Choosing the Best PSP for a Young Gamer

The Right PSP for Your Kid Is a Choice Between Ruggedness and Weight

PSP-2000
PSP-2000. Sony

If your kids are begging for one of the five models of the PSPs floating about and you're considering bringing one into your home, take the time to consider how the device holds up to a child's love. Some models stand a better chance than others, but how do you determine which model to give your young one, and what can you do to ensure a long and happy friendship with your kid and the PSP hardware?

The answer to the first question—which model is most kid friendly—is the PSP-3000, arguably. Here're the reasons why and how you can foster a happy relationship between your kid and the PSP.

The First Three Generations

Early PSP systems weren't designed with rigorous use in mind. The first three models—the PSP-1001, PSP-2000 and PSP-3000—use Universal Media Discs, which have the benefit of being locked in a protective plastic casing that prevents the sensitive disc inside from being scratched—perfect for kids and adults alike.

However, the UMD drive isn't robust. The drive lid, which holds the game disc in place, seems to be the major source of 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 should purchase a protective casing for the system. 

The Go N1000 and the E1000

The case of the broken UMD drive has become increasingly irrelevant, 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 PSP Go N1000 model. Doing so requires a wireless Internet connection and a Memory Stick Duo, which has the capacity to hold at least one game. Some PSP system bundles include a 4GB memory stick, which should hold roughly 10 games, 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 kid buys only age-appropriate titles. The PSP Go comes with a handy guide to the Entertainment Software Ratings Board ratings system installed, so you can make your own judgment as to what's appropriate.

The last of the PSP line is the PSP-E1000, a stripped-down version of the earlier models with no wireless connectivity. One of its biggest benefits is that it is more affordable than the other models, which could be convenient if your child breaks the PSP right off the bat. Also, it has no wireless connectivity at all. Every game must be downloaded to a PC and then transferred to the E1000 by USB. This gives parents an additional level of oversight as to what is going onto their kids' PSPs.

Light Vs. Really Light

The size, shape and contours of controllers are often designed to fit adult hands. Obviously, children have much smaller hands, and the size and weight of a PSP can strongly affect their playing experience.

The first three PSP models have a wide screen with widely spaced controls. All the buttons should be within reach, but for kids, holding the unit might prove uncomfortable over long periods of time. The PSP Go, being the smallest and the lightest of the bunch, has a less wide screen, and it might sit more comfortably in the small palms of a young child.

The trade-off to having a lighter, thinner system like the Go and the E1000 is that it's more likely to break.

If your child is the clumsy sort, you should consider what lies beneath the glossy exterior of the PSP and 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. The 3000 fares better than its predecessor in this and almost every other 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 cellphone keyboard, and that could prove fatally fragile.

Education

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 and the controls, and some serious disassembling may be necessary to get them working again. To keep the PSP out of harm's way, find a kid-approved carrying case or bag that doesn't make it obvious there's a PSP inside.

If you know your child is tough on his belongings, invest in a hard casing for the PSP to insulate it from any sudden impact. It should be the polycarbonate variety for the best protection. Some cases allow comfortable play with the system still inside.

So while your little gamers 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.

Note: All PSP models have been discontinued but they are still for sale at major online retailers.