PSP Media ManagerThis review was intended to be a DVD-to-PSP how-to guide. Unfortunately, the Media Manager software does not offer a simple solution for porting your DVD stockpile to the PSP. And why should it? Sony wants you to support the UMD format.

So what does Media Manager have to offer PSP owners?

Batter Up
Sony’s PSP Media Manager steps to the plate and quickly falls behind with an 0-2 count (that's two strikes for those that don't follow baseball). Forcing users to shell out $20 for admission is strike one. C’mon Sony, charging us to access a software program that should have been packaged with the PSP from day one is downright crooked. And here comes strike two... In order to use Media Manager’s video conversion capabilities, we’re required to install firmware v2.00 or higher on our PSPs. Considering that one needs v2.00 to gain access to the AVC codec feature, this requirement is more understandable than the entry fee, but it's still not acceptable.

PSP Media Manager

We could just end the review here and recommend you try one or several of the free software applications—that don't require users to upgrade firmware—that will allow you to make PSP-compatible video files. But, according to our count, Media Manager hasn't struck out yet. Yet.

Here's the Pitch...
You’ll likely hit a few snags before you even get started with the software (note: Media Manager is not Mac-compatible). Media Manager requires Microsoft .NET Framework 1.1, which you can download and install via a prompted link during the software’s installation setup. It's a simple procedure, but frustrating nonetheless. You’ll also have to complete a validation process, as well as license registration—at least for the online version (note: the boxed store version retails for $29.95 and includes a USB cable & 5 song downloads). Again, this is painless, but time consuming. Once Media Manager is up and running—give yourself 10 minutes to get there—you’ll be treated to a user-friendly interface with decent looks to boot.

PSP Media Manager

After you connect your PSP (and give it a “name”) you can finally get down to business. True to its name, the program will allow its user to integrate media from the PC to the PSP seamlessly. A row of icons (see above) along the top of the window represents the various modes of operation: Photo, Music, Video, CD, Feed, Game, Backup, and Settings.

Media Manager The icons correspond to your PC, so, for example, when you browse the “Video” mode, the top window will display any content in the “My Videos” folder by default—you can add/remove other folders with ease, using the “action buttons” to the right. To convert a video to your PSP, first check that your PSP is connected and that you have sufficient space on your memory stick (see image right). Next, review your settings. You can adjust size/quality using the pull-down “Target” option in the upper right corner. You can only choose between “High AVC” or “Low AVC,” which may or may not suit your needs. As control freaks, we prefer more fine-tuning, but even in Settings Mode, users are limited to the high/low option, plus the ability to “Optimize for PSP playback.”

After you’re satisfied with the target setting, simply drag the video file from the PC window across the spilt and drop it into the PSP window; or, highlight the file and press the “Transfer” button. The encoding bar (see below) at the bottom of the screen will display the percent complete of the transfer/conversion, along with the total time elapsed. Media Manager converted and transfered a 21:17 minute AVI (video) file (137.8 MB) into a High AVC encoded MP4 file (134.4 MB) in 32 minutes and 32 seconds (on par with other available software).

PSP Media Manager

Here’s the list of (PC) video formats that are supported by Media Manager:

  • .mp4
  • .avi
  • .wmv
  • .mov
  • .qt
  • .3gp
  • .dv
  • .mpg
  • .mpeg1
  • .mpeg2
  • .zip
  • .mmv
  • .mmv
  • .m1p
  • .mp1
  • .mp2
  • .m2p
  • .m2t
Swing and a Miss
You may have noticed that .vob (that’s DVD Video Object) is missing from the list above. Although .vob files are basically .mpeg2 files (supported by Media Manager), Sony wants to make it difficult for users to convert DVD files into a suitable format for the PSP. Despite the fact that there are numerous applications available on the Internet that will convert your .vob files into a format supported by Media Manager, this blatant obstacle is most definitely strike three against Sony’s flashy but flawed PSP management software.

A Second At-bat?
If you're willing to forego Media Manager's crippled video conversion, you may get some production out of the program after all:
  • Photo Mode will re-encode your image files (.jpg, .jpeg, .jpe, .jfif, .png, .gif, .bmp, .dib, .tiff, .tif, .zip supported) to JPEG format and transfer them onto your PSP
  • Music Mode will re-encode your audio files (.mp3, .wma, .wav, .pca, .ogg, .m1a, .mpa, .m2a, .m4a, .m4b, .aac supported) to MP3/ATRAC format and transfer them onto your PSP
  • CD Mode will automatically extract tracks from a CD, convert them to MP3 format, and transfer them to your PSP
  • Use Feeds Mode to subscribe to RSS feeds (supports audio, video, or still image) and transfer them to your PSP
  • Use Game Mode to copy or delete saved games
  • Use Backup Mode to backup files from your PSP; or restore files from your computer
It should be noted that most of the functions listed above can be performed without Media Manager. By plugging your PSP into your computer and simply doing a little drag n' drop, you can easily transfer MP3s or JPEGs to your PSP or create a backup folder of your saved games on your PC. Using the PSP alone (not connected to a PC), you're free to delete any files that are stored on the device's memory stick.

Yer Outta Here!
It took Sony almost eight months after the launch of the PSP to release Media Manager. In the interim, many PSP owners turned to 3rd-party developers for software, and that trend isn't going to change. If you're interested in video conversion (that supports .vob) try PSP Video 9—not as purdy as Media Manager, but it's free! Otherwise, go ahead and pay your lazy tax, buy your DVDs again on UMD and purchase PSP Media Manager 1.0 to convert and transfer the rest of your on-the-go media.

Overall Rating: 3.0 / 10 (looks gotta count for somethin')

This article was originally published on Joystiq.

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