Monday, March 25, 2013

What Handheld should I get? Pros and Cons (Gen VII Edition) Part 2-PlayStation Portable

   Way back in 2003 a tiny little handheld was announced during a time when everyone was going on and on about how the future of gaming was in MMORPG’s. Which is kinda’ true, but I’m not here to discuss how eventually we’ll all be wearing virtual reality helmets trying to solve the mystery of your friend falling into a coma. I’m here to talk about a Handheld console that has had almost as many revisions as the Xbox 360. The PlayStation Portable boasted some of the best spec’s of any handheld ever conceived at the time having the prototype GUI of the PS3, the ability to play movies, view pictures, and most importantly it played games with graphics similar to that of late era PlayStation games. Despite boasting such impressive specs and such impressive features the system was marred with a host of design flaws and marketing problems. Aren’t you lucky you have me to explain all this?


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PlayStation Portable

   The PlayStation Portable was Sony’s answer to Nintendo’s long line of successful handhelds originally launched on March 24, 2005 in North America with mixed reactions as many weren’t to thrilled with how much more expensive it was than the Japanese version. Despite retailing at $250 the Sony managed to push 500,000 units in the first week alone. The handheld was revolutionary for its ability to not only play games but act as a sort of media center by being able to play not only games but music and video, it also boasted higher specs than the Nintendo DS and was able to play games at higher resolutions and with better graphical quality. The PlayStation Portable also could utilize WiFi for both local and online play of games similar to the Nintendo DS. If you ever became bored of how the systems interface looked you could download new themes and backgrounds for the system and customize the media icons to make the system more personal.

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You’d be surprised at the level of variety.

   The PlayStation Portable went under many revisions with its final form being the recently released PlayStation Vita. Sony has had to deal with many bumps in the road involving both marketing and building its gaming systems. If it isn’t from terrible marketing campaigns, to poor anti-piracy measures they've more or less spent the past decade on a steep learning curve as they’ve been trying to reach the plinth that the other gaming giant Nintendo has been standing proudly on for decades.

   All games on the handheld come in either UMD form or can be downloaded from the PlayStation store and saved onto a seperate memory stick.

psp-umd

Tiny DVD’s, who would’ve thought they’d catch on?

Pros and Cons of the System (Overall)

Pros:

  • Media Center: Can be used to play MP3’s, view pictures, and play UMD’s and stream video
  • Some good First Party titles: Sony somewhat dropped the ball on the PSP, although they have published some good games they’ve also published lots of shovelware in the form of generic sports and shooting games. But Ratchet and Clank, and Ape Escape more then make up for it?
  • High Resolution Screen: 480 × 272 at a 16:9 aspect ratio (widescreen in layman's)
  • Decent amount of good third party games: Atlus, Capcom, and Konami have a host of great games on the console from many of their flagship series.
  • Region-Free (sans E1000 and PSP Go!): The 1000 – 3000 series can play UMD’s from any region.
  • TV-Play: From the 2000 model up the system can be hooked up to a television by using a special TV-out cord
  • Multiplayer: The system supports Adhoc and WiFi multiplayer
  • WiFi: All the models besides the E1000 have wireless capabilities

Cons:

  • Expensive: The PSP (depending on model) can be very expensive
  • Shovelware: For every good game there is twenty sports and call of duty games
  • Proprietary hardware: The system only accepts specially made power plugs for each individual model, based on the differing shapes and sizes of each console many accessories such as cases and screen protectors need to be rebought for each different model.
  • Small Library of games: The PSP does not have the largest video game library boasting only a couple hundred games.
  • Hard to repair: Like all things in life PSP’s can break and when they do they come at a price. PSP repair parts are not only expensive (pushing $10-$20 for a new screen alone) they aren’t easy to repair. The process for taking apart and replacing anything is terribly convoluted and not really worth the time of anyone who is inexperienced when it comes to fixing electronics.
  • Short Battery Life: All of the PSP’s average between 4-10 hours of battery life. The newer models may be able to last longer if you get a new battery slapped into it.
  • Region-Locked: The E1000 and PSP Go! are both region locked. The PSP Go! because you have to use Sony’s online store which only lets you download games for the region you registered with them. The E1000 can only play games for the region it was designed for.


