Technology: Page (1) of 1 - 04/21/05

What is UMD

Sony's new proprietary universal media disc format for PlayStation Portable

By David James Rockingham III

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A Universal Media Disc which only works on the Sony PlayStation Portable
When Sony released the PlayStation Portable, they also unleashed a new, proprietary media format called the universal media disc (UMD). Just like anything that's new to the public, skepticism grew concerning this format. Currently, only the Sony PlayStation Portable supports the universal media disc format and only content developers are able to create UMD discs. The disc is only two and a half inches wide and weighs only .35 ounces but it still has plenty of space for material with its 1.8 gigabyte capacity.

The universal media disc works just like a typical DVD disc but unlike a DVD's regional coding or third party encryption technology, Sony developed it's own copy protection. For the UMD, Sony created a protection system that uses a unique ID for each disc (using 128-bit encryption) and the ID of the PSP itself. Now before you get thoughts of making your own UMDs for your PSP, that opportunity hasn't arrived yet.

What is UMD?
The Universal Media Disc is Sonys proprietary technology that works exclusively on their PSP handheld gaming console. With 1.8 gigabytes of storage capability, a universal media disc would be a great medium for consumers to store large amounts of their personal data to use on the PSP. Although Sony hasnt announced any plans for recordable universal media discs, this would be a great opportunity for PSP users.

The outside of the universal media disc is protected by a hard shell with a small portion of the shell cutout to allow for playback. The disc is approximately half the size of an actual CD. The universal media discs 128-bit encryption keys works alongside the PSP to create a secure environment for the discs content. That will please developers and studios who are desperately trying to protect their work from piracy.

The Final Word
The UMD version of Spider-Man 2 looks absolutely incredible. When I first saw the PSP in person, I really didn't believe a movie would look good at that size and that the fine details in a film would be lost on the 4.3 inch color LCD screen. To my surprise, the packaged UMD version of Spider Man II looked absolutely incredible. While there were no chapter markers available in the menu, you can still jump through the movie using the PSP's left and right buttons located at the top of the device. The film displayed beautifully in the widescreen format.

Although theres no official word on uses for UMD technology beyond Hollywood films and video games for the PSP, I feel that it would be great if Sony made UMD available for consumers so they can create their own UMD discs whether it was backup, data transfer or larger multimedia files. The 1.8 gigabytes of space on the UMD disc would be very useful in carrying those high resolution images or multimedia files compared to the Memory Stick Duo.

The Sony PlayStation Portable is a beautifully designed handheld device. Its sleek curves, easy to manage controls and an intuitive interface makes it an absolute joy to use. The universal media disc (UMD) is the standard proprietary technology for the PlayStation Portable but for Sony to aggressively market this technology, they may have to open it up to the consumer market.

The UMD Specifications:
Dimensions: 2.5 width x .16 height x 2.5 diameter
Weight: .35 ounces
Disc Diameter: 2.36 (60 millimeter)
Maximum Capacity: 1.8 gigabytes (single sided, dual layer)
Laser Wavelength: 660mm (Red Laser)
Encryption: AES 128bit

About the Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP)
The PlayStation Portable is a multipurpose handheld entertainment device that plays games, movies, music