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Inside the PSP's new Web browser

Inside the PSP's new Web browser

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First things first: The PSP's v2.0 firmware is out...in Japan. Fortunately, it works swimmingly on American models (so far), and you can download it here. Enjoy, with all the requisite disclaimers about it not being our fault if your PSP explodes.

I've been messing around with this update's big, new feature--the Web browser--and compiled some thoughts on its strengths and weaknesses. While I'd like to think that Sony's product development team reads this blog religiously and will take my criticisms to heart for future updates, as a practical matter, it's more likely that this list will help you decide whether or not to sacrifice your v1.5 PSP's homebrew functionality in exchange for access to the Interweb. Without further ado:

STRENGTHS

  • The browser looks great, displaying crisp images and reproducing colors very accurately.
  • Typing isn't quite the pain it could have been: Sony has augmented its standard cell phone-style input system with a few shortcuts, giving common strings such as "http://" and ".com" their own special keys on the virtual keyboard. Furthermore, the PSP will remember every address you type, so you'll never have to tap in a long, complicated URL more than once.
  • JavaScript works like a charm--I tested out several of the toolkit-type utilities on javascriptkit.com.
  • You're given the option to reshape the browser's display window, in much the same way that you can resize video clips during playback. This helps avoid the dreaded left-to-right scrollback while reading articles, though it usually garbles the page's layout in the process.
  • You can easily save images from the Web to your Memory Stick Duo, and subsequently use them as wallpaper on the PSP's main menu; customizable wallpaper is another perk of the v2.0 firmware.
  • This one's late breaking: the PSP Web browser supports podcasts, downloading the relevant MP3 files to your Memory Stick's Music folder.
  • WEAKNESSES

  • I'm on a reasonably fast connection at work, but I still had to wait a good 5 seconds before images started popping up on the pages I visited. Once the images began to load, my cursor would freeze in place until they were finished downloading. This sort of thing isn't a problem on a computer, where you can still read plain text and click links without images, but the PSP's small screen made the wait a bit more frustrating.
  • There's no Flash support yet. A bit of a nitpick, sure, but for the time being, you'll have trouble navigating Flash-heavy sites.
  • Pages that "prefer" Internet Explorer won't always work. For example, I tried to author this blog entry using my PSP but couldn't access our posting interface. In the end, this probably saved me a lot of tap-typing, but I can hardly reward my own laziness.
  • There's no question that the v2.0 Web browser dramatically expands the PSP's default feature set. But it also closes the loophole that makes homebrew gaming possible, so if you're more interested in SNES emulation than you are in downloading podcasts, this may be something of a Faustian upgrade.

    Have you 2.0-ed your PSP yet? Are you planning to? Is there anything I missed above? Hit me with your TalkBacks.

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