be in planes, trains or buses, and you'd like a device that can play a large assortment of decent games, have the ability to play video, music and view pictures, and perhaps have the need to be able to browse the net from different hot spots briefly, then this device is a good choice, possibly the only choice? If you have a PS3, then the capacity for this device really expands, and will do so even more sooner or later. Certainly not an essential gadget but fun to have and very handy when you're travelling.

Posted 07.05.2008

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