Sony PSP Slim and Lite: Â£129.99
In many ways, Sony's handheld console suffers from similar image problems to its bigger, younger brother. Hotly tipped as â€˜this year's iPod' when it launched in 2005, the PSP has been consistently outsold by Nintendo's DS. Few buyers have shown much enthusiasm for the unit's UMD movie format, and the general perception is that the huge difference in 3D power between the rival portable formats hasn't actually given the PSP much advantage when it comes to games. Too many publishers are content to shovel over shoddy ports of their latest home console releases, and too few are prepared to invest in games that play to the PSP's strengths. Worse, poor battery life and long loading times definitely hold the handheld back when it comes to life on the road.
Some of these arguments are incontestable, but once again they obscure the fact that the PSP - particularly in its new Slim and Lite format - is a wonderful bit of kit. The PSP always had a fabulous screen, but the Slim and Lite has shaved a little weight off the unit, improved the D-pad and analogue â€˜nub' and doubled the onboard memory to use as a cache to reduce those nasty load times. In actual fact, results vary according to game, and it may be that we'll only see the full benefits with the latest titles where support for the cache is built in, but at least Sony is paying attention. The new smaller battery doesn't actually add any battery life, and I can't see many people making use of the new 480p component video output (especially when the cable is a pricey optional extra), but overall the Slim and Lite makes an excellent format even better.
As for the games, well, it's true that there's an awful lot of rubbish on the PSP, but the system also loads some of the best and most exciting handheld games to date. Apart from a few great exceptions - Lumines, LocoRoco, Exit, Crush - the PSP doesn't really do innovative or quirky. What it does do, when it's at its best and the developers are really paying attention, is produce games that get close enough to last-generation home console games in audio/visual quality and gameplay that you can forget that you're playing on a handheld. Ridge Racers, WipEout Pure, Virtua Tennis, Sega Rally, GTA Vice City Stories, Outrun, MGS: Portable Ops and Daxter all stand testament to this, and they will soon be joined by others. Don't forget, either, that the PSP still makes a great portable media player. As an all-round mobile entertainer, it's pretty damn hard to beat. This might - and should - swing you towards the PSP if gaming only plays a part in your decision. Sales seem to be improving (it's started to catch up with the DS in Japan) and some great games are now on the way. Don't write off the PSP quite yet.
Click to read the full PlayStation Portable review.