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PSP System Impressions

You've seen the pictures of the system, the box, and the menus, so now it's time for my initial impression of the PSP hardware. These are quick, early impressions, so don't take everything you read here to be the gospel - I might figure out something new that I like, or something that I don't enjoy as I play more. The final verdict will be in our hardware review, which will come after much more time with the unit.

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As you may have read, some people are reporting issues with their systems, such as: dead pixels, randomly ejecting discs, analog sticks breaking, and dust under the screen. Unfortunately, the official PSP of PSX Extreme has a small piece of dust. It's a tiny, tiny piece, and it's at the top, center of the screen. Fortunately, you can only see it when the screen is black. I am glad that it's not bad, but mad that it's there. I'm of the opinion that the defects are being blown out of proportion, but it's something to be aware of if you're considering importing.

As far as looks are concerned, the PSP is damn sexy. The clear face buttons are pimp, the glossy finish gives it a "don't even look at this thing wrong unless you can afford to replace it." vibe, which is complimented by the metallic trim around the unit. The silver PSP logo on the back is simple, but still looks sweet. The only blemish is the bar code that runs along the trim on the bottom, and even though it's tiny, the rest of the unit is so smooth looking, it feels out of place - but it's a necessary evil.

The screen is gorgeous. Absolutely incredible. Stunning. Beautiful. First off, the thing is incredibly bright; so much so that when you turn it on in a dark room, you have to turn away until your eyes adjust. There are three brightness settings, and there's a fourth, brighter option available if you're playing with the unit plugged in. The resolution is great, small writing is easy to read, and the colors rich and crisp. Four inches doesn't sound that big for a screen, but for a handheld, it's enormous.

The analog stick takes a few minutes to get used to, but once you do, it feels very comfortable. It's not a mini version of the Dual Shock's analog stick - it actually feels a bit similar to the nubs that you use in lieu of a mouse on a laptop. Don't worry, it's got a surface large enough for your thumb, and it's not difficult to be precise with. My only gripe with the analog is that it would have  made more sense to place it where the d-pad currently is, since that's where you naturally want to put your hands.

The clear shoulder buttons look really cool, but they feel a bit cheap. They're a tad bit loose, and you can wiggle them quite a bit when they are pushed all the way down. If you can live with the shoulder buttons on the Dual Shock, which get stuck quite often, then this won't be that big of a deal to you.

The d-pad feels nice, though it did squeak a little bit when I first started using it. As I played, it loosened up a bit and now it's pretty quiet. I don't think that it's any louder than the Dual Shock's pad, but I think many people are noticing this since they play handhelds with the sound off and hold them closer to their face then they would a console pad.

I'm not a big fan of the battery cover, nor the cover for the memory stick. The battery cover is hard to remove, and it's not easy to get back on. If you don't have a second battery, then you'll likely not care about this, but if you're constantly switching, you'd better get good at it. The memory stick cover has a rubber piece that attaches it to the PSP, and when you slide the cover off, it just dangles there. I've got a hunch that this is going to be a big problem in the future, but I could be wrong.

The ear bud headphones that come with the system sound really good. I'm not an expert on headphones, but I was impressed with the range of the phones, as well as their clarity.

The PSP's audio capabilities are very underrated. When most people think about the sound in a handheld game, their first thought is probably something along the line of "How fast can I turn it down?" The PSP will change all that, since it's capable of virtually anything the consoles can do. This jump in sound quality is almost like going from black and white to color television. Once you get spoiled listening to speech and "real" music, you won't go back.

That's about all the impressions for now. As you likely already know, we'll be updating all weekend with tons of pictures, impressions of Ridge Racers and Hot Shots Golf, and answering any questions you have about the system. If you'd like to ask a question about the system, post it here in our forums, and I'll do my best to answer it for the Sunday update.

Check out all of the updates in our PSP series:
A look at the PSP's box.
Inside the PSP's menus.
A closer look at the UMD.
The Evolution of Sony.
PSP System Impressions.
PSP and Other Handhelds.
Ridge Racers Review.
Minna no Golf (Hot Shots PSP) Impressions.
PSP Q&A.
PSP Save Icons.

12/18/2004 Aaron Thomas

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