The ample media coverage of the U.S. release of Sony’s PlayStation Portable (PSP) makes two things clear: It’s a great gaming machine but not a great convergence device; and Sony operates a fabulous buzz machine.
The PSP will go on sale Thursday at US$250, and demand is so high that Sony’s initial release of 1 million may be gone almost before it can be stocked on shelves. The company has sold almost 1.2 million PSPs in Japansince mid-December.
Responses from reviewers of the device ranged from the exuberance of the San Jose Mercury News‘ Mike Langberg, who wrote that the PSP “delivers breathtaking realism to the once sleepy category of hand-held video games,” to the more muted but still enthusiastic Andrew Brandt of PC World, who wrote, “You’re probably going to want one of these, despite a few minor flaws.”
Reviewers agree that the PSP delivers quite a wallop in gaming power, with many claiming that it’s almost as good as its larger cousin, the PlayStation 2 console. Most also touted its wireless capability, which allows multiplayer gaming with other PSPs over the Internet. A few said that the initial hookup was tricky. Despite complaints about the overly reflective screen — which makes outdoor viewing difficult and picks up fingerprints better than the “CSI” crew — every reviewer liked playing games (at least the few that are available at this point) on the device.
Quibbles arose over the device’s other functions. “As a portable game machine, it’s a peerless piece of work, combining sharp graphics, deep game play and easy online connectivity,” wrote Rob Pegoraro of the Washington Post. “As a multimedia gadget, however, it’s a dud.”
In addition to gaming, the PSP can play movies and music and store photos, and many critics joined Pegoraro in criticizing these functions. Many complaints centered on Sony’s proprietary format, the lack of adequate storage and the difficulty in transferring files from other media to the PSP.
The device comes with only a 32 MB Memory Stick and does not come withthe USB mini-cable required to connect it to your PC for file transfer.
Movies must be in Sony’s Universal Media Device (UMD) format. List price for the movie discs is $20, which Pegoraro called “a lousy deal.” Most agreed, however, that the sound from the tiny speakers was good.
Brandt of PC World pointed out that Sony has neglected to include ormanufacture a portable stand. “At just 10 ounces, the PSP isn’t exactlyheavy. Still, after a while, I found that it wasn’t comfortable to hold theunit while watching the film. My hands started going to sleep, and my wristached,” he wrote.
Another multimedia downside is the lack of any software to organize photosor music.