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“Play Station Portable”: PMPing ain’t easy.

There is a class of electronic devices that are in general an abomination to all but the most foolhardy gadgeteers. They are widely known as Portable Media Players or PMPs. In general they can play video and audio along with providing an e-book reader and a photo viewer. Some have additional functionality and include a camera or GPS. They are like a decent higher end cell phone or Blackberry without the core connectivity functionality that makes them worthwhile. The advantages of PMPs are almost none since they are frequently overpriced and in general have similar functionality of a decent cell phone, PDA, or PSP. A scant few offer some type of gaming functionality going so far as to mimic the design and even names of better known gaming devices. Such is the rather unclearly branded “MP4 Digital Player” according to the unit itself, “Games DV MP4 MP3 Player MP4” according to the box and, “Play Station Portable” according to the manual.

The Play Station Portable does it all: it is a video and audio player, a digital video and still camera, an e-book reader, a calendar, and worst of all a gaming machine. Words cannot fully describe just how bad the Play Station Portable is however, since it takes video and still pictures I can let it speak for its self just a bit. You might notice the extremely low quality of the pictures and video on this post; they are courtesy of the Play Station Portable. Strike one!

Much like the Sony Playstation (one word) Portable the MP4 Play Station Portable has a set of 4 buttons on the right hand side labeled triangle, square, circle, and X, however these buttons look like a traditional plus pad that should be on the left side of a typical gaming device. On the left hand side are buttons that indicate that they are up, down, right, and left. Regardless of how good the buttons are or what additional interface elements are on the unit the designers have already failed. Control pad goes on the left, buttons on the right. For fucking out loud it is not that difficult. There are many other interface options on the unit, power, esc, play, and reset buttons as well as a hold switch, AV in and out, and both a USB jack and SD card slot. For all the options it manages to fail spectacularly for all its half hearted attempts at awesomeness.

Since this site is not primarily concerned about how well portable gaming devices do things that are not games I’ll let you judge the non gaming abilities of the device based upon the quality of the pictures and videos included in this post. If you are not concerned already here is a hint: the games are a concern. Play Station Portable comes boxed with a CD-R that is labeled “SOKING” and has a picture of a caveman with a slingshot chasing a happy crab on it. I believe that SOKING is the brand of the CD-R and probably has nothing to do with the Play Station Portable Games DV MP4 MP3 Player MP4 brand. The CD-R is packed with video codecs, drivers, and most interestingly over 1000 NES roms. The CD-R if not the unit itself is most likely a ticking lawsuit waiting to explode. The Play Station Portable has a decent 1GB of memory which can fit a considerable number of NES roms which theoretically give the unit a decent library of games on hand at any moment. This is not actually the case. A fair number of the included roms will actually not load on the unit and the remainder have problems of several varieties. Super Mario Brothers manages to highlight several of the most crippling problems that the system has actually emulating games. Firstly the games do not play full screen but rather are windowed with a menu on the right hand side labeled “Ihtcom Nesgam” with the options to adjust speed, “ad” and to exit or return to the game. When starting a game the player will notice that the top section of screen, the HUD, that displays your score, level, coins, and time scrolls along with everything else on the screen. Fortunately it repeatedly scrolls across the screen so even when it disappears you only need to play for another few seconds before the HUD will show up again. Additionally when going thru pipes or bashing an item block there are layering problems so that Mario will display in front of the pipe he should be disappearing behind. These rather annoying problems pale in comparison to the biggest problem which is that on any speed the games have terrible framerate and performance issues. Strangely, while on normal or fast speed the games seem to go slower and drop more frames then on slow mode. Mario while normally enjoyable becomes a choppy slow paced exercise in ennui. Though unable to actually get video of the gameplay with the unit, I was able to use the Play Station Portable to make a video that shows just how exciting playing Super Mario is on the Play Station Portable with the unit.

A short list of things in my house that have enough processing power to provide better emulation of the NES then this unit include the actual Playstation Portable, any phone or camera including ones that take actual film, the Quasar 4 head VHS video cassette player, the combined talents of the microwave and electric toaster, my alarm clock, and the house plants.

The manual which may be the best put together part of the unit offers the following precaution, “a. Do not use the device in extremely thermal, cold, dusty and watery circumstances.” Perhaps a better precaution would have simply been “a. Do not use.”


Screen: 6-10 Screen is plenty bright and resolution is fine but when in game mode only a part of the screen is used.

Sound: 6/10 Has two speakers but no physical volume adjustment.

Controls: 6/10 Plus pad is on the wrong side of the unit but fortunately is actually buttons, buttons are where the plus pad should be and function well enough as a plus pad. Points deducted for stupid design.

Availability: 1/10 I have no idea if this particular unit is available but it should be avoided in any case.

Price: 1/10 I paid way too much for the unit, it would be too expensive at any price. It only gets avoids getting a 0 in case a worse unit comes along.

Library: 2-8/10 Since the unit has a built in NES emulator it theoretically has a fantastic library however it chokes when asked to play some ROMs included on the CD and plays no games at full speed. The library would be fantastic if the unit could actually play them correctly.

Overall: 3/10 Decent controls and screen cannot save the unit from the shitstorm that is the functionality of this all in one device. It can play video or display photos fairly well however as a camera, video camera, or gaming device the MP4 Digital Player totally and utterly fails. I have pooped better gaming devices then this Play Station Portable.


  1. You make a convincing Mario, but I would imagine a plate of spaghetti more appropriate food fare as opposed to the bowl of pretzels. So who was at the door?

  2. Since Mario would obviously dress up if it was Princess Peach, I have to assume it was Bowser or Toad coming over for poker night. I hadn't really thought about it...

  3. I coundn't get the video to play; it said it was no longer available.