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Sony PlayStation Portable PSP-1000

Phew, what a scorcher

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To the right of the screen is the familiar PlayStation button array - the four buttons are marked with a triangle, a circle, an X and a square, just like a PlayStation controller. There are also left and right shoulder buttons, again mirroring the console controller.

There are a further seven buttons below the screen. Most recognisable will be the Start and Select buttons, which have the same functions as on the full size consoles. There's also a music button which toggles through various pre-set equaliser settings, while the brightness button toggles through three levels of screen brightness. The volume + and - buttons are pretty self explanatory, while the Home button will take you back to the XMB graphical user interface (GUI).

Sony PlayStation Portable

The PSP fits in your hand comfortably, and both the controllers and the buttons fall under your thumbs easily. It's surprisingly light and finding the perfect viewing angle is simple, even with strong ambient light sources. There's a wrist strap supplied with the PSP, and although it doesn't look particularly cool, it's worth using, just in case someone knocks it out of your hand.

If there's one problem with the PSP's slick black design, it's the fact that it's a magnet for fingerprints and greasy smears. It sometimes feels like the PSP just pulls fingerprints out of the atmosphere, because even after you've just wiped it clean, fingerprints will appear before you've even picked it up!

The power switch on the right is spring loaded - push it forward and it will power the unit on and return to its original position; push it forward again and it will power the device off and once again return to its place. If you push the switch backwards it will click into place and lock all the buttons on the unit.

On the left is another switch, this time to enable and disable the integrated Wi-Fi adaptor. Yes, Sony has equipped the PSP with 802.11b wireless networking. There are two main reasons for the inclusion of Wi-Fi. First and foremost is the ability for multiple PSP users to link up and play games together - wireless networking is a far more elegant solution than having loads of players huddled round in a circle connected by trailing wires. The other reason is to allow the PSP to connect to the Internet via a wireless access point and download firmware upgrades.

There are a lot of rumours that Sony will be releasing a new firmware revision that will allow the PSP to be used for web browsing, email and even word processing, but we'll have to wait and see whether this actually happens.

Next to the Wi-Fi switch is a small hatch that hides the MemoryStick Duo port. It's a pretty smart move to incorporate MemoryStick Duo into the PSP, since it will instantly increase the user base for Sony's tiny memory cards. I purchased the PSP Value Pack which came with a 32MB MemoryStick Duo card in the box, which is handy for game saves and photos, but not really large enough for music or video. You can however, pick up a 512MB SanDisk MemoryStick Duo Pro card for around £50, which should keep you going for a while.

Sony PlayStation Portable

At the top of the casing you'll find a mini-USB connector, an infrared port and the eject switch for the UMD drive. Flicking the eject switch causes the central rear portion of the PSP to open up - you can then slide in a UMD disc and close it up again. In case you don't know already, UMD stands for Universal Media Disc and this is the format that the PSP games ship on. The UMD discs have a diameter of about 60mm and a capacity of 1.8GB. They remind me of MiniDiscs, but there's no sliding metal cover to protect the disc surface. With this in mind, I would have liked to have seen some kind of case for the UMD discs, but alas they are bare once you take them out of the game box. No doubt there will be third-party slip cases appearing soon enough though.

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