Sony's PSP 3000 Soars in Japan, but is New LCD Flawed?

Sony's PlayStation Portable 3000 launched last Tuesday, October 14 and it's already delivering hugely impressive numbers overseas. Japanese market tracker Media Create released its hardware sales figures for the week ending October 19, highlighting a nearly 90 percent win for the PSP over the DS.

Hardware

159,816 - PSP

29,839 - Nintendo DS

26,024 - Wii

7,856 - Xbox 360

7,261 - PS2

4,725 - PS3

Source: Media Create Rankings

I put my hands on the PSP 3000 last week and came away marginally impressed with the new model's cosmetic upticks, but sharper eyes than mine picked up on a rather egregious flaw in the LCD involving noticeable interlacing during any sort of onscreen motion.

In case you've never heard the term, interlacing is a historically bandwidth-saving technique where -- instead of displaying an image on a screen line-by-line from top to bottom -- the image is presented every other line. The downside to this approach is that interlaced screens tend to exhibit "artifacts" that look like pesky horizontal lines raking across the screen during rapid motion.

Have a look at these two screens of the difference in the PSP game Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness, supplied by an astute user on Sony official PlayStation boards, to see what everyone's talking about:

I un-boxed my PSP 2000 and popped in Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops to see the issue for myself, dropping into the Soviet Base mission at the point where Snake (the protagonist) is standing next to a bunch of crates. Panning the 3D view around with the PSP 3000, I immediately saw the problem: thin black horizontal lines like the tines of a comb appearing to slice up the screen any time you move the view so much as a millimeter.

Trying this in the same spot with the PSP 2000 revealed a completely solid (if slightly "ghosted") image with absolutely no interlacing whatsoever. I also tried it again with the PSP 3000's new color "wide" option set to "normal," but this only slightly reduced the effect by muting the color contrast and hiding it better.

Care for another look?

Sadly, Sony seems to have traded one problem ("ghosting") for another ("interlacing") and put enthusiast gamers who notice this sort of stuff and tend to play a notable role voting something up or down in a catch-22. To be fair, most gamers probably won't notice the interlacing, or won't care enough because the colors are so much more vibrant. But for the extremely vocal minority who do, you're in a bind: PSP 2000 "ghosting" or PSP 3000 interlacing. Not much of a choice, is it.

Me, I'll probably stick with the PSP 3000, but I can't really recommend you do the same if you're the sort of gamer who sees that stuck pixel in a laptop screen or tiny crack in a car windshield and can't help but fixate obsessive-compulsively on it forever after. For you, I suggest sticking with your current whatever-model PSP and waiting until Sony either "fixes" the 3000's hardware (it won't be a software fix - this one's hard-wired, so it'd have to be a physical revision) or releases a new model entirely.

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