PlayStation Portable (PSP) Buyer's Guide
(Contributor: Russ Fischer)
The PlayStation Portable is still a great little device -- even six years after its release. Before you buy, though, you need to know that there aren't as many new games released as one might like, though Sony has slowly ramped up downloadable offerings that come via the PlayStation Network. That's in conjunction with the PSP Go, 2009's new sliding-form-factor version of the console that does away with the UMD drive in favor of games distributed expressly via digital download.
- 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 2009.
- 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. You can also now control some PSP games with a PlayStation3 DualShock 3 controller, which is a nice way to play some shooters, if a bit equipment-intensive.
There have been four major versions of the PSP: the original, the PSP-2000, PSP-3000 and PSP Go. For all intents and purposes, the 3000 and Go are the only two models in consideration now. But we'll give you notes on all four, because the mooted original and 2000 variations have their fans, and can still be found used, often for a great price.
The original ebony black is the sturdiest -- the prettiest, too. It's also the one with the loudest and slowest UMD drive.
The second, the PSP-2000, somehow became my favorite because it is 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 latest, the PSP Go, is so different as to be almost a new device. The screen slides up to reveal the d-pad, analog stick and face buttons, and the reduced width of the device makes it a bit more difficult to use for those with larger hands. But the weight is great, and the power consumption excellent, given that there's no UMD drive to power. Bluetooth connectivity allows more control inputs and the use of a headset. But expect caveats aplenty: The d-pad and analog stick are too close together, the device now uses a proprietary USB cable (which is crap anytime any company implements it) and the price is far too fargin' high. $250 for a portable? Holy bible!
Screen Protector for PlayStation Portable
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. (PSP3000 and earlier.)
PlayStation 3 / PSP Go Bluetooth Headset ($45). The Go-branded headset is Japan-only for now, but in the meantime PSP Go users can make use of the PS3 headset.
Scratch Resistant Screen Guard ($10-$12). Gotta keep that screen pristine.
PSP TV-Link ($15). Component cables attach to your TV for gameplay. (For pre-PSP Go models.)
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.
Peripheral you should question
PSP Go Converter Cable. Sounds like a good deal on the surface -- this connector (released Dec. 24 in Japan, January in North America) allows pre-Go accessories to work with the new handheld's proprietary multi-connector. But it also adds a lot of bulk to the device, negating the appeal of the elegant form factor, which is one of the Go's prime selling points. This one is only for those with loads of last-gen accessories.
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
MLB 08: The Show
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories
Monster Hunter Freedom
PaRappa the Rapper
Tekken: Dark Resurrection
Upcoming games to look out for
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories
SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo 3
Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman! 2
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands
Duke Nukem Trilogy: Critical Mass
Check out more Buyer's Guides.