PSP-3000 Review

by Mike Bendel October 24, 2008 @ 2:26 pm

With the introduction of the PSP nearly four years ago, Sony made its debut in the handheld gaming market with a bang: offering gamers, for the first time, PS2 quality graphics on a portable at an affordable price. The handheld quickly garnered mainstream appeal with its secondary function as a portable media device, able to playback a variety of music and video formats. Since then, Sony has continued its ongoing efforts to evolve the PSP platform as a whole, both through software-based firmware updates and hardware refreshes. The PSP-3000, released to the North American market on October 14, is illustrative of this strategy. Although not quite as ambitious as the PSP-2000 refresh, the 3000 offers several enticing improvements at the same price point. Significant enhancements include a brighter, more vibrant LCD screen and a built-in microphone device for use with Skype and online games such as SOCOM. Is the PSP-3000 worth the upgrade and for would-be PSP owners, is now the time to purchase a PSP? Read on to find out.


At first glance, the PSP-3000 looks similar in appearance to last year’s hardware refresh. There are more than a couple minute differences, though. Notably, the entire faceplate has been given a smooth matte-finish in contrast to the glossy, fingerprint-attracting coat of previous iterations. Additionally, the Sony logo has been shifted over to the left above the D-pad, while a push-button sporting the classic PlayStation logo is now in replacement of the familiar “Home” button. You’ll also find that the Select and Start buttons have been given a proportional oval shape. The chrome-style ring located on the back of the unit is now thinner as well. Obviously, none of these changes can be considered major by any measure, but certainly are welcome improvements.

Appearances aside, the main draw of the PSP-3000 is the enhanced LCD screen. In Sony’s words, the screen offers a “wide color gamut and deeper contrast ratio.” Without question, they’re exactly right on that point. Upon booting up our PSP-3000 review unit, we immediately took notice of the richer, warmer colors. With the “Wide Color” setting activated and brightness set to level 3, we noticed a significant improvement in color depth and picture quality, particularly in the Cross Media Bar (XMB). Look below for photos.

PSP-3000: Bottom / PSP-2000: Top

Although not as dramatic, the difference in color reproduction was still readily apparent in the games we tested. Shown below is Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, a downloadable PSOne classic, and PSP title Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters.



PSP-3000: Bottom / PSP-2000: Top

This time, we load up a movie trailer for The Dark Knight. Here the difference is not as pronounced, but as you can see in the photo below, the 2000 unit emits a slight blue hue while the picture on the 3000 carries a decidedly more realistic look, thanks in part to higher black levels. Additionally, smaller details in the distance are easier to see.

PSP-3000: Bottom / PSP-2000: Top

For the final image test, we compared an abstract wallpaper image comprised of a wide range of colors. You can see the advantage of having a wider color gamut here. Colors hidden from view on the PSP-2000 are now clearly visible on our PSP-3000 unit.

PSP-3000: Bottom / PSP-2000: Top

Overall, the LCD screen housed inside of the PSP-3000 is fantastic. However, that’s not to say it is without issues. Indeed, the new display does away with widespread complaints of a poor LCD response time. By the same token, though, it introduces a subtle scanline-like effect visible on the edges of objects when moving quickly from side to side on the display. Is this really a huge issue? Personally, I’d have to say no. The described scanline effect is largely unnoticeable during gameplay, especially in 2D games. I found the scanline issue to be non-existent in Symphony of the Night. Now, if I was looking closely, it was somewhat noticeable in Ratchet at times, but in no way hindered gameplay. The superior response time and top-notch color reproduction of the 3000 LCD display by far outweigh this issue.

In addition to the aforementioned improvements, the PSP-3000 screen uses anti-reflective technology that promises to reduce glare and improve screen visibility under well-lit conditions, such as playing outside on a sunny day. Does this work as advertised? Outdoors, no difference was perceived — as with previous models, the screen is still very difficult to see in direct sunlight. We did however witness a slight improvement in glare reduction when standing beside a window indoors.

PSP-3000: Top / PSP-2000: Bottom

PSP-3000: Right / PSP-2000: Left

Shifting gears over to less-noticeable improvements, we found that the d-pad on the 3000 felt firmer and slightly raised compared to that of the 2000. Additionally, the AC adapter included with the 3000 has been considerably reduced in size. Sound output through the built-in speakers on the 3000 is crisp and clear, sporting a slight increase in sound quality over the 2000.

We found no apparent difference in TV-out quality on the PSP-3000 when connected to an HDTV. Though unlike the PSP-2000, the PSP-3000 has built-in support for playing PSP games on an non-progressive scan TV when connected using composite cables. Certainly, this is a huge plus for owners of an older television set. Also of note, if you’re connected to a non-progressive set, there is an option found in the firmware under “Connected Display Settings” that allows users to enable flicker reduction over interlaced displays.



The final hardware change between the PSP-3000 and PSP-2000 is the inclusion of a built-in microphone. It works as advertised, allowing for voice chat in Skype and online titles such as SOCOM without the need of an external headset.


After all is said and done, is the PSP-3000 an essential upgrade? Yes and no. Owners of a launch PSP-1000 unit may want to seriously consider moving up, if not only for the improved screen but also TV-out support and UMD load time enhancements made since last year’s revision. For those who already have a PSP-2000 unit, it’s not as easy to recommend taking the plunge on a PSP-3000. No extensive cosmetic changes have been made and while the screen is beautiful, it still isn’t without faults, which ultimately makes it hard to justify spending full price on a slightly upgraded hardware revision of the same handheld you bought last year — or even a few months ago.

Still without a PSP? Then now may be the perfect time to pick one up. It is anyone’s guess as to if Sony will be introducing yet another hardware revision down the road, but there’s a whole lot of great titles out now and coming in the not-so-distant future. A few notable titles on the horizon include Star Ocean: Second Evolution, Resistance Retribution, Monster Hunter 2nd G, Phantasy Star Portable, and Dissidia: Final Fantasy. Also, Sony recently released firmware 5.0, which adds a built-in PlayStation Store — exclusively for the PSP. The store offers a growing selection of UMD games and playable demos, as well as PSP format themes and wallpapers.

Carrying an MSRP of $199.99, the PSP-3000 is currently sold at retailers in the Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters Entertainment Pack, which includes a copy of Size Matters on UMD disc, along with a 1GB Memory Stick and a PS Store voucher code for the perspective-bending puzzler echochrome. A $169.99 standalone core pack consisting of only the PSP-3000 hardware will be made available later this year.

The Good

– Brighter, more vibrant LCD screen
– Hardware support for playing PSP titles over composite cable
– Fast LCD response time greatly reduces motion blur, or “ghosting” effects
– Minor cosmetic tweaks
– Matte-finish on the faceplate does away with fingerprints
– Built-in microphone

The Bad

– Although not a huge issue in our experience, a subtle scanline-like effect can be found on screen when moving from side to side in 3D games
– Even with the anti-reflective coat, the screen is still very hard to see while outdoors
– Not as ambitious as the PSP-2000 refresh

Overall score: 8.7/10

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