PlayStation Portable (PSP) 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.
- 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
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
Screen Protector for PlayStation Portable
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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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
Upcoming games to look out for
For more Buyer's Guides, check out the following: