Crispy Gamer

PlayStation Portable (PSP) Buyer's Guide

PlayStation Portable Buyer's Guide


The PlayStation Portable is still a great little device -- even five years after its release. Before you buy, though, you need to know that there weren't enough games released for the handheld last year. But when you do buy a PSP bundle for around $200, you get a brand-new PSP, a movie, a game and a coupon to download the PlayStation Network's wonderful Echochrome. You get a 1 GB Memory Stick, too. And Wi-Fi. You will be wowed.

Pros:


  • Graphics beat the heck out of those on the Nintendo DS.

  • Load times are reduced in the second- and third-gen models.

  • Plays movies and videos, and can be used with Skype for phone calls


Cons:


  • Not that many great games released in 2008.

  • Games don't come out with the frequency of those on the DS.

  • UMD movies are still too expensive.


History

The PSP started in 2004 with a bang, including a huge party in New York's Grand Central Station with models trying to explain how to play the first iterations of Sony's soccer and hockey series, both of which are (thankfully) no more. The 18 games available at launch included Lumines and Metal Gear Acid, the best of which was probably the former.

Visually, all of the games are PlayStation 2-quality, and they are getting better all the time. With component cables, the two newer-gen PSPs allow you to play on your television. They look decent blown up that way, though not stellar. And the wires suck.

The trinity

PlayStation Portable Buyer's Guide

PSP-3000

There are now three different PSP models. The original ebony black is the sturdiest -- the prettiest, too.

The second, the PSP 2000, somehow became my favorite because it's lighter, thinner, and has a brighter screen than the original. The speakers are on the top, so your gaming fingers don't cover them when playing.

The third, the PSP 3000, is supposed to have an even better screen, one that you can view better in sunlight. But you'll see scan lines when there's a lot of movement from characters in your game. The screen also draws more power, so your battery life suffers a bit.

The hard drive rumor

Shortly after release, there was much speculation about an upcoming PSP with an internal hard drive. This accoutrement never was added, perhaps because the Memory Stick became relatively inexpensive, to the extent that a 16 GB Stick is now under $90. That's more memory than some netbooks have.

Must-buy hardware

Headset with Microphone (PSP98527) ($15). These over-the-ear headphones are great for Skype-calling and trash-talking during online gaming. The wires get pretty tangled, though.

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Scratch Resistant Screen Guard ($10-$12). Gotta keep that screen pristine.

PSP TV-Link ($15). Component cables attach to your TV for gameplay.

8 GB Memory Stick ($20-$50). This should be enough for a few movies, a few games from the PlayStation Store and a lot of MP3s, too.

Must-avoid hardware

Accessory bundles and packs ($7-$25). You'll misplace or lose all this crap anyway. Who needs a silicon cap for the control stick, anyway? And you don't need a Memory Stick slot cleaner unless you play in a sandbox.

Remote Play

Now that Remote Play is a reality, you can do a fair amount of cool things with the PSP and the PlayStation 3 together. You can start the PS3 remotely and check out much of what's on it via the PSP, from game trailers to photos to music. You can use the PSP to play about a dozen PS3 games, including Lair and PixelJunk Monsters. You can control your home theater speakers, too. Unfortunately, you can't use the PSP as a remote to play DVDs on your PS3. Sony's weird that way.

Extra

The PSP now features Skype, which is terrific when you're near a Wi-Fi hotspot. Too bad there's no wireless Wi-Fi headset. But Sony's PSP Headset with Microphone (see above) is decent enough, if you can deal with the wires.

Japanese peripheral you should get

PlayStation Portable Buyer's Guide

PSP Go!Cam

Why Sony never released the PSP Go!Cam in the U.S. is a great mystery. You can get it on eBay from Hong Kong for about $77 including shipping (but I've seen it offered for as low as $50). You can record conversations of well over an hour with a 4 MB Memory Stick. There's editing software for the 1.3 megapixel device, too.

Software you should avoid

Movies on disks were never successful on the PSP. The good news? If you search around the Web, you can find movies for as low as $1.99, and a lot (like "Texas Chainsaw Massacre") are under $5. Not a bad deal for small-screen fans. But movies upon release for $25? Gimme a break: It's a recession.

Random note

Here in New York City, you'll see more PSPs played by folks on the subway than you will the DS. You can also stare in awe at a giant PSP spewing LCD fireworks near Broadway and Houston Street.

Must-buy games for your library

God of War: Chains of Olympus

Patapon



LocoRoco

MLB 08: The Show

Crush

Daxter

Gitaroo Man Lives!

Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories

Jeanne d'Arc

Monster Hunter Freedom

PaRappa The Rapper

Tekken: Dark Resurrection

WipEout Pulse

Upcoming games to look out for

LocoRoco 2

Patapon 2: Don Chaka

LittleBigPlanet

Resistance: Retribution

Monster Hunter Freedom Unite

Ushiro

PixelJunk Monsters

Duke Nukem Trilogy



For more Buyer's Guides, check out the following:

Xbox 360 Buyer's Guide

PlayStation 3 (PS3) Buyer's Guide

Nintendo Wii Buyer's Guide

PC Gaming Buyer's Guide

Nintendo DS Buyer's Guide