Apple Archive

Video iPod or PlayStation Portable? Each Has Its Merits

- 2006.01.27

Previously I'd looked at playing video on the new video iPod. I've found that the screen is very sharp, albeit slightly small, and there's a significant novelty factor being able to bring a TV show, movie, or even music video with you on the go.

Of course the iPod isn't the only Mac-compatible device with which you can play videos. In fact, Sony's PlayStation Portable (PSP) is also able to play videos, and, like the iPod, it's perfectly compatible with the Mac.

There are a few fundamental differences that should be pointed out before I do any sort of comparison. The iPod is primarily a music player that also happens to do photos and video as well. Sony's PSP is primarily a portable game machine that also happens to do photos, video, and audio.

The PSP is also a standalone device if you want it to be. If you simply plan on playing games, you can get away with never connecting it to a computer. You can even buy movies in PSP format, which come on the same small UMD (universal media discs) discs that the games come on.

In a way, the PSP has the ability to do far more than the iPod.

The quality of the PSP in general is very high, much like the iPod. Sony doesn't generally skimp on accessories - they include a basic 32 MB memory card, a carrying strap, a decent enough case, and even a pair of earphones with a remote control (something that Apple doesn't provide anymore - it's an extra-cost option). However, Sony doesn't include a USB cable; you have to buy that separately.

Luckily I had one lying around, so I was able to connect my PSP to my computer. The memory card appears on the desktop as a removable drive, and it would appear that you can just copy music, photos, and videos directly to it. Unfortunately, that's not quite the case - these things have to go in certain places, and it's easiest to have a separate application to manage it.

Thankfully there's one called iPSP. This application works sort of like an iLife application to manage photos, music, videos, and several other things in your PSP. It automatically converts your movies into the proper format for the PSP and synchronizes exactly what you select to go over to your PSP - just like iSync does for Pilots and iPods. This makes the PSP work seamlessly with the Mac.

There's no clear advantage in terms of Mac compatibility between the two devices; they both work with the Mac assuming you have the right software.

How does playing video on a PSP compare to the video iPod? Well, for one thing, the screen's larger. In fact, in width it's nearly twice the size of the video iPod's screen. Because it's a wide format screen, it's ideal for watching movies.

Like the iPod, the LCD screen on the PSP is also viewable from an angle - something that was a bit of a problem with LCD displays until the past couple of years. When playing movies on the PSP, you can actually switch to a widescreen mode, which cuts out the black bars at the top and the bottom of the movie.

On the other hand, the iPod's screen appears sharper and seems to have richer colors.

PlayStation Portable vs. video iPod

The large screen means that the PSP is much larger than the iPod - in fact it's about 1.5 times as thick as a 30 GB video iPod and about 1.5 times the length. (Part of that is the battery in the PSP, which lasts longer than the battery in the iPod when watching video.) This isn't a big deal if you plan to put the device in a backpack, but if you want something you can stick in your pocket, the PSP clearly loses out.

The iPod can also store up to 30 GB or 60 GB (depending which model you get) of music or video. The PSP limited in one crucial way. Unlike the video iPod, which uses a hard drive to store files, the PSP uses Sony's MemoryStick memory cards. While it's theoretically possible to use a 1 GB or 2 GB card (which you must purchase separately at about $70 for 1 GB, $120 for 2 GB), you still will never be able to reach the capacity of the iPod with the PSP. A 1 GB memory card is enough for one movie - and not really much else.

If you're looking for something small with a high capacity for video, the iPod is clearly the unit for the job. If your primary focus is the screen and you'd rather have the ability to do things like play games and use the Internet, the PSP might be a better choice. LEM

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