Daddy’s new toy

By | Sunday, June 11, 2006 at 7:18 pm

I recently purchased a new “toy”.  It’s been a while since I’ve had a new toy, and certain circumstances arose that pointed me in the direction of this particular device, so I took the plunge and bought it.  It’s a PSP.  For those not familiar with the term, it’s a Sony PlayStation Portable.  Like the Playstation and Playstation 2, this is a game system that plays some awesome games.  It’s also portable (handheld) so you can play it anywhere.  But it also does much MORE than play games, which was a big factor in my decision to purchase it, rather than something like the Nintendo DS, which actually has two screens instead of one.

The DS plays some great games as well, but lacks the ability to do all of the other things I like to do, like play MP3’s, videos, and display photos.  The PSP does all of this, and also includes a web browser and several other features.  I’ve been using it only a few days now, but I’m very impressed so far.  I picked up a 2GB Memory Stick for it as well, so I have a lot of space on it to work with.  Right now I have 23 of my favorite albums on it, a bunch of my favorite digital photos from 2006 (about 130 of them), and a couple of silly videos I like to show off.  I still have over 600MB of space available on the memory card, even with all of this on it, as well as a few saved games from a couple Classic Arcade Game collections I bought with the system.

They even sell full movies for the PSP now, but from what I’ve read they’re not as popular as Sony would have hoped.  It’s easy to understand why though.  How much fun can it be to watch a whole movie on a screen that tiny?  Sure, it’s widescreen format, but it’s just plain small for movies.  It’s big for a handheld game system (the screen is bigger and much brighter than either of the two screens on the Nintendo DS), but it’s still just too small for watching movies on.  Video clips are fine, but for extended movie watching you need something bigger to focus on.

But for all other uses, the PSP does a great job.  And I recently heard that Sony is planning to soon open up their collection of original Playstation (PSOne) games and make them available as playable downloads from their website, so that sounds great too.  As for add-ons and accessories, I made sure there were plenty of options available before I bought it as well, and waiting a year since it’s initial release has made a huge difference.  The built-in system software itself has been updated many times since it’s release, so I immediately checked for updates and sure enough, I was already two releases behind.  But since I have a wireless network at home, I was able to quickly configure the built-in wifi settings and get it updated in a few minutes.

I also bought Sony’s Media Manager software to make managing my files on the PSP much easier, and that’s working out great.  It will automatically re-encode your music, photos, and videos (if you configure it to) on-the-fly to save you more space on the PSP memory stick.  This is very handy, and I use it for my music, but for digital photos I like being able to zoom in on details and scroll around, and if you have it resize your photos down to the PSP’s screen size, you’ll lose too much detail and zooming it looks horrible.  Fortunately, they give you four or five scale sizes though, so you can choose how much to scale your photos or not to even scale them at all and keep their original sizes intact.  This is a one-way process, fortunately, so files are only re-encoded and scaled down when transferring to the PSP.  Your original, full-detail files remain intact on your computer.

Lastly, battery life seems satisfactory, but it all depends on what feature you’re using the most.  For example, the worst battery killer is the wifi function.  If you use the wifi, or accidentally leave the wifi switch on, your battery will last a few hours less than it would with the wifi turned off.  The rest of the functions are much less stressful on the battery, but as you might expect, playing games from the proprietary UMD disc drive (the discs look like very tiny DVDs) are a bit more draining than just playing MP3s from the memory card.  But if you’re doing the latter, you can also extend your battery’s time a great deal by turning the screen itself off when listening to MP3s.  As a backup battery solution I found a nice battery pack that opens up and you can insert 3 AAA batteries into it and continue using the PSP after your rechargeable battery dies.

So for now, as you can see, I’m really enjoying this thing.  Hopefully it’ll bring me years of entertainment in all of its many forms.