The Sony PSP is releasing stateside this coming Thursday, but I received an unit from Japan today via a contact I have there. (Thanks dude!)
… Here's what you need to know. 😎
A lot of the launch titles are watered-down ports of PlayStation 2 console games, which is kind of a shame. Be careful! — My favorite game so far is Lumines, which is totally original and perfect for a handheld. It's also only $40 USD and therefore one of the cheaper titles available.
It's similar to Tetris (one of my all-time favorites), but designed for widescreen displays. You clear sections of the game grid using squares and rectangles instead of lines, and the soundtrack is not only top-notch but also interactive with the gameplay! Headphones recommended. 🎧👍🏻
Gran Turismo PSP is coming out later this Spring, and Grand Theft Auto PSP releases in just a few weeks. — I received Need for Speed Underground “Rivals” alongside the console (shipped from Japan), but aside from the excellent graphics, it's honestly not that engaging or fun, and so I worry about whether a car game without a storyline will be something that I'd buy again.
Hardware, Controls, & Memory
The screen looks awesome (very crisp! ✨) and the controls feel great, but the “analog-stick” is kind of lame. I definitely prefer the directional “D-Pad” buttons. — I assumed that the analog control would be kind of like a miniture version of one of the joysticks on the PlayStation “DualShock” controller… but it's actually this little thing that only slides around in two-dimensions, rather than being able to angle from a fixed center-point to the outer-edge.
Since the system is only being sold as a bundle right now, everybody gets a 32MB Memory Stick PRO Duo with their console. — That's not much storage, but it is more than enough for saved games as well as maybe a few songs and photos, yet probably not enough for movies or TV shows. You also get an AC adapter, battery, and the game disc advertised in the bundle. (of course)
If you want more storage, you can go with 512MB or 1GB, although the larger the chip the seemingly more difficult they are to find right now. — SanDisk reports that they're backordered, as does SonyStyle, but my order from the latter just shipped out… so they may have gotten a shipment of a few in recently.
Wi-Fi, multiplayer, and “online play” tunneling hack
Officially, multiplayer via Wi-Fi is only available through peer-to-peer or local-area networks, but just like with the original Halo game on the Xbox, you can use XLink Kai to daisy-chain through your PC or Mac's wireless card and play online with others over the internet. — Here's a rough-guide for how to set this up on your Mac: https://www.teamxlink.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?t=9544
Otherwise, Wi-Fi is primarily just for software updates so far, but the console does have a [probably exploitable] hidden web browser built-in that we'll hopefully get better access to soon. — There's also a physical switch on the side of the console to quickly enable or disable Wi-Fi to save battery.
UPDATE: “Lt.Ping” has also alerted me to his detailed Wi-Fi setup guide on the PlayStation Forums.
For whatever reason, the unit doesn't ship with a USB cord, but it just needs a standard mini-USB cable. — You might already have one of these kicking around from another device.
While in USB mode and connected to your PC or Mac, the PSP acts as a removable/ejectable disk-drive (supporting USB 2.0 transfer speeds!) representing its inserted Memory Stick, and the folder structure so far is as follows:
- “/PSP/GAME” — For games stored on your memory card. (…Perhaps for downloadable games in the future?)
- “/PSP/MUSIC” — Music.
- “/PSP/PHOTO” — Photos.
- “/PSP/SAVEDATA” — Saved games.
- “/MP_ROOT/101MNV01” — MPEG-4 movies and video.
… If these folders don't exist (yet), you could “Format” the Memory Stick using the option to do so in “System Settings” and it will create some of them, but keep in mind that doing this will erase everything on that Memory Stick, including any saved games and content! — So, try to do this initially before you use each card.
You can also create folders within these folders to keep things organized, but keep in mind that folders within those folders at the moment with the current software version will currently be ignored, so keep it to a single level beyond the first! 🗂👍🏻
The audio player is excellent, but the size of the unit doesn't exactly make it an iPod competitor in terms of portability. — I consider the software experience to be like a blend between an iPod Photo and an iPod Shuffle… in that, there is album artwork displayed, yet due to storage constraints, you can only carry a much smaller portion of your music library with you.
I'm not sure if it's just me or not, but my unit is displaying a “Corrupted Data” error for each MP3 file I've added. Yet, if I scroll past these, the music actually plays just fine. Very strange! — UPDATE: This issue has been resolved by the v1.5.0 software update that Japanese units received on the US release date! 😎
To me, a major oversight is not being able to insert a Memory Stick from your digital camera and view the photos on the device's large screen. I tried it, and it doesn't work. — This could be fixed in a software update later on, though.
However, aside from that, any JPEG in the proper folder location can be viewed individually or as a slideshow, and you can zoom in and out.
Currently, the PSP only seems to support videos in 320x240 resolution, which is not widescreen. — If you're converting media from TV recordings (such as from TiVo-To-Go) or transcoding movies that you own for portable viewing, you'll need to keep this restriction in mind. However, this will also help you save on disk-space on the otherwise fairly expensive Memory Stick PRO Duo cards.
If you squish a 16:9 picture (for example, from a widescreen DVD) while transcoding to this 4:3 frame, though, there is an option during playback to stretch the image back to widescreen. — The quality is far from DVD, but it's not that bad! 📀
Apparently, Sony will soon offer various movies for purchase via video UMDs, but to me the Memory Stick is a more compelling/interesting option, as are downloads over Wi-Fi, as long as there's enough storage for a reasonable amount of content.
There are a couple of applications already for syncing stuff from your computer:
- iPSP (for PC/Mac) syncs your music/photos/video, but the video feature didn't work for me and I felt like the software was overall kind of lousy. It also costs $20 USD.
- PSPware (for Mac) is pretty awesome, though, and only $10 USD. 😎
… These are going to keep improving, I imagine, and both ultimately try to make your PSP as syncable as an iPod with iTunes, for example.
Transcoding video on Mac
The PSP only supports a very specific XviD/MPEG-4/3GP/AAC specification. — Some of the software and tutorials I've mentioned above for creating these files is only available for PC, so here's a rough-guide on converting video using your Mac.
You'll currently need two pieces of software:
- altShiiva — While the video-files from this didn't work on my PSP, the “*.THM” video-thumbnail files did, so use this software to generate those.
- FFMpegX — Check out their tutorial on how to convert videos for the PSP.
… A handful of tips, as well:
- When choosing quality and bitrate settings for the videos, I generally like to sacrifice quality in favor of quantity (number of videos I can bring with me), so I set the bitrate as low as possible while still having it be watchable. This ends up being around 2MB per-minute. — With FFMpegX, I just set the target bitrate to 1 Kb/s and it seems to find the appropriate level automatically.
- All videos must be named in this exact format, and it's entirely case-sensitive: “M4Vxxxxx.MP4” (Replace the “X” characters with random or sequential numbers)
- FFMpegX had no issues reading “*.VOB” files that were ripped from a DVD using DVDBackup! — Remember that, as mentioned above, you must squish all video to exactly 320x240 resolution or currently it won't be recognized by the PSP, but it can be stretched back out later during playback to be “widescreen.”
- I had a lot of issues getting FFMpegX to work with some non-VOB files, but a workaround for this was first transcoding them to DivX (or another compatible format) using Quicktime Player, which is more tolerant of minor corruption in video-files apparently.
… Good luck! 🍀
The PSP is a really awesome handheld console, and potentially a full-blown mobile media center as well. (storage permitting)
I really look forward to seeing what else gets released for this by Sony, and also what hacks surface for it, too. 🔧😎 — Try to grab one when it goes on sale in the US this week!