Sony PSP PlayStation Portable
The Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP) has been well received as a handheld gaming device, but it is also a powerful portable media player that can do many things MP3 music and video players do. If you are into games, movies and music, and want to have entertainment with you on the go, would it be possible to survive with the Sony PSP alone? The answer is yes, up to a certain point.
- Play games that are available for the device on tiny UMD discs.
- Watch movies that can be purchased on UMD discs or download videos from your computer.
- View photos that you have copied from your computer to a memory card.
- Listen to MP3 music.
- Browse the Internet using the fast, built-in wireless Wi-Fi connection.
The Sony PSP has been designed for handheld gaming, but because it has such a wide range of functionality, this review will explore its suitability for multimedia use only.
As a gaming product, the Sony PSP has to cope with quickly changing graphics and animations, and that's what its processor and crisp color screen can do. The large screen, consisting of 480x272 pixels, with a physical size of 4.3inch/11cm, can show movies and photos in beautiful colors. Control buttons have been laid out on both sides of the screen, which means that the unit must be held in both hands. Nonetheless, the advantage is an excellent experience when playing games and watching movies.
Watching movies on the device is fun: the screen is large and bright, and because it's a handheld device you can hold it as close to your eyes as you want for perfect view. The easiest way to get movies into the Sony PSP is to purchase UMD (Universal Media Disc) movie discs. The screen size has been optimized for wide-screen movies: its aspect ratio is 16:9.
Another way to get videos on the device is to copy them from your computer to a Memory Stick, insert the memory card into the unit and play the films from there. The Sony PSP recognizes MPEG-4 videos, but getting video to the device in correct format is just as painful as it is with any other multimedia product. You need to be fairly knowledgeable about video formats and have software tools for converting videos into the MPEG-4 format that the Sony PSP can play. If you are willing to pay USD 20 extra, you can get the PSP Media Manager software that makes video format conversions and copying to the device a straight-forward task.
It is even possible to watch live TV on the Sony PSP, but an additional device is needed for that. The Sony LocationFree can connect a TV or DVD to your home network (and to the Internet, if you like), and then you can use the Wi-Fi connection on the Sony PSP to watch programs broadcast from your own TV set.
In addition to movies, you can use the Sony PSP for viewing photos. You can view your photos one by one or as a slideshow, but on the device only, since there's no TV connector on the unit. You have to copy pictures from your computer to the Memory Stick, insert the Memory Stick back into the unit and then you can browse the images.
You can listen to MP3 music on the device once you have saved it on a Memory Stick memory card. The sound quality may not be at the same level with the best MP3 players, but good enough for most of us. The device can also play songs encoded in Sony Atrac format.
There is a feature in the Sony PSP that's missing from other portable media players: wireless connectivity. The Sony PSP comes with a built-in Wi-Fi capability and browser software that let you surf the Internet over the wireless connection (naturally, you must have a Wi-Fi access point installed at home, if you intend to use Wi-Fi access in there). Wi-Fi connectivity can be used for another exciting function as well: multiplayer games. Wi-Fi acts as a fast communication channel when playing against other Sony PSP users who have the same game.
Even with so much fun stuff (games, movies, photos, and music) the Sony PSP can offer, it doesn't have a hard disk inside the unit. Instead, it uses UMD discs and Memory Stick Duo memory cards for storing information. The product includes a 32MB memory card, but if you intend to use the device for photos, movies or music, you should purchase a higher capacity memory card right away. Another essential investment is a memory card reader that you use to transfer files on a memory card between the device and your computer, or a USB cable that directly connects the Sony PSP to your computer.
The battery lasts about 4-5 hours when playing games that are not using the Wi-Fi connection. Listening to music drains the battery in about 10 hours and you can watch 2 feature-length movies at one charge.
We understand that it would be impossible to rely on standard DVD discs on a handheld device, but inventing a new disc format won't make movie fans happy, either. The UMD (Universal Media Disc) is Sony's own format that's recognized only by the Sony PSP. The only way around the UMD is to extract movies from your own DVDs (if it's legal in your country), convert them into MPEG-4, buy a high-capacity memory card for movies and watch them from there.
In summary, the Sony PSP is an excellent gaming device, fine for watching movies, a good enough product for MP3 music, but not suitable for storing photos. There is huge potential for applications in the built-in Wi-Fi connection – something that other multimedia products are lacking.
Who likes this product: The Sony PSP is a perfect product for anyone who likes to play games and watch movies on a handheld device and occasionally listen to music or surf the Internet. If listening to music is the most important activity for you, you can find better value products in dedicated MP3 players.
Style: The Sony PSP is a gaming device and that's the way it looks. Its rounded shape feels nice, but for a portable handheld product, the Sony PSP is large and heavy. The unit fits into a jacket pocket, but make sure your garment can take the weight.
Value for money: The Sony PSP is excellent value for money for people who play hard and then want to relax with movies or music.
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