The PlayStation Portable originally shipped without any form of official media software, which left users searching for a variety of third-party hacks and workarounds to use the device to view photos, listen to music, and--especially difficult--watch videos. Eight months after the system launched, Sony released a dedicated software application for the PSP called the Sony PSP Media Manager. That software package didn't win kudos for usability and features, but Sony has gone back to the drawing board for version 2.0, which became available in October 2006. The Windows-only software is available as a download directly from Sony for $17 or in a boxed bundle that includes a USB cable for $25. While the PSP Media Manager 2 is replacing the version 1 software in retail and online, there is no upgrade available for version 1 owners, meaning they'll have to pay for the new software, too.
The interface of the upgraded Sony PSP Media Manager is pretty stylish and sleekly designed. We've tested a few PSP media software applications, and this one has the most intuitive and best-looking layout by far. The top of the software page has the PSP's signature crossbar icons on the top--photos, music, video, Internet, and gaming, along with a few extra ones for CD ripping, importing bookmarks from Internet Explorer, adding RSS Audio and Video feeds, storing documents on the PSP, and tweaking the Media Manager's settings. Moreover, it's worth noting that the Media Manager has some pretty stringent system requirements: The software will run only on a PC with a 1GHz or faster processor that has 512MB of memory or more, and it requires the latest version of Windows XP (SP2 with .NET Framework 2.0 installed). That's not exactly bleeding edge, but it's still a much higher requirement than similar programs such as Windows Media Player and iTunes.
Uploading our files to the PSP was pretty simple, and the process was largely painless. The transfer time was a little longer than your standard drag-and-drop, but we appreciated the real-time transfer and memory capacity status. If you're adept at adding media files, though, there's not a lot that's new that you can do with the Media Manager. One notable exception is the ability to transfer word-processing documents to the PSP and view them in HTML format--the files are stored in your PSP's browser bookmarks. It's a pretty neat feature, though we wish there was a way to be able to edit the documents. The movie transfer was pretty cut-and-dried when it came to standard formats such as MP4 and AVI, but we were disappointed by the DVD conversion process. As you'd probably expect from a company with movie and television studio ties, you're not going to be able to get any video from copy-protected DVDs. Since the company touts UMD as the only wide-screen media source for the system, you're not going to be able to play back video at the PSP's 480x272 resolution--or even at the 368x208 size at which third-party applications can encode.
If you're a novice who wants to get files on the PSP without any hassles, then the Media Manager is a reasonable solution, as long as you're not expecting to port your DVD collection onto your PSP. But anybody who's more than a computer novice will find PSP Media Manager to be oversimplified and underwhelming. Advanced users remain better served by free third-party conversion applications such as PSP Video 9, paired with some judicious dragging and dropping.