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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Sony PSP Strategy

With the PSP, Sony is not just going for the wanna-play-all-the-timegimme-
awesome-graphics gamer. Instead, their focus is on a great gaming
device that can do “everything else” and attracts the young, the teens, the
twenty-somethings, and older audiences. Younger audiences will want the
games and movies, while older audiences, through a brilliant “buy UMD
movies everywhere and play media anywhere” strategy, will buy the unit as a
portable movie player and media device.When the Playstation 3 comes out,
Sony will integrate the media capabilities of the PSP with Playstation 3’s
media center focus and extend the “media anywhere” gaming and media
solution. Coupled with the wireless Internet capabilities, Sony could potentially
deliver home media stored on a Playstation 3 (or other Sony devices)
to the PSP anywhere you can get Wi-Fi access. Pretty cool, huh?

Full Technical Specifications of PSP

Here are the fairly official technical specifications of Sony’s flagship handheld:
 Size: 170 mm (6.7 in) in length, 74 mm (2.9 in) in width, and 23
mm (0.9 in) in depth, weighs 280g / .62 lbs (Source:Wikipedia)
 Processor: 32-bit MIPS “R4000” 4KE or 24KE, dual-core. Primary
core is for standard system functions, including hardware-based data
decryption. Second core, called the “Virtual Mobile Engine,” is for
graphics processing, including native H.264 decoding.
■ Speed: 1-333 MHz (although Sony has made mention to a cap of
222 MHz to conserve battery life)
Programmers can get around the 222 MHz barrier in code.
■ Runs on 0.8 to 1.2 volts
■ Designed using a 90-nanometer process

 Graphics: Runs at 166 MHz, reconfigurable to handle particular processing tasks.
■ 2 megabytes video memory
■ Supports a maximum of 33 million polygons/second, although the effective polygon
performance is likely much lower (many critics don’t like the “max” polygons
rating because it excludes the use of effects like lighting, fog, and so forth)
■ 664 million pixels/second maximum fill rate
■ 512-bit interface
■ Supports 16-bit and 32-bit color modes (32,768 colors and 16.77 million colors)
 Audio: Supports Stereo sound, Dolby Headphone sound. Supports playback of WAV,
ATRAC and MP3 (MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3) audio in Firmware 1.0 and 1.5, and adds
AAC (MPEG-4) audio in Firmware 2.0.
 Display: 4.3" (diagonal) 480 × 272 Widescreen display, 16:9 aspect ratio, just like
widescreen DVDs and HDTV
 RAM: 32MB of RAM. 4MB of DRAM; half (2MB) is connected to the main core, and
the other 2MB is for media processing functions.
 Storage:The PSP has the following storage capabilities:
■ Sony Memory Stick Duo slot takes only Memory Stick Duo media (although
Chapter 3, “Quickies,” covers using standard Memory Stick media, which is usually
■ UMD discs support up to 1.8GBeach and basically any type of data. Official formats
include UMD-Game, UMD-Video, and UMD-Music. This appears to be
based on Sony’s MiniDisc format.
■ USB 2.0 port supports data transfers up to 480 megabits/second.
■ Supports sharing of files on inserted Memory Stick with a USB-capable computer.
 Power: Includes 1800 mAh Lithium Ion (LIon) battery, provides 4–6 hours of battery
life (Sony offers an official 220 mAh battery as well, and third parties such as Datel have
batteries providing 3600 mAh).
■ A/C charger included with package yields 2000 mAh
■ Capable of charging using power provided via a computer’s USB 2.0 port
 Networking: Built-in 802.11b (11 megabits/second max throughput) wireless supports
both ad hoc (computer-to-computer) and infrastructure (device-to-access point) modes.
■ IrDA (Infrared Data Association) line-of-sight communications
■ IR Remote (SIRCS compliant), although no “official” remote control software was
available at the time this book went to press
■ Potential to use USB port for other networking devices, should they ever be

 Navigation system: Uses Sony’s XMB, or Cross Media Bar, interface, used in some Sony
TVs and their PSX product. (I call this the “PSP Navigator” in this book.)
 Region coding: Supports region coding of games, music, movies, and photos on UMD
discs, similar to how DVDs do the same thing to prevent media use in other regions of
the world.

Video Capabilities

Everything considered, the PSP’s graphic capabilities are roughly the equivalent of the PS2. But
how can that be? Well, the PSP’s 480 × 272 maximum resolution is quite a bit less than a PS2’s
1280 × 1024, but its rendering capabilities for the 480 × 272 resolution match what the PS2 can
do at 1280 × 1024. So what does this mean to you? It means PS2 games should easily be ported
to the PSP, and the graphics should be similar if not identical.

Battery Life

Compared to other portable gaming systems, the PSP is not only more powerful, it’s also more
power hungry. Indeed, with a 333 MHz processor, ultra-bright widescreen color display, wireless
networking, and an optical UMD drive to run, the battery is working overtime to make
sure you stay entertained for hours on end. Thankfully, Sony has included a rechargeable 1800
mAh Lithium Ion battery to help out—normal alkaline batteries wouldn’t survive the load for
long and would be darn expensive to replace all the time.
On a full charge, you will get (and independent organizations have confirmed this) up to six
hours of battery life when playing video games, and up to four hours for movies. This is assuming
you’re running the screen at half intensity and half volume with wireless off. I tend to run
with the brightness and volume all the way up, so take about 10 percent off that figure if you
play the same way.

Network Capabilities

Excluding games on PDAs and cell phones, the PSP is the only mass-market game system ever
shipped with robust networking capabilities: 802.11b wireless, IrDA, and a Web browser (in
firmware 2.0 and above). The PSP can also update itself over the Internet, making it the first
mass-market handheld product with a network update function, similar to Microsoft’s
Windows Update feature and Apple’s Software Update function.

PSP Firmware Versions and Why They Matter

The PSP has a “flashable” firmware, meaning it can be updated with bug fixes, and upgraded
with new capabilities. This enables Sony to support new technologies as they emerge, address
vulnerabilities in the PSP software (such as Web browser and buffer overrun vulnerabilities),
and keep the product competitive as the market evolves. Unfortunately for us hackers, Sony
removed the ability to program the PSP on our own starting with the 1.51 “update,” which featured
“security updates”—just another way of saying “we don’t want software developers.” Of
course, you don’t have to update to run most games on your 1.0 or 1.5 firmware PSP, and there
are utilities, such as the WAB Version Changer (available from the official Hacking the PSP
Web site) to get around such issues. Chapter 16, “Reverting from a 2.0 PSP to a 1.5 PSP,” discusses
how to downgrade a firmware 2.0 PSP (not 2.01 or higher) back to version 1.5.
If you are not going to program the PSP, the upgrades from Sony can be quite a boon.With
firmware update 2.0, officially named System Software 2.0, Sony added a Web browser,
enhanced wireless network access (supporting additional encryption technologies such as WPA
and PSK), and support for MPEG-4, or AAC, audio files. These new features greatly
enhanced the PSP’s already impressive media capabilities.