Worried that I was being too productive with my free time, I “decided”* to buy a PlayStation Portable today. When it comes to irrational behaviors, spending chunks of money on things I don’t need is one of my favorites. Here are my initial thoughts after playing around with this new toy for half an hour.
Just so you know, Sony has made 3 PSPs thus far and just announced a 4th coming out this fall. I bought the PSP 3000 model, the 3rd and most recent version actually released. The PSP Go has been announced for later in the fall. That forthcoming version will have the most changes, with a smaller but same resolution screen, pop-out controls, and missing the proprietary disk slot. I was initially inspired to look into buying the current model after reading this article at Ars Technica, which points out that most of the hype around the newly announced model focuses on the network services Sony will be offering like downloadable games; all of which will be fully compatible with all the older PSPs too.
The design of this product really shows the typical “Sony Style”. On a related note, I saw a Sony digital picture frame at Target when I was waiting to buy this, and they actually put their logo in the middle of an otherwise nice, sleek, minimal, black frame. And it was backlit. Just what you want to see while looking at family photos. Anyhow, the PSP is pretty thin and nicely designed. Easily portable and dominated by the huge screen right in the middle. But it’s also covered in buttons; like every edge has a button on every part of it. Seems like they could have simplified that so I wouldn’t press nice buttons when I pick it up.
The basic menus are simple enough to navigate and tastefully designed. In another example of themed Sony visual design, they are stylistically the same as the PS3’s menus essentially. No real complaints until you try to enter text, then it just gets stupid. The text interface for the PSP emulates a cell phone’s T9 style input method. There is a virtual keypad where each button has several letters and the capital versions which you must cycle through to select the one you want. That’s just dumb. Cell phones have the worst possible input method and there is absolutely no reason to pick that as your metaphor when you have a great big widescreen display and aren’t dealing with a physical number pad. Not that other video game systems don’t make this same mistake though. On the Xbox 360 Microsoft has a virtual keyboard on screen, but the letters are arranged alphabetically and not in the QWERTY format that everyone is familiar with. Apparently only Apple and Nintendo are smart enough to figure things like this out. Sony’s decision turns an unavoidable task into an unnecessary exercise in frustration. Nice work dummies.
The future of purchasing and downloading games online is already well in place on the PSP, and you can buy movies and music too I think. I’ll probably only get games, but I can try the movie thing out since I got a free code for School of Rock in my bundle. The first demo I grabbed immediately presented me with another bad experience though. Downloads cannot run in the background, so you just have to stare at the progress bar until it is complete whenever you get a demo, movie, new game, etc. I’m used to grabbing content in the background on my iPhone and this will really put a spoiler if the only way to get games in the future is to stop using your system until they finish downloading. That could be a while too with a decent sized game.
On the other hand, I already vastly prefer playing downloaded games, because the UMD disks make terrible loud rubbing noises as they spin up and down when you’re playing them. That can’t go away fast enough, and I’m sure doing away with spinning media will improve battery life too. It would be great if Sony allowed you to download the game to a memory stick for play, even if you had to keep the disk in for copyright proof, similar to what the Xbox 360 allows now. I guess some sort of more formal solution for replacing disks is due in the fall with the new PSP Go release.
So there are some questionable design decisions in the PSP, but overall it is still pretty nice. The gaming capabilities are pretty high and the games look awesome on the great screen, so it’s good at what it needs to do best. I’m happy to have yet another form of entertainment to help me turn my brain to mush and piss away the ever dwindling hours remaining in my life.
- decided in quotes because it wasn’t actually a rational thought process