Whether you already own one of the four models of the PSP floating about or you're considering bringing one into your home, you may be wondering how the device will hold up to a child's love. Some models may stand a better chance than others. So how do you determine which model to give your young'un -- and what can you do to ensure a long and happy friendship with their PSP hardware?
Let's examine two of the system's landmark features, and what can be done to reinforce them from a kid-friendliness perspective.
Discs Vs. Direct Download
Early PSP systems weren't exactly designed with rigorous use in mind. The first three models -- the PSP-1001, 2000 (a.k.a. Slim & Lite), and 3000 -- used Universal Media Discs, or UMDs, which had the benefit of being locked in a protective plastic casing. This kept the sensitive disc inside from getting scratched -- perfect for kids and adults alike. As a result, I've yet to see a single PSP game with more than a tiny, hairline scratch.
On the other hand, the UMD drive wasn't too robust, as an Internet search for "Broken UMD Drive" reveals. The drive lid, which holds the game disc in place, seems to be the major source of the difficulty. In small-but-eager hands, this delicate mechanism might meet a premature end, and replacing it is no small (or cheap) affair.
In spite of all this, if an adult demonstrates proper care while loading and unloading games, a child is sure to pick up on it and avoid the broken drive dilemma. There's no way to lock the drive when closed, so to keep it from popping open in a jostling backpack, you could also purchase one of the widely-available protective casings for the system. A case will keep that luscious screen from scratching, too. In the unlikely event that the drive should still break, you can send the unit back to Sony for repair, provided it's still under warranty.
The case of the broken UMD drive has become increasingly irrelevant, though, as you can now get most games by direct download from the PlayStation Store. In fact, this is the only way to acquire games for the most recent PSP Go (N1000) model. Doing so requires a wireless Internet connection and a Memory Stick Duo, which will need the capacity to hold at least one game. (Try to keep the number of memory units you own to a minimum, as these are prone to being misplaced for long periods of time, or finding their way into the vacuum cleaner bag.) There are PSP system bundles that include a 4GB memory stick, which should hold roughly 10 games -– a very fair starting size -- while the PSP Go has a whopping internal memory of 16GB!
One bonus: games are typically cheaper when you buy a digital copy, rather than a physical one. Another bonus: if you supply the credit card to pay for the download, you can make sure your kiddo buys only age-appropriate titles. The PSP Go also comes with a handy guide to the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) ratings system pre-installed, so you can make your own judgments as to what's appropriate.
Lite Vs. Really Lite
The size, shape, and contours of controllers today are often designed to fit adult hands. Obviously, children have much smaller hands, and the size and weight of a controller, or in this case, a PSP, could strongly affect their playing experience.
The first three PSP models have a very wide screen, and consequently, widely-spaced controls. All the buttons should be within reach, but for kids, it might prove uncomfortable to hold the unit over long periods of time. The PSP Go, being the smallest and the lightest of the bunch, still has a lovely wide screen, and it might sit more comfortably in smaller palms.
There is a trade-off to having a lighter, thinner system: it's much more breakable. If your child is the clumsy sort (and, of course, denies it vehemently), you should consider what lies beneath the glossy exterior of the PSP – and in particular, whether it can take a light beating.
Inside the heavier PSP-1001 is a metal frame that serves as a shock-absorber. This was removed for the PSP-2000 to make it sleeker; incidentally, the overall construction of the 2000 suffered a good deal. The 3000 fares better than its predecessor in this (and almost every) regard, and it's probably the one you'll want where durability is concerned. The PSP Go may lack the problematic UMD drive, but its controls “pop-out” on a hinge mechanism, like a cell phone keyboard's, and that could prove fatally fragile.
Let your child know that he or she should always be careful not to drop, land on, or throw the PSP. It can cause problems with the LCD screen, the battery, or the controls, and some serious disassembling may be required to get them working again. To keep the PSP out of harm's way, you might seek out a carrying case or bag that doesn't make it obvious there's a PSP inside, and that the child wouldn't mind putting down for a moment.
As mentioned previously, you can invest in a hard casing for the PSP-3000 to insulate it from any sudden impact. It should be the polycarbonate variety for the best protection, and there are even some that allow comfortable play with the system still inside.
See Article: PlayGear Pocket – PSP hard shell case
There hasn't been a similar influx of accessories for the PSP Go, so for butterfingers everywhere, the best bet is still the 3000. Or, if you can find one in pristine working condition, opt for a PSP-1001.
So while your little gamer will probably learn all the ins and outs of the PSP in no time at all, there are still some valuable pointers you can give them about the handling and care of their PSP. It's a delicate piece of equipment, but if your child takes good care of it, it can provide fun for years to come.