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First Look: Sony PSP

So what's the deal with the Sony PSP that everyone's talking about? Our own Seth Fogie gave up sleep to put this brand-new wonder through its paces. Here are his thoughts.
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The PSP is a power-packed device full of surprises. In all honesty, I never expected a handheld gaming system to provide so many features and functions, but here it sits on my desk playing Spiderman 2. Simply put, the PSP is light years beyond its competitors. If you don't want one of these devices by the time you are finished reading this article, then it is time to sign over your gamer's card and move onto Pinochle.

Beauty is Only Skin Deep

The PlayStation Portable is a sleek and marvelously designed handheld gaming gadget that could almost have dropped out of The Matrix. Whomever designed this thing should get an award. It fits very nicely in your hand, and for all it can do, weighs just enough to let you know it wants your attention without killing your wrists. While it does take two hands to operate, this marvel will redefine the handheld gaming market.

The first item that caught my eyes was the clever look of the left and right trigger buttons. Made of clear plastic, their see-through design gives the PSP a symmetrical look both side to side and top to bottom. This makes an obsessive guy like me feel at peace and even connected to the device. Now if only those triggers lit up with alternating neon colors!

The buttons are laid out as one would expect, with the default PlayStation four button controls on the right and the arrow keys on the left. Combined with the L-R clear trigger buttons on the top, and you have most every game covered. Amazingly, the PSP added one other input device that really puts the avid player at the top of their game. Right below the arrow buttons is a little analog joystick with a grip surface that is bound to keep you moving in the right direction. Ironically, this joystick is often completely missed by new players because it looks like a speaker cover (everyone I let play missed it!). Regardless of how long it takes to discover this godsend, I must give kudos to Sony for thinking of this feature!

Other input controls include the standard Start, Select, Volume, brightness and Home buttons. These are self explanatory, so no further detail is needed. The final buttons worth mentioning are the Tone option, Wi-Fi on/off switch, and the HOLD button. We will discuss the details of these features later, but it is nice to know you can easily enable or disable most of the functions of the PSP with minimal effort.

The PSP also includes a unique external remote that is meant to sit inline between the headphones and the handheld (figure 1). This mini-controller includes the ability to stop, start, pause, fast-forward, rewind, and adjust the audio volume. Another excellent idea Sony!

Figure 01

Figure 1: Inline Remote

The only issue I have with the input design is the way the POWER/HOLD switch is combined. Both of these functions are tied to the same switch on the right side of the PSP. If you move the switch up, the device is either turned on, off, or put in standby. If you move the switch down, the device controls are locked. Now don't get me wrong; the HOLD feature is an excellent idea for the PSP with all its buttons and switches. If the HOLD option was not there, the user would get frustrated from accidentally hitting the buttons. Unfortunately, when you attempt to slide the HOLD switch back off, it is very easy to move the switch too far and accidentally turn off the device. In addition, I have a tendency to use the top of the PSP for leverage when using this switch, which means I end up hitting the R trigger button more often than not. Despite this minor issue, I find the PSP very user friendly and a design worthy of imitation!

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