Call me a hypocrite. After all, I reviewed the PSP
and awarded it an Editors' Choice, and here I am writing a column enumerating the things I hate about it. But let me explain: We award an Editors' Choice based on several criteria, including design, features, and performance, and whether we believe a product is tops in its category--and the PSP is, hands down, the best portable gaming system we've seen. However, this is a device that Sony is billing as "the Walkman of the 21st century"--and by that criterion, the PSP has a ways to go before it lives up to its full potential. More specifically, there are some things I wish it did better and some features I wish would be implemented with the next system upgrade, which Sony will be supporting via downloadable firmware updates.
Do I hate it for that? Well, no, not exactly. But as a column headline, "Ten improvements to the PSP I'd like to see" has neither the sensationalistic, tabloid-esque hook of "Ten things I hate..." nor the echo of a movie title reference. So I went with it.
Now that that's clear, let's get to the list. For those counting, I've arranged it from minor annoyances at the top to the most glaring "what were they thinking?" issues toward the bottom.
1. No alarm clock.
The PSP has a clock. It has an MP3 player. Why shouldn't you be able to set an alarm and have the thing automatically power on and wake you up in the morning to a favorite tune, particularly when you're on the road?
Odds of implementation: 2 to 1
2. UMD volume discrimination
For some reason, you can boost the volume with movies and games played on the PSP's UMD (Universal Media Disc) drive, but you can't boost the volume when you're playing back MP3s or your own video stored on a Memory Stick Duo card. Maybe I'm going deaf, but I feel the volume could go a little higher when I'm in noisier environments.
Odds of implementation: 5 to 1
3. No background screen customization
Currently, there's no way to customize the background screen on your PSP; it simply changes its color at the start of every new month (March was lime green; April is pink). Ideally, you'd have the option of assigning a photo stored on a memory card as a background image--or downloading new backgrounds from Sony or other sites.
Odds of implementation: 4 to 1
4. No e-book reader or audiobook support
The PSP could also be an educational tool ("I swear, Mom, I was reading a book, not playing a game"). One industrious PSP owner used a print application
to convert a 432-page e-book into 432 separate JPEG images (150MB). Then he used the PSP's slide-show feature to read it. Nice hack, but there must be an easier way. Whether it's adding support for Adobe Reader (text downloads) or Audible's digital audiobooks, this seems like a no-brainer.
Odds of implementation: 10 to 1 by Sony; even odds by third-party developer
5. No video out
Even the cheapest digital cameras have a simple video-out connection for TV hookups. The PSP doesn't. We're hoping someone will make a cable and a driver for the USB port. Don't count on Sony to do it, though.
Odds of implementation: 50 to 1 by Sony; 10 to 1 by third-party developer
6. Rudimentary image-viewing application
What little things irk you about the PSP? Any suggestions for improvements?
Sony's CLIE handhelds came with three photo apps: CLIE Album, PhotoStand, and Photo Editor. Right now, the PSP's image-viewing capabilities are adequate but very limited. Hopefully, Sony will dust off some of those CLIE apps and rev up the current slide-show app, adding support, for instance, to play music while a slide show is running.
Odds of implementation: 6 to 1 by Sony; 1 to 2 by third-party developer
7. Completely PIM-less
With your iPod, you can upload contact and calendar info. You should be able to do the same with the PSP. Third-party developers are already coming up with solutions
, but we doubt this feature will become available through an official firmware upgrade.
Odds: 20 to 1 by Sony; even odds by third-party developer
8. No Web browser
The PSP has built-in Wi-Fi but, at launch, no Web browser. Sony's all but announced it will add a browser, so I won't knock the company too much for the omission. Still, I'm disappointed it wasn't there. Of course, if you're ambitious, you can play around with the hidden browser
in Wipeout Pure
. And while we're on the subject of wireless connectivity, it wouldn't hurt for Sony to increase compatibility by adding support for WPA-encrypted networks.
Odds of implementation: 1 to 3
9. No file management software
is renowned for its automatic syncing capabilities with iTunes
. But the PSP's ID3 support for MP3 files is cursory at best, so if you have more than a couple dozen songs on your memory card or multiple songs by a single artist, it's annoying to scroll through every file before finding the song you're looking for. If Sony is serious about the public perceiving the PSP as more than just a gaming machine, it needs to step up to the plate and deliver similar software that makes converting and syncing video, audio, and image files to the PSP much easier than it is today. Sony's own tutorial
for transferring video to the PSP only drives home what a Sisyphean ordeal the process currently is. We expect third-party apps to help fill the void (see "Video complications" below), but we're not sure why Sony didn't have something at launch, considering its history with its CLIE handhelds.
Odds of implementation: 3 to 1
10. Video complications
Much has been made of how unfriendly Sony made the PSP for playback of personal video content that isn't on a UMD disc. Video files, even MPEG-4 files (which the system supports), must be converted into a special PSP-compatible version with software that isn't included, and you must put them in a weirdly labeled folder on your PSP. Also, high-capacity Memory Stick Pro Duo cards are costly, with a 1GB version
required to store a full movie at decent video quality. Sony allegedly will offer an English version of the Japanese-only Image Converter 2.0 for $10 at some point soon. Until then, programs such as PSP Video 9.0
will competently fill the void. Of course, it wouldn't hurt if prices for "official" PSP UMD movies such as Hellboy
came down to $7 or $8 from their currently discounted price of $14 at Amazon.
Odds of implementation: 2 to 1