PSP 3000 – In-Depth Review
I was feeling a bit nostalgic a couple of weeks ago and decided to pick up “ye olde PlayStation 2″ and get in some quality time with a few of my PS One games. I hooked up my PS2 to my TV and hit the power button…and nothing.
This was my fourth PS2 to suffer this fate. It is my belief that if you don’t play on this console for about six months, they just die. Unfortunately, my local GameStop no longer carried any new PS2 systems, and the extended warranty had clean run out on this one. I decided that it was time to move on. However, as I missed playing those classics, such as Final Fantasy VII and VIII, Spyro the Dragon, and the loveable Abe in his Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee and Abe’s Exodus, I decided that I should pick up a system that had those games available.
Go Mobile Or Go Home, Or Just Go?
I had three options before me. I had the PlayStation Portable 3000 model which is a bit bulkier than its PSPGo counterpart, the PSPGo itself, or the PlayStation 3. I liked the idea of being able to play games on the fly, so I eliminated the PlayStation 3 as a candidate for now as it would simply be too bulky to lug around with me. The PSPGo offered me the mobility that I desired, but its lack of support for the UMD’s eliminated it from the running. Also, there were actually some good PSP games that I’d like to get on UMD such as Invizimals and the “soon-to-be-coming-to-the-States” Parasite Eve: The 3rd Birthday.
That and the PSP3000 was on sale for $129 on Boxing Day. Have I mentioned that I’m cheap?
Everything is laid out pretty straightforward when you open the PSP box. You have your battery, charging cable, and PSP well packaged and neatly separated in their spots, along with a meticulous package containing your documentation and instructions for getting started.
The envelope containing your documents actually unfolds into a quick start guide that shows you where everything goes. Insert the battery. Check. Where to plug-in your power cord. Check. Where to insert the UMDs. Check. Where to put in your memory card.
Crap. I need a memory card.
Thankfully, TigerDirect in Toronto had a SanDisk 8GB Memory Stick Pro Duo for about $35 CDN. Then it was time to rock and roll!
Setting up my PSP was pretty quick and easy. It walked me through the process of creating an account and setting up the wireless access. Updates downloaded quickly, and I got my PSN account created and started rummaging through the PSP Store and the different features available. All in all, it was about 10 minutes before I was up and running.
I was surprised at the lack of a PSN friends list. With the PSP being wirelessly accessible and using a PSN account, you would think that having your PSN friends available to chat with on the PSP would be a given. However, it appears that the only methods you have to contact your PSN friends are through Skype (which is a nice feature mind you), or through Remote Play if you have a PS3 console.
With online gaming bringing a level of social interactivity, not having this feature makes the PSP experience feel kind of lonesome. Even the Nintendo DSi has the ability to add friends with the use of Friend Codes. This appears to be a feature that’s highly desired with other PSP users. Hopefully, it’ll be in some future update down the line.
The overall design of the PSP-3000 model is very pleasant. Much thinner than its original predecessor, the weight and feel of the unit is comfortable, with everything being exactly where it should be.
The analog stick on the left side takes a little getting used to as it feels different from the analog stick on a regular controller, although the grip on it does a good job of keeping your thumb from slipping. Strangely enough, it is missing a second analog stick on the right side. Some game makers have gotten around the lack of a right side stick for shooters by using the four buttons on that side for camera control, but doing so makes playing a game like Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker a bit awkward. It’ll be interesting to see if I get used to that control scheme down the line.
The fit and form of the PSP is very sleek, with the panels to access the memory card and battery compartment very well fitted. However, the door for the UMD slot is a bit flimsy and not something that I would entrust to a younger child. I’ve been treating it with kid gloves myself out of fear of breaking it. The glossy, piano-black finish complements it handsomely, but I can see why others complain about how fingerprint residue gets left on it easily. I’ve managed to find a terry cloth to keep in my PSP bag to keep it looking shiny.
The Sound and Video
Using the built-in speakers, the PSP sounds absolutely fantastic. Add in a pair of ear buds and your audible sensory nodes are in for a treat. The sound is very crisp and clean and of the highest quality. But with Sony’s background in audio and video components, I wouldn’t expect any less.
Likewise with the screen. The 4.3″ screen sits in the center with a 16×9 aspect ratio, guaranteeing that you’ll be able to view your favorite movies in widescreen format. I was very surprised to find that the screen resolution is only at 480 × 272 and not in 720p at the least. Even so, the graphics displayed in movies and games are just beautiful.
The interface uses a PSP version of the XMB, Sony’s Xross Media Bar. Like the PS2/3 versions, it’s a somewhat bland looking interface, but functional. Everything is well sorted and easy to find, with menus available for accessing photos, music, and applications such as Skype, and a digital comic reader.
The web browser is a very welcome feature and seems to support some basic java and flash. Getting around is a bit weird with a “cell-phone number pad” style keyboard. With so much screen space, it would have been nice to have a more traditional style keyboard layout to input your information or website addresses into.
Also available, if you have the camera attachment, is the ability to take pictures with your PSP Camera. While the PSP-450x (included with Invizimals) can only shoot in 640×480 resolution, it’s still a neat thing to be able to play with. Although, I’m still trying to figure out how to delete unwanted pictures through the PSP interface.
