Sony PlayStation Portable review

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We first previewed the PSP in the spring and since then it’s become a global phenomenon. And no-one – even the most ardent Nintendo supporter – can deny that the PSP’s instant rise to legendary status is richly deserved. The screen is incredible and the games gobsmackingly good, not just for a handheld but in their own right; titles like Wipeout Pure are being hailed as genuine evolutions of major franchises rather than cut-down copies. And then there’s the design: the thing itself is simply an object of 21st-century gloss-black consumer beauty.

Sony PlayStation Portable review

Crammed into the case is an amazing 4.3in widescreen, as well as a Memory Stick Duo slot; integrated 802.11b wireless adaptor; UMD (universal media disc) drive taking proprietary 1.8GB MiniDisc-like optical discs; a full range of controls including lovely clear-perspex index-finger buttons; and an analog thumb controller. The guts of the machine include a 333MHz processor and 32MB of RAM.

If you don’t want one as soon as you’ve seen it, getting a PSP in your hands and switching it on will convince you. The screen is superbly bright and vibrant, and has an extra-bright setting when it’s running from the mains.

Screen lag and smearing is almost non-existent. Every game we’ve tried – Ridge Racer is our favourite – has blown us away. 3D graphics equal the arcade machines of a few years ago, and the capacity of UMD media means games can be as extensive, with as many levels as a PC or full-sized console game.

And did we mention that it’s a fully-capable portable media device that can play MP3s, show JPEG photos and play videos at a quality level that makes Apple’s video iPod look ridiculous? And that it comes with headphones that include a remote control? Oh, and a replaceable lithium ion battery, which means, unlike an iPod, you can carry a spare?

On top of that, there are now third-party applications to plug the hole left by the conspicuous absence of any bundled software for transcoding video and uploading it from a PC. Companies such as X-OOM with Movies on DVD (there’s a trial version on this month’s cover disc) and Xploder with PSP Media Player (which handily includes a USB adaptor, allowing you to recharge your PSP via a USB port) have made it far easier to transfer video for watching on that fabulous screen.

The flexibility doesn’t end there. You can browse the Web using the wireless adaptor (although you may need to update the firmware), and UMD movies are taking off in a big way in the US, with some UMD film releases outselling the DVD versions. UMD movies have yet to establish themselves here, but there’s a small selection of action titles such as I, Robot, Pirates of the Caribbean and, bizarrely, Ghostbusters.

Clearly, we don’t need to tell you to buy one of these. But we’re going to tell you anyway. If you can get hold of one in the mad Christmas clamour, then get hold of one you should. The PSP is awesome.

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