While all other gaming hand-helds to date have focused purely on games Sony also want the PSP to excel at multimedia. Therefore with your PSP you can watch videos, play MP3’s and also view photo’s. What surprised me was how capable the PSP was at all three.
Video is being sold the most by Sony and it’s easy to understand why. The quality of the screen means a suitably encoded video looks superb. I can easily see myself converting the latest episodes of 24 to watch during lunch at work. DVD’s can also be ripped and encoded for viewing on the PSP. However a good quality encoded DVD will take up around 400-500Mb on a memory stick so you’ll need a couple of 512Mb’s or a 1Gig card to carry video and also game saves.
Via PSP Connect Sony are trying to educate users into how to convert video’s to the PSP. It’s pretty straightforward to rip avi’s & mov’s but dvd’s are a bit more problematic. That said I’ve concentrated on mov’s the most as I don’t have a big enough memory stick…yet. The Sony software costs $20 which is a bit steep and should really be included in the value pack. Saying that a version that costs a lot less can be found if you look hard enough. There are also other software alternatives. PSP Video 9 is a nice application for converting movie files. 3GP is another alternative. Both seem to convert files well with 3GP having more options to tinker with. However I found both struggle with the latest Apple movie trailers and I needed to use the official Sony software for them.
Converting dvd’s is trickier. You first need to create a vob file of the dvd and then convert to PSP format or convert the vob to an avi (I’m trying Auto GK at the moment) and then to PSP format. It takes quite a while to convert just one movie so I’m more likely to be converting downloaded movies than anything else. A good tutorial showing the steps involved can be found at mobile deviant. A similar guide for 3GP can be found here.
UMD’s are also being used as a way of viewing videos – you can buy official UMD versions of movies. Hellboy directors cut is currently on sale in the USA for around $14 but I just don’t see the point. Who is going to buy a UMD version for the PSP only and not a DVD version? I just don’t think there’s a market for them.
The PSP is also a capable mp3 player. I was surprised just how good the mp3’s sounded through a decent set of headphones – I cannot tell the difference between my iPod and the PSP which is pretty good considering the iPod is only an mp3 player. The PSP can also play mp3’s at a higher volume than the iPod although this may be down to EU legislation which means the iPod volume is reduced in Europe. There are a variety of different sound modes available – heavy, jazz, pops, unique or just plain old music without the effects – although these are optional only when headphones are plugged in. The PSP also supports embedded album art as you can see above, just like the iPod photo. You can also shuffle tracks, repeat tracks etc. just like any normal player. However there is no playlist support, no track rating and also the amount of mp3’s you carry is limited to the size of your memory card. Therefore the PSP is a capable mp3 player as long as you are not too demanding – I won’t be throwing the iPod away just yet.
Finally you can view your photo’s through the PSP. Point it at a folder of pictures and the PSP will run a slide show of them. Alternatively you can pick the photo you want and view it. You can zoom and rotate your photo’s with the photo’s displaying quickly and then sharpening after a second or so. There’s nice use of the analogue stick when zoomed in so that you can move around your photo. Due to the large screen browsing photo’s on the PSP is a breeze and not as awkward as the iPod photo. That said you can plug the iPod into a tv with ease – not so on the PSP.
Overall a great little machine for multimedia on the move. Some websites have placed the screen ahead of the Microsoft media players that are currently out and I can certainly see why although I’ve not seen one of the MS devices myself. I’ll certainly use it for pictures and movies – the mp3’s will stay on the iPod. Rumours of a web browser in a future firmware update would increase the functionality further. Can’t wait.