Review: Sony's Updated PlayStation Portable Nothing to Get Excited About

Maybe Sony Corp. (SNE) should start watching one of television's many home makeover shows.

When those groups redo a house, there's rarely anything left of the original by the show's heartwarming conclusion.

Sony seems to have taken the easy way out with its latest PlayStation Portable. Its revision adds a few nifty features but leaves most things unchanged from the original PSP released more than two years ago.

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You could almost feel the excitement draining out of this summer's E3 Media and Business Summit after Sony announced the new PSP with amazing new features like ... get ready ... wait for it ... television output!

That's about it, really. Now we can watch all those games and Universal Media Disc movies scaled onto a giant TV screen.

On the upside, the new PSP comes with double the original's 32 megabytes of internal memory, a spacious 1-gigabyte memory card and a slimmer design that shaves off a few ounces.

But it has the same 333 megahertz processor, even tinnier speakers than before and a flimsier plastic door to load the system's proprietary UMDs. And the continued lack of a right analog control means first-person shooter games are still nearly impossible to play on the PSP.

At least the wireless on/off switch was moved from the lower left side to the top, where it's harder to hit accidentally in mid-game.

The video output also has a few glitches. It's not really worth buying the $19.99 cable to hook it up to your TV, unless your set has progressive scan because older interlace scan sets can only show pictures and movies, not PSP video games.

And I was disappointed with the visuals on my 37-inch HD set, because games weren't in high-def and only filled a small rectangle in the center of the screen.

Beyond that, if Sony's touting the PSP for its TV output, why didn't it toss in the cable for free?

Better to stick with the PSP's own sharp display, still a gorgeous sight when polished clear of fingerprints, which glaringly mar the mirrorlike surface.

While I'm picking on Sony, it's worth noting that the company isn't alone in marketing minor tweaks as new products.

Nintendo Co. (NTDOY) last year redesigned the original Nintendo DS handheld into a colorful fashion accessory called the DS Lite. Better looking, for sure, but hardly a game-changing experience.

Nintendo has been revamped, repainted and redesigned the Game Boy many times over the years, too, culminating with the Game Boy Micro, a device so small you could probably play it better with tweezers — and a microscope — than your fingers.

The updated PSP is available now, either in no-frills black for $169.99 or in one of two entertainment packs for $30 more.

I tested the "Limited Edition Daxter Entertainment Pack," which comes with a 1-gigabyte memory stick, the "Daxter" video game and the five-episode "Family Guy: The Freakin' Sweet Collection."

Another entertainment pack was released Tuesday. The "Star Wars Battlefront PSP Entertainment Pack" includes the same accessories and a white PSP with Sith Lord Darth Vader's image on the back.

The new PSPs seem like a hard sell for existing owners and a curious choice for would-be newcomers who probably passed on this product the first time it went on sale in 2005.

So, yes, a fresh coat of paint certainly helps. I just wish Sony had hired one of those TV demolition teams and brought us something really new.