Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Sony PSP Slim for Travel Boredom

Back in December I received a loaner version of the new and improved Sony PSP 2000 to try out and evaluate for this travel gear blog. Now that I've spent about 30 hours of the last month playing with it, I think it's time I get around to actually writing a review. (And getting back to work.)

Overall, this is an impressive piece of technology. It falls short in a few areas (more on that later), but what it does well it does really well. If my travel hours in transit weren't spent catching up on writing and catching up on magazine reading, I could pack this and my music player and be a pretty happy traveler no matter how far I was going. For say, a 12-year-old kid you have to lug along on a plane trip, this Sony PSP would keep them from whining even once.

It does two things quite well: play games and play video. The catch is that both will cost you dearly: this device could accurately be called the Proprietary Sony Player because nothing you have bought or downloaded from somewhere else will work on it without a good bit of effort or expense. The device itself doesn't have its own storage, so everything resides on an ironically named "Universal Media Disc" (like a tiny CD-rom) or on their proprietary memory card called the Memory Stick. I won't go into the process of storing music or video on here, but be advised it's a pain and you'll need a lot of card storage capacity.

The wireless network features advertised should be ignored except for networked gaming with friends. Trying to browse a website or check e-mail is so annoying that you'll be tempted to throw the thing against a wall.

So let's look at its strengths. Video played on here from a UMD looks fantastic. As clear and vivid as a regular TV, with movies shown in widescreen format. Games on here are a true wonder. The graphics are as intense and detailed as many full console games, with great sound and responsive controls. Keep in mind that there are potentially 10 different buttons to use though, so younger children will probably be better off with the simpler Nintendo DS handheld. After trying out three games, I can say that some commands are far from intuitive, from the initial menu function to the games themselves. Expect a learning curve and some quality time with your manual.

There are other annoyances here and there, like no warning when your battery is about to fail in the middle of a game, and the fact that the optional AV cable kit allows you to watch video on TV, but not play games. Overall though, this PSP delivers as a console-level gaming device and video player packed into a tiny device fit for travel. It only weighs 6.2 ounces, yet it sports a 4.3-inch LCD screen with a 480 x 272-pixel resolution.

Would I take this along for my own kid when we go on vacation, if she were a bit older? Yes, but with clear ground rules about how long she can play with it each day and when. If a geezer like me can get addicted to playing Field Commander for days on end, you know kids with no job and family guilt to hold them back are going to be in trouble. There are bound to be arguments-a-plenty when it's time to put it down and go walk on the beach or have dinner together.

Consider what you get for the money, the device itself is a great value. You can buy the new Sony PSP 2000 straight up for about $170 to $180, or you can get something like the PSP Daxter Pack I received, with one game already included for $200. New games are $30 to $40 and movies are about the price of a regular DVD.

Search Sony PSP prices at Shopzilla


Anonymous said...

You did a good job of summing up the good and bad of this confounding piece of electronics. I got excited about the wifi option thinking I'd be able to surf the web in an airport but it's worse than trying to check e-mail from a cell phone. Plus trying to buy movies in that UMD format is getting harder all the time. As a game player it rocks though, so maybe they should just stick with that!

Anonymous said...

The music player is a bit of a pain and is pretty basic, but it works fine after you make the investment in some large capacity memory cards. Of course for what I spent on those memory sticks (that I can't use in a non-Sony device) I could have just bought a tiny MP3 player instead! Great game player tho.

gale said...

what about the psp slim 3000