SONY DSC

   The first model released, it boasted graphics unseen in the handheld market and the ability to play movies and televisions shows sold in the form of UMD discs. Within the year of its release a system update allowed the handheld to surf the on an opera based browser. If you wanted to be able to use the internets on the PSP you had to make sure that the system was set to it as there is an external switch that alternates between both ad-hoc connections and Wi-Fi. Compared to previous handheld consoles the PSP boasts the crispest, largest, and most colorful display.

   As the first version in the series it sets the bar that many of the redesigns will attempt to surpass, it features Local and Online play through Ad-hoc or a Wi-Fi connection and can play videos and music off of a Memory Stick Pro Duo.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Infrared Connection: I could never find a use for it, but some people did by making their PSP’s remotes for their TV’s.
  • Metal Frame: The 1000 model has a metal frame and many of the internal parts are made of metal which helps if you are prone to dropping things.
  • Cheap: The 1000 model is the cheapest model (used) out of the series
  • Wireless Multiplayer: It supports both Adhoc (local) and WiFi multiplayer
  • Media Center: It can play movies, music, and pictures
  • Download Play: If you have a PSN account you can download games onto a Memory Stick Pro Duo and play them!

Cons:

  • Bulky: The PSP – 1000 isn’t the kind of system you just cram into your pocket. Its bulky (and in some manners maybe unwieldy) which is natural considering that its Sony’s first shot at making a handheld.
  • Short Battery Life: Unless you buy a high quality new battery it is likely that you will only be getting between 2-6 hours out of your PSP
  • Only one flavor: The original PSP only came in a glossy Piano Black 
  • Spring Loaded UMD Bay: By pressing a switch the bay pops open, but if its handled to roughly the bay can break.


SONY DSC

   In at E3 2007 Sony announced their first redesign of the PlayStation Portable which was thinner and boasted a much brighter screen then the previous model. The 2000 model was the beginning of a series of design improvements which trimmed the fat of the console down while adding extra features. The only major improvement internally is that it has double the cache memory of the 1000 model which helps with load times in most of the games. There are  also claims that it has better Wi-Fi connectivity but in my experience I found no noticeable difference between the 1000 and 2000 model. The screen is slightly brighter and the system comes in a variety of flavors and special editions.

   A small aesthetic change is that the UMD door is no longer spring loaded and you manual open and close it, the battery is also slimmer so you can’t swap batteries between the 1000 and 2000 models. A pretty big addition to the handheld is a headphone and video out port so that you can connect the system to a TV which you can play at a whopping 480x320 resolution! :o

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Low-Profile: The PSP – 2000 is significantly more lightweight and slimmer than the original 1000 model.
  • TV-Out: The PSP – 2000 has a combo headphone and video-out port that you can use to connect to a Television using a special cable.
  • Fast Load Speeds: The extra cache memory allows the system to load and read games, video, and music faster than the 1000 model
  • USB Charging: The 2000 model is the first in the series that allows you to charge the handheld with the any mini-usb
  • USB-Computer Connection: You can sort and mess about with the content of the memory stick and even update the system by connecting it to the computer
  • Flavor Variety: Blue, Black, Red, White, a host of colors are your to choose from along with several special editions.
  • Decent Battery Life: The 2000 one a fresh battery can get between 6 – 8 hours
  • Instant Messaging: You can download Skype and chat with your friends. It does not support video even with the Camera add-on.
  • Manual UMD Bay: The UMD bay is now manually opened and closed which prevents almost any sort of malfunction involving the drive bay.

Cons:

  • Plastic Frame: An odd revision is that that the 2000 model is made entirely out of Plastic which isn’t terribly sturdy and can’t take much of a drop.
  • Low Quality Video Out: Even though the system has video-out it isn’t high quality by any stretch of the imagination and is letterboxed.


SONY DSC

   Physically the 3000 model seems almost identical to the 2000 but the handheld has an even brighter screen with better refresh rates than its predecessors. The Screen on the handheld is coated in an anti-glare material so that you can play games under even the most obnoxious of lights The console also has a small microphone now built in and so that when you scream at the system for freezing while you try to play Mobile Suit Gundam Crossfire it can actually hear it. Besides the better screen the innards of the system are basically the same and I noticed no improvements in the playing of games compared to the previous two consoles.

Some owners have complained of screen tearing issues.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Everything from the 2000 model: The 3000 model retains all of the features of the 2000 while adding new ones
  • Microphone: The PSP – 3000 comes with a fully working microphone
  • Anti-Glare Screen: The screen of the handheld has an anti-glare film that eliminated the most common problem with handheld gaming, the reflection caused by the sun. Now you can game at any time of the day with no real hassle!
  • Improved screen: The screen of the 3000 is brighter and features much more vibrant color then the 1000 and 2000 models

Cons

  • Screen Tearing: There have been reports of screen tearing during regular play. Screen tearing is when during regular use lines temporarily appear on the LCD that can impede gameplay.
  • Microphone: Despite having a functional microphone no known game released in North America utilizes it. It can be used for some homebrew games though.


e100

Disclaimer: This is a PAL console but it is technically a revision so I’m including it for posterity.

   The E1000 isn’t a rerelease of the 1000 line, it’s actually a budget model retailing a paltry $99. How could the get away with such a low low price? Well they did that by removing every single piece of extra hardware and software from the console giving you a barebones experience. Have you ever hated how fingerprints so easily stare back at you when you play a system with a glossy finish? Well the E1000 is the only PSP to have a Matte finish which prevents that scenario from ever becoming reality. The entire back part of the system is one big foldout drive for the UMD which in my opinion is an odd design choice.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Cheap: The E1000 is the cheapest (new) PSP on the market
  • Lightweight: The E1000 is the lightest and slimmest of the PSPs (mostly because of all the things that were removed)
  • Decent Screen: Unlike the 3000 model the E1000 doesn’t have any of the screen tearing issues but has a screen that is just as vibrant and bright.

Cons

  • No Wifi: The E1000 only supports local multiplayer and does not have the ability to utilize WiFi for either online play or for surfing the internet.
  • No Microphone: Oddly the E1000 doesn’t feature a microphone.
  • Plastic Frame: It feels cheap, and I don’t think it could take a drop very well.


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   Real Talk: I have no idea what Sony was thinking on this one. So the PSP Go is a radical redesign of the console for I assume Sentai heroes. The system is significantly thinner then all of the other models and features a slide-out design similar to modern texting phones. Long gone is the UMD drive and separate battery, both replaced with an internal rechargeable battery and a 16gb hard drive. Sony made it very clear in designing the system they wanted you to purchase games from their online store and download them to the console, especially the PSone classics which it was campaigning very heavily.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Compact: For the hero on the go you can fit this in even the tightest of tights. Seriously though its pretty small.
  • Designed for the hero on the go: It’s the only logical explanation for its existence.
  • Internal Storage: It features 16gb of internal memory for saving your downloaded games.
  • Decent Battery Life: You can get up to 10 hours of usage on a full charge
  • Bluetooth: If you have a device that supports bluetooth controllers you can use the PSP Go! as one.

Cons

  • Digital Download only: If you like the PlayStation Network then you’ll love the fact that you can only download games onto the system.
  • No UMD support: You might as well toss out those UMD’s because the Go! can’t use em’


Final Verdict

   My personal recommendation will always be original 1000 model due to its durability and low price point. HOWEVER! I understand that it does not have many of the features of the later models, such as instant messaging, access to Sony’s PSone classics, and the fastest of load times. Objectively I’d say the best bang for your buck is the PSP 2000. It has not only a host of features but you can get it in different colors and special edition variants. I cannot in good conscience recommend the PSP Go! or the E1000 they both take away so much from the PSP experience while replacing it with nothing substantial.

PSP – 2000 is best PSP

PSP Trivia: The PSP Go!’s design was used to create Sony’s Xperia Play line of smartphones.

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