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Saturday, September 06, 2008

Handheld Redesigns: An In-depth Look

Recent months have been rife with reports of PSP and DS redesigns, and while the former has indeed been officially announced, the later hasn’t, and in this feature, Powerplay blog is going to take an in-depth look at the new wares that Sony and Nintendo will and may be parading out in the near future.


The 3rd iteration of the PSP came as one of the biggest Sony announcements at the 2008’s Games Convention in Leipzig, Germany. While the PSP-3000 sports neither a further reduction in size nor weight, it will enhance the voice functionality of the PSP via the addition of a new built-in microphone. Needless to say, this would be a boon to Skype users and games which support voice chat and/or commands.

An anti-reflective finish will also be among some of the subtle changes made to the PSP Slim and Lite (PSP-2000). On one hand, this translates into a cleaner PSP frame as fingerprints and dirt would be less visible, while on the other hand, there will be less glare on the screen, greatly increasing the outdoor playability of the handheld.

Changes to the shape of the buttons can also be noticed. The PSP’s Start, Select and Home buttons are now oval-shaped instead of semi-circle-shaped. The PS logo replaces the word ‘Home’, while the Sony logo has been moved to above the d-pad. The rather ‘hard’ corners of the PSP Slim and Lite have also been softened to create an all-round sleeker look.

Perhaps more noteworthy is the improved LCD Screen on the PSP-3000. The new LCD screen allows the PSP-3000 to display a wider range of colors than the PSP Slim and Lite and features 5 times the contrast ratio than that on the later. What these mean is that the PSP-3000 will be able to project more vivid displays. Another notable improvement would be the quicker pixel response time of the LCD screen, which decreases ghosting during fast action scenes in games and videos. However, netizens have voiced one worry about this new and more powerful LCD screen: a shorter battery life. Sony has verified that the new screen will not affect the battery life of the PSP-3000; in fact, the PSP-3000 will have the same battery life as the PSP Slim and Lite. What Sony engineers have done is to decrease the power draw from other components of the handheld to balance things out.

The PSP-3000 will be available from October 14 as part of a Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters entertainment package, which would also include a National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets UMD, a PlayStation Network download voucher for Echochrome, and a 1GB memory stick. Additionally, there would be another bundle that packs in a PlayStation Network download voucher for Everyday Shooter and a 4GB memory stick. The former contains the Ice Silver PSP-3000, while the later contains the Piano Black PSP-3000. Both will retail for US$199.99. A core pack containing the Piano Black PSP-3000 would also be available later this year.

Worth Buying?

Save for the new screen, the changes made to the PSP Slim and Lite aren’t really that impressive. The microphone makes it more convenient for users to Skype, but as far as calls are concerned, I have seen few people using their PSPs for that function. Games that support voice chat and/or commands are few and far between as well, making that new built-in microphone more of a gimmick than a real improvement over the PSP Slim and Lite.

The subtle surface redesigns really feel like they are done for the sake of the redesign rather than something that is done to genuinely enhance the user experience. The PSP-3000’s saving grace comes in the form of the new screen, but even then, the change in display quality isn’t that distinct to warrant an observation from users, especially when their attention is geared towards the game or movie that they are playing. Personally, I am satisfied with my current PSP Slim and Lite – I don’t need the microphone and the display doesn’t skid too far in quality. The redesigned edges and button shape alterations are uncalled for.

For consumers who haven’t owned a PSP before, the PSP-3000 presents a good reason to finally get one. But for others, the PSP-3000 just doesn’t have enough improvements to justify a purchase. In other words, if you already have either of the older PSP models, the PSP-3000 is not worth buying.

Rumoured DS Lite Redesign

* Fanart

The rumour has been flying for quite a while now, and what better time to address it than now? According to reports, the redesigned DS Lite would be officially announced in May or June 2009.

The DS Lite Redesign is set to go one up over the DS Lite with touch-screen functionality enabled for both screens. Both the DS screens will also support widescreen aspect ratio. If true, this could mean that the redesign is in fact DS 2. The double touch-screens in the rumoured redesign could mean that new DS games would no longer be cross-compatible with different DS systems as both the original DS and DS Lite has only one touch-screen. On the other hand, the rumoured redesign would certainly result in more creative and innovative gameplay. However, there hasn’t been any rumour about improvements to the DS’s graphical capabilities, which contradicts the possibility of a DS 2.

Words also have it that the GameBoy cartridge slot would be excluded, making an even slimmer DS possible. What does these all mean? Stay tuned to find out.


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