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Sony answers PSP dead-pixel gripes

Users with pixel problems should contact SCEA for instructions on exchanging their PSP after a week or two of use, company says.

Soon after Sony's PlayStation Portable launched in Japan last December, reports surfaced that some units' LCD screens suffered from "dead pixels," or pixels that were either permanently light or dark.

Within 24 hours of the PSP's North American launch, similar complaints began to reverberate .

Some gamers' outrage over the perceived dead-pixel problem was fueled by an e-mail allegedly sent out by Canadian game retailer Video Games Plus. The e-mail said the company was "informed by Sony that they will not be warranting any dead-pixel units. They are only warranting hardware defects, i.e. broken buttons, malfunction with drive and so on."

An informal survey of the dozen-odd PSPs in the GameSpot offices found that half had at least one problematic pixel. While these dots were almost all invisible while playing games, they stood out when displayed against a black or white screen.

While commonly referred to as a "defect," Sony says the off-colored pixel problem is common in LCD screens. "A very small number of dark pixels or continuously lit pixels is normal for LCD screens and is not a sign of a malfunction," a representative for Sony Computer Entertainment America told GameSpot.

Page 13 of the PSP manual puts it this way: "Red, blue, or green spots (bright spots) or black spots (dark spots) may appear in certain locations on the LCD screen. The appearance of such spots is a normal occurrence associated with LCD screens and not a sign of malfunction. LCD screens are made using highly precise technology. However, a very small number of dark pixels or continuously lit pixels exist on each screen."

The manual also warns against exposing the LCD screen to direct sunlight and leaving still images on the screen for an extended period of time, as both can damage the display.

The Sony representative suggested that PSP owners who encounter the pixel issue try the device "for a week or two" to see if it continues to bother them. "If you find the spots are interfering with game play/video viewing during this period, we will support the various elements of (the PSP) warranty," the representative said.

Each PSP comes with a one-year limited warranty, which is on page 125 of the PSP manual. If a PSP is "determined to be defective" by SCEA, the company will see to the "repair or replacement of this product with a new or refurbished product at SCEA's option."

According to a technical-support associate contacted by GameSpot, PSP owners who encounter a persistent and aggravating dead-pixel issue should contact SCEA's customer service line at 1-800-345-7669 for instructions on how to exchange their unit after a week or two of use. "We will work with you," he assured.

The associate said the process would work much like exchanging PlayStation 2s that suffer from the dreaded "Disc Read Error" problem: Gamers will mail their PSPs in to SCEA and receive units with new screens. The associate was unsure if customers would receive an all-new unit or their old unit with a new LCD screen.

Tor Thorsen reported for GameSpot.