PSP-3000 • Page 2

We've got one. Thoughts on the new screen and firmware 4.20.

As to whether it's easier to play games outdoors, we recommend not going outdoors because it's cold and miserable. We leaned out of a few windows and sat on a windy station platform for half an hour at the weekend in thoroughly bleak conditions and neither PSP really struggled to cope with the light from overhead. Presumably when (if) the sun shines again, we'll get a better sense of the PSP-3000's anti-glare abilities, but for now we'll have to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Something that is noticeable about the new PSP, though, is that the d-pad and face buttons are slightly more pronounced, and feel a bit firmer under the thumb. However, whether this is because we've been puzzling Tetsuya Mizuguchi's block patterns and singing New Order every time we get on a train for a year, or whether this is a genuine update, is harder to say.

We play fewer games that support use of the microphone, of course, because SOCOM is basically the only one, and Zipper Interactive's third-person shooter is the US cultural equivalent of Monster Hunter in Japan: unfathomable to outsiders. The microphone also works with Skype though, and in our test phone calls to friends they had no difficulty hearing us. A definite improvement for those of you used to lugging an unwieldy headset.

Elsewhere, our side-by-side comparison of the current PSP/PSP-2000 firmware, 4.05, and the new 4.20 firmware on the PSP-3000 reveals a "USB Auto-Connect" option, which promises to automatically switch the handheld to USB mode when a cable is connected. It will do this from anywhere on the XMB, but it won't interrupt gameplay. Nor does the PSP charge from USB during gameplay, although - as of the original Slim & Lite revision - it will do so while in USB mode.

Finally for this instalment of Firmware Detectives, we uncovered a "Flicker reduction" toggle under the "Connected display" settings menu. The new-model PSP also allows you to play games on a TV by hooking it up with a special adapter (sold separately) and a composite cable, whereas the old one would only allow composite cables to display video, with gaming reserved for component output.

Nowhere in all of this, either, has anyone mentioned the new, smarter AC adapter unit, which does away with the figure-of-eight cable and black box arrangement - always rather clunky for something pertaining to be portable - in favour of a Nokia-style one-piece with a small, direct cable, which you can happily chuck in a pocket without trailing cables everywhere.

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We haven't got a silver one, so we're going to start a feud between piano and silver PSP owners. Bloody silvers! Go ride a unicorn, dorkface!

The last remaining question mark, of course, hangs over Sony's toing and froing about the PSP-3000's battery life. Originally we were told you lost about 30 minutes to the new screen's excesses; then we were told "engineers in Japan" had reduced power consumption elsewhere in the unit to compensate. Well, the engineers did their job, because we got the same five and a half hours we've come to expect playing games. Apparently that figure is slightly less for people watching UMD videos, so watch out for that. Both of you.

As a sign of things to come for the PSP hardware line, then - and have no doubt about it, we'll see more of these minor revisions, perhaps even annually - the PSP-3000 is noticeably improved in some areas, but none of the improvements is dramatic enough to justify the expenditure to existing PSP-2000 owners. Going forward, Sony will need to think about this, because if it intends to adopt a handheld model closer to Apple's iPod business, it needs sharper hooks upon which to impale our moneyed jaws.

As a simple hardware revision, though, it's a sensible one that gives consumers a better option at the same price point (admittedly instead of a price drop), and will encourage developers to consider voice communication in their online games. We probably wouldn't pay for one, but having transplanted our Lumines habit to the new hardware, we won't be going back, and the PSP is stronger for the change.

The PSP-3000 - look out for the labelling on PSP Slim & Lite packaging - goes on sale in the UK and Europe in mid-October. UK-based gamers will be able to pick it up for GBP 149.99 bundled with games and peripherals.

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