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November 20, 2006 - Fans of the PlayStation Portable have been waiting patiently for a big system update for some time now -- versions 2.81 and 2.82 were just security updates and nothing else exciting. But the wait for the next big PSP update is finally over, as Sony Computer Entertainment finally released the long-awaited PSP version 3.00 via its Network Update feature. This update is now available in the US and Japan -- a European version of 3.00 is hopefully due out sometime soon as well.

Why is PSP v3.00 so big? For one, it's a big-number update, not just another midway version update -- these are the ones everybody looks for (and also, the ones that all the homebrew fans eye carefully for any changes to their use of PSP.) More importantly, PSP v3.00 adds some long-awaited features to PSP, including downloadable PSone game titles ("Riiiiiiiiiiiidge Racer!!! It's Ridge Racer!") as well as the exciting Remote Play features with PlayStation 3. The update will not please everybody, however, as a few major features are still only implemented in a cursory way in this version update.

The following features are added to the PlayStation Portable ability set with PSP version 3.00:
  • PlayStation Network titles are now supported under GAME
  • Remote Play has been added as a feature under NETWORK
  • Online Instruction Manuals has been added as a feature under NETWORK
  • Timed Recording has been added as a feature under RSS CHANNEL
  • A visual player has been added as a feature under MUSIC
  • 3-Speed Fast Forward and Fast Reverse has been added as a feature under MUSIC
  • Camera has been added as a feature under PHOTOUMD Auto-Start has been added as a feature in System Settings under SETTINGS

The new PlayStation Network support essentially means that you can download PSone classics to your PlayStation Portable from the PlayStation Network, as announced at E3 2005. The feature hugely expands the library of titles to the PlayStation Portable -- barring a few control issues, SCE has the entire original Playstation console library to pick and choose from for release on the handheld. It should also allow Sony to release new games for PSP, just as it has on PlayStation 3 with games like Blast Factor and Cash Guns Chaos. (Note also that PSP v3.00 adds a new menu option under the GAME menu, the Certificate Utility. We have not yet been able to download a PSone game for PSP, but would assume that this key icon stores your registered ownership of your download.)

The big caveat, of course, is that you can only get these games right now by downloading them and then transferring them via your PlayStation 3 ... if you have a PlayStation 3. Sony has not finished the technology to directly download PSone games to PSP (it would require access to the newly-launched PlayStation Store, which only works with PS3 at the moment), so there is no way to directly get these games onto PSP just yet, nor is there a way to download them if you don't yet have a PS3. Sony is of course working on fixing this problem, with rumors of PSone-to-PSP direct downloads by Christmas.

Also added is Remote Play, a feature that lets you stream media from your PS3 to your PSP (and the opposite is also said to be true.) Now, you can set your console to Remote Play and watch your home videos, browse through your photo collection, and listen to your MP3s anywhere in the house! Sony is working on adding a feature to this to allow PS3 to stream this same media all across the internet. The Remote Play feature is designed currently to work only with the 60GB version of the PS3 (due to the fact that it's the only package of the two with built-in WiFi, and you need WiFi to operate this feature), but in our tests, the feature seemed to use the possibly-accessible WPA-PSK (AES) setting for WLAN devices, so an external wireless router might be able to do the job (if you can get it into that exclusive mode.)

Newly added as well are the Music Visual Player (which features a number of visual, interactive skins for playing back music -- much like the music player on PS3, only in this case, there five of them, plus a randomizer!), an Online Instruction feature similar to PS3 (If you're not sure how to operate your PSP, just click here and it'll tell you all you need to know), an RSS Timed Recorder feature (like a VCR, you can set it to check for the latest RSS Feed update and record the media straight to your PSP ... also hidden in the feature set is a Record All feature that downloads everything from a site or multiple sites), a new Camera icon under the Photo menu (for interacting with the PSP USB Camera now out in Japan -- the device lets you take your own photos, but this new feature should let you also take photos or perhaps video right there on the menu), a fast-speed playback feature for MP3 playback (which works on recorded MP3s but not on streaming music over RSS), and -- at last! -- the ability to hold the PSP back from automatically jumping into a PSP game if a UMD is loaded.

Now, the bad news: PSP v3.00 does not does not have direct access to you PlayStation Network user login (you can use the PS3 Remote Play to check your emails and friend status, but that's nowhere near ideal for most users since you must be in that setting and the resolution isn't great.) Without this feature, you can't check into your PS Network account while away from your PS3. Of course, the PSP itself could benefit greatly from the PS Network features seen on PS3 -- if PSP games used the same network, we might see more games go online and more use Microphone support online. (Plus, we could chat or exchange data with our portables while hanging out at a coffee shop.)

As mentioned above, the new update also does not include access to the PlayStation Store (even in PS3 Remote Play), so as mentioned above, you cannot download games directly to your PSP without owning a PS3 ... even those that will not work with PS3 in the first place. And surprisingly, there are no PSone games to be downloaded with the new PSP v3.00 update ... so now we have the update that can run it, but we don't have the software to play, and most of us don't have the PS3 hardware to transfer the downloads? Sony is promising to fix this as soon as possible, but no word yet on an exact date for that or any news on how that will be implemented ... hopefully, the full PS Store and PS Network will be on PSP soon, but no guarantees.

We'll be taking a closer look at PSP v3.00 and also be on the lookout for those PSone downloads as soon as they're available, so look for updates as soon as we have them.

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