PlayStation Portable (PSP)
While the dual analog design will never happen, the revision of the PSP does bring a number of improvements owners hoped would come along. Unfortunately the number of problems, especially concerning the TV Out option, forces this into a die-hard fan purchase only. Smaller and lighter can’t make up a mountain of other concerns.
The weight is the obvious improvement from the moment you hold this hardware. It’s more comfortable to hold, and the slimmer size contributes too. A new smooth coating that protects the console from scratches is another immediately apparent improvement. Likewise, the screen is more resistant to damage, though this is the only screen change.
Instead of a spring-loaded tray, the UMD door is manually opened. The discs slide in flush with the back of the tray. It’s easy to load, though not always easy to remove them without the popping action of old. The outer frame of the hardware has been changed to a cheaper feeling plastic instead of metal.
WLAN users will find the switch at the top of the console, and the Memory Stick slot has a far larger, sturdier door higher than its original position. The power switch requires a higher motion to turn on and off to prevent accidental hits. Speakers are moved to an actually logical position on the front next to the screen.
Buttons are firmer, though they bring a loud click when used. The plastic analog nub feels cheaper, although it is tighter to better simulate a true analog stick. Fighting game fans will appreciate the D-pad, making games such as DarkStalkers and Street Fighter playable. Improvements continue with raised function buttons, including start and select.
USB charging has been added to the menu screen, along with the option to cache the UMD to speed loading. These are the only new options to the XMB menu aside from the new TV connection options.
With the TV out feature, things begin to fall apart. It must be noted that unless your TV supports component video and 480p, you cannot play games. You can watch UMD movies, play with the menu, or watch your own videos, but you will not be able to play games. You’ll receive a small error message letting you know. There is no way around this.
Using the decent length cable results in a thick connector attaching to the bottom of the console directly underneath the analog nub. It creates an awkward distraction and uncomfortable feel. The connection point should have been on top of the system, not the bottom. Likewise, this port replaces the headset slot of old; all headsets you’ve purchased for the PSP are unable to be used.
Assuming you have the proper equipment, you would think the problems have passed. Far from it. Games outputting from the PSP are only playable in their native resolution, 480 x 272. Unless you have found a magical TV that supports this resolution natively, games will play in a small box in the center of your screen surrounded by black. The higher the native resolution of your set, the smaller the picture.
UMD movies and the XMB menu fill the screen without a problem. It’s a shock to try a movie (which are of surprisingly solid quality) and then find the games filling only a portion of the screen. According to our Sony PR representative, “There are no plans to change this at this point.”
Further problems include the cheaper battery cover. Not only is it harder to get on and off, the battery never locks into its tray. Popping the cover results in the battery dropping out instead of staying in place. The Memory Card slot is also tougher to access.
On the button side, the square button doesn’t have the pop of the others, and feels softer. The UMD tray is louder when loading, and light yet noticeable vibration can be felt when it’s working. The screen remains the same, resulting in the same low refresh rate that causes an unacceptable amount of blurring when dark objects scroll across the screen.
Aside from the new size, the true selling point of this hardware change is broken. The TV out causes more problems and doesn’t add any real convenience. It’s not worth upgrading to this new PSP unless the weight of the old hardware is overbearing to you.