Sony unveiled a new version of its PSP games console this week. While it looks suspiciously similar at first glance, this version 2.0 is a third lighter than its predecessor and a fifth thinner. Available worldwide in September, Sony is obviously hoping that this refreshed PSP will start a counter attack against the Nintendo 's all-conquering DS Lite.
But can Sony's new PSP really beat Nintendo's DS?
"NO", says Dean Evans
Sony's new 'Slim' or 'Lite' PSP is simply a refresh of the original. It's no different to Nintendo refreshing the original DS, trimming off the plastic fat and smoothing down the rough edges. It might look good, but ultimately it's not the size, power or desirability of the hardware that matters. It's the games. And here the DS wins hands-down.
Games. That's where the DS excels. The PSP is akin to a portable PlayStation 2 and, with a few notable exceptions, the majority of its games are aimed at people who have some gaming history. PES 6, GTA: Vice City Stories, Rainbow Six Vegas, etc. are all versions of other console titles. In comparison, the DS is pitching itself more at 'casual' gamers. It's enjoying huge success with mass-appeal titles that have a family-friendly appeal, such as Brain Training and Nintendogs.
The DS features two screens, one of them touch-sensitive. As such, the gaming experience is very different. The DS encourages you to draw, steer, tap, rub, even speak aloud during games. It's much more versatile and immersive than the PSP, which feels like a game pad with an embedded widescreen.
Sony championed its UMD movies at this year's E3 expo, but who on Earth is actually buying them? Sticking with the UMD drive in a portable device (rather than opting for a hard disk or flash memory) also cuts down the battery life. Yes, that new TV output on the PSP is a nice touch, but surely the concept of a portable games machine is that you use it while you're out and about? PSP owners will surely have another console or a PC for stay-at-home gaming sessions.
Finally, let's talk about pricing. The PSP will cost you £130, while the DS can be picked up for under £99. Don't underestimate the importance of this. As we've seen in the PlayStation 3 vs. Wii battle, the cheaper, friendlier system is winning the hearts and minds of the public.
"YES", says Alec Meer
Stop thinking about the PSP as purely a games machine and everything's different. There's a built in web browser and music, photo and video player - all available on DS too, but requiring extra cartridges or clunky third-party hardware to get them. Even then, could you really bear to watch an entire movie on the small, low-resolution screen(s) of the DS? Of course not - it'll look hideous.
In both the outgoing and incoming models of the PSP, the screen is large, spectacularly crisp and, most pertinently, widescreen. The improved battery life of the Slim PSP means it's now an even better video player than before, while the new video-out port makes it as useful in the home as on the move.
Which raises the other issue of what makes the PSP so compelling a device - your options of how to get video onto it. OK, so UMD movies are admittedly overpriced and of debatable merit. But playing your own video files (from wherever you might source them) will tax the battery less and you can store lots of them on the PSP at one time. The ever-plummeting cost of Memory Stick Pro Duos means you can grab 2Gb of storage for under 20 quid.
Switching to an entirely shallow tack next... the dramatic size and weight decrease of the new PSP makes an already sexy device now incredibly desirable. Even in its sleeker Lite form, the DS remains a somewhat plain-looking, plastic brick. The PSP, by contrast, has iPhone-level design values.
A thornier issue is games. Traditionally, the PSP has suffered on this front, and though an exclusive Star Wars game will certainly help, it's not enough against the DS's titanic (and frankly often gimmicky) back catalogue. But with the PlayStation 3 getting the head of steam at this year's E3 that it's been lacking for so long, and the announcement of the Slim PSP demonstrating that Sony is still backing the handhold as strongly as ever, there's now every reason to be optimistic.