The Sony PSP is set for release in Australia on 1 September 2005.
Colour us impressed, Sony -- if the oohs and aaahs of the CNET.com.au staff are anything to go by, then you've clearly got a winner with the PSP. Gamers and non-gamers alike at our offices were immediately wowed by the sleek design of the handheld, even with the unit turned off. In fact, with its extremely glossy front, it's almost as if people were hesitant to touch it, lest dirty fingerprints or smudges ruin the shine.
It's handy that Sony has packed a cleaning cloth with the PSP, because the glossy finish on the unit's front is certainly a smudge magnet -- you'll find yourself obsessively cleaning this little beauty in no time. The majority of the real estate on the front is taken up by the 4.3-inch widescreen LCD, with the controls flanked on either side -- on the left is a directional control pad, while on the right are the familiar Triangle, Circle, X and Square buttons of a PlayStation controller. Also on the left hand side (underneath the directional pad) is an unobtrusive joystick, which looks more like a small speaker grille than anything you can control a game with. This joystick works surprisingly well and offers excellent response, though its close proximity to the bottom of the unit means your thumb may cramp after long gameplay sessions. Several buttons are arrayed below the PSP screen, including a Home button (which sends you back to the main PSP menu if you're in a game or watching a movie), volume controls, a Select button and Start button. There's also dedicated buttons for Display and Sound -- pressing these will cycle through preset brightness or sound levels. And in another nice design flourish, Sony has included two clear shoulder buttons on the top left and right hand sides of the PSP -- it adds a nice contrast to the otherwise all black front, and means the PSP is only lacking two buttons from a full sized PlayStation controller.
Believe it or not, that's a joystick underneath the PSP's directional pad.
The back of the unit is (thankfully) less glossy, coming in a standard black plastic finish. At the centre is a large silver circle with the PSP logo in the middle -- a nice touch which makes an otherwise bland back look good. The PSP's proprietary UMD discs are inserted into the back of the unit -- a lever on the top of the PSP pops open the UMD slot, with the discs themselves sliding in and telling you they're inserted properly with a satisfying click. The PSP takes Memory Stick Duos, which slide into a MagicGate slot on the rear right.
On the PSP's right side is the Power/Hold button, while the bottom of the unit features the DC In power slot and a headphone input. The PSP ships with a pair of iPod-like all-white earbuds -- and just like the iPod there's a handy remote that can be used to control volume and skip tracks. The remote itself is silver and round, with its play and skip functions arrayed on a circular pad. On the top of the PSP is a slot for a mini USB -- the unit itself doesn't actually ship with one of these connectors, so unless you have a memory card reader or a PC that can take Memory Stick Duo, then you may need to shell out for one of these cables if you want to transfer music, movies or photos onto the PSP.
The PSP with its battery installed weighs about 280g, which gives it a fairly solid heft without being too heavy. Its length of 17cm, however, means it's not really an easy unit to carry around in your jeans pocket, unless you're still persisting with the baggy pants homeboy look. In fact, the overall 'feel' of the PSP certainly isn't one of a rugged, take anywhere, durable handheld gaming unit (like the Nintendo DS). With its glossy facade and sleek design, you'll instinctively want to take care of this thing (and god forbid any kids with their grubby fingers gets their mitts on it). Thankfully, Sony has included a protective carry sleeve for the PSP as standard.