The PSP Store has tons of goodies packed in for you in the States. With movies, games (both current and PS One), digital comics, themes and add-ons available for download; I would say that the PSP store rivals that of the Xbox Live Marketplace in terms of content and design.
Everything is laid out in a way that’s easy for you to find what you’re looking for. You can view selections in a list mode or an icon mode for an easier at-a-glance method. Also, there’s a search function that allows you to quickly find what you’re looking for instead of continuously scrolling through the endless line of goodies.
I was pleasantly surprised at the selection of digital comics available for purchase. While they had the obvious big publishers such as DC and Marvel, it was enjoyable to see some of the smaller TokyoPop, Image, and Liquid.
The selection of games is very respectable. My main motivation for getting a PSP was the fact that many of my favorite PS One games are available for download through the PSP Store. Games can be purchased from $4.99 to $29.99 or more depending on the game. Many of the more popular PS One titles run in the $5.99 to $9.99 range. Considering that you’re possibly repurchasing a game that you’ve already purchased, I find the prices to be reasonable.
While most of the popular games are available, there were a few that were missing from the library that I’m hoping will be added in the near future. Parasite Eve and Chrono Trigger are the two big ones (for me) missing from the library currently. Parasite Eve has been released on PSN in Japan, but no word yet from the North American camp. There is no word yet on a release for Chrono Trigger, although Chrono Cross is to be released soon.
However, the PSP Store isn’t without its shortcomings. When purchasing a game on the PSN, you have to be mindful as you may have to pay a sales tax on top of the cost of the game. For example, I purchased Final Fantasy VII from the PSP Store at $9.99, but upon checkout I noticed that a 6% sales tax was added because I live in the State of Michigan.
Other than that, the checkout process was quick and easy. However, I ran into another snag with the download. Unlike Xbox Live Marketplace which will continue a download from where it left off if your internet connection is broken or the unit is powered off, the download on the PSP Store starts back from the beginning. I attempted to download Final Fantasy VII from the PSP Store four times with the connection being interrupted halfway through the 1.5GB download. I restarted the download for the fifth time before I left my house for work this morning, and when I came home, I was again disappointed to find that it had lost connection to the PSP store once again.
However, an application that you can download to your Windows PC, Media Go, allows you the ability to download the game to your computer, plug-in your PSP via a USB cable, and install it from there. The download was actually much quicker this way even though I was using the same wireless access point that my PSP had been, and transferring the game from PC to PSP took less than five minutes.
Another annoyance is that while you are downloading games and whatnot from the PSP Store, you aren’t able to do anything else on your PSP. Having the ability to let it download in the background while you continue playing games would be a convenient feature to have.
Finally, after the download is completed, you have to wait while the PSP installs the game. I found this to be rather confusing as downloaded games on consoles don’t usually have to “install” on the machine. Or at least installation is handled invisibly while it’s downloading.
Media Go is a rather ingenious tool that Sony has developed for those of us not blessed with owning both a PSP and a PlayStation 3. As I mentioned before, it’s an application that you can download and install on to your PC. This application allows you to browse the PSP Store, download media and games, and then transfer them to your PSP via a USB cable.
Another solid feature is Media Go’s ability to sift through the existing media on your PC and sort it out for you in a very iTunes fashion. This gives you quick access to movies, music and photos that you have stored on your PC that you may want to transfer over to your PSP and take it with you. It also has a media playback feature available, so while not gaming on your PSP, you have a new alternative to Windows Media Player to listen to your tunes. While this may seem redundant given all of the options available with iTunes, Zune, and dozens more applications out there, it’s a good feature to build in when you’re already sorting media and creating playlists to take on the go. However, transferring those media files to your PSP takes up precious memory card space, and speaking of memory cards…
My last final gripe is regarding the cost of the Memory Stick PRO Duo memory cards. An 8GB memory card runs at retail between $30 and $40, while a similar sized SD card is as low as $15 online. Furthermore, if you want a 32GB memory card, be prepared to pay well over $100 for it.
Third party memory cards are significantly cheaper to buy than the Sony branded ones, of course. But at most game retailers, you’ll only find the Sony cards behind the counter. Larger retailers such as Best Buy or Futureshop (Canada) will have Lexar and SanDisk media available in the Camera or MP3 sections, but only the Sony brand cards will be looming close to the Video Game accessories.
In The End
With the hints and rumors of the PSP2 and PSP Phone heating up, the PSP-3000 is sure to continue to go down in price, and with every price drop, the overall value of the PSP goes up. For the current cost and features available on the system, it’s a great way for the gamer on the go to kick back and have a little bit of entertainment on the road. However, it’s not without its shortcomings.
Notably absent features and a frustrating download system can become very aggravating if you’re just looking to grab a new game from the PlayStation Network on the fly. Furthermore, a pricey media card format can rack up the initial out of the box cost pretty quickly, especially if you’re one to download a lot of content.
Overall, I really enjoy playing games on my PSP, and I’m looking forward to many hours of revisiting my PS One classics again, as well as discovering new ones. But when you balance out the pluses and minuses, it’s really difficult to give this product a glowing score. Sony’s tagline is correct in that, “It only does everything”. But unfortunately, it doesn’t necessarily do everything well.
The PSP 3000 Console gets a score of 3.5/5.0
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