It's Shiny! It's Portable! It's a PSP!

Members of the crow and magpie families will love the new PSP (PlayStation Portable) because it is shiny. The rest of us will love it because we can take our beloved PlayStations outside when our moms kick us out of the house and tell us to get some fresh air. One Quality Time source quibbles with my word choice and says it's not really a PlayStation but I say if it's got PlayStation in the name then by all that is holy it is a PlayStation.

The hype for this device is that it is going to change the western world. Goodbye iPod, goodbye mini DVD player, goodbye Nintendo DS, your new PSP is going to replace them all. Supposedly in five years we won't even remember what iPod ever meant. Yeah sure, I think that's going to happen, not.

What do we like about the PSP? Some of the things we like are also the things we don't like. The screen is shiny. Really shiny. Catch the sun in it and blind someone shiny. Plus the special surface scratches easily. You can fold your Nintendo DS closed to protect the screen but I don't see how you would do that with the PSP. So there you are with your $250 buck machine and it's scratched a week after you got it because you threw it in your gym bag with a can of Red Bull. That's got to sting. However the colors are gorgeous, the screen is large and games look terrific. So if you're careful the screen is a big plus.

Game selection also has its pros and cons when compared to the Nintendo DS. The PSP debuts with twenty-four games ranging from Ape Escape to Metal Gear Acid. That's a lot more than most consoles and they plan to roll out another twenty according to their home page. The disadvantage here is that you can't play games you already own for the PS, PS1 or PS2, unlike Nintendo DS, which lets you play all your Gameboy Advance games. The new games are exciting but if you've got an old favorite you won't be able to take it with you.

The controls are pretty darn snazzy. Not only have you got your classic PlayStation 2 buttons and a joystick but you also have something kind of like the little mouse nub you find in the middle of lots of laptops and notebooks. It garnering some swoony reviews and comments from PSP users. Graphics are sweet, as you would expect with the special reflective screen. Don't use the built in speakers because they can't help but sound awful. Get some decent plug in headphones and you'll really dig the groovy sound capabilities.

It's a good portable game system. Is it better than Nintendo DS? If so is it a hundred dollars better? The UMD is what is supposed to make this thing better than everything else ever invented including the wheel and the internet. What's a UMD you ask? Let's ask the PSP official FAQ.

UMD (Universal Media Disc) is a new, proprietary, high-capacity optical medium enabling game software, full-motion video and other forms of digital entertainment content such as movies and music, to be stored. The newly developed UMD is the next-generation compact storage media and at only 60mm in diameter, can store up to 1.8GB of digital data, making it perfect for a portable entertainment player like the PSP system. UMD stores a broad range of digital entertainment content including games, music, movies, and more.

Don't you feel enlightened now? I know I sure do. Note, do not read the FAQ for fun because it isn't.

The gist here is that you can use the PSP as a multimedia device. You can use it play music, display photos or watch movies. This is where it gets clunky. The UMD discs are not writ able for the home user. If you want to play your music or show your photos then you have to buy and use a memory stick. They're expensive. You can't record a movie or a TV show and then carry it off to work with you and watch it on your PSP on the train in to work. You can only watch the movies you buy from Sony. At twenty bucks each I can see the costs mounting as you build your collection.

Then there is the matter of viewer comfort. One of the really nice things about the screen is that you don't have to look at it from dead on to see everything clearly. Your friends can gather around and watch over your shoulder and they'll still get a terrific view with none of the distortion or blacking out of pixels you get with a lot of screens. So you would think that you could sit with your friends and watch a movie, right? Kind of.

When you play a portable game it's natural to hold it in your hand and move it a little in your excitement. You want to grip the thing and it would feel awkward to play with it sitting on a desk in front of you. But when you want to watch a movie you want to set it down on a stable surface, relax and enjoy. The PSP has no way to hold itself upright. You'd have to either lay it flat and hover over it or you'd have to hold it for the entire film. Sounds a little tedious to me.

They went on sale at midnight March 24, 2005 with great fanfare. There were some people who couldn't wait, buying them from Japan a couple of months ago or in the case of a guy in Charlotte, NC, robbing a Gamestop of twelve PSP packs.

So what do I think? I think as a portable gaming system it has a lot going for it but I have no desire to use as a multimedia device. I like less clunky, friendlier, sturdier toys. I think the early adopters and technophreaks will use all of its capabilities but your average gamer will simply game.