Sony PSP: Frustratingly Beautiful

Universal, My Eye

Let's start with the UMD, since that's where the irritation starts with this device. For its new portable console, Sony has developed a new proprietary format that bears some resemblance to the DVD version of the MiniDisc. The 2.4" (6 cm) disk is housed in a protective plastic case that inserts into the console, and its 1.8 GB capacity is impressive given its small size. The only problem is that this format is specific to the PSP, despite the insidiously misleading first word of its name: "Universal".

It's also reasonable to have doubts about the longevity of this kind of drive system on a portable console that's bound to be subjected to rough handling. It is true that MiniDiscs have demonstrated good reliability, but the technology is particularly leading-edge here. The mechanism for insertion and ejection certainly doesn't inspire confidence either; there's no doubt that you'll have to handle the PSP with care.

Why A Disk?

Another legitimate question is why Sony chose to use a Mini DVD when storage is moving more and more towards Flash memory and hard disks. Of course, you have to look at the alternatives with some sense of objectivity where game consoles are concerned. The other possible choice would have been to put the games on Flash cartridges, which are a clearly better choice in terms of simplicity, speed, and reliability. But the cost of putting more than a GB of storage on Flash memory would have been prohibitive, and any other form of distribution would have been suicidal due to the possibilities for hacking. So the discs are a fairly reasonable choice for games.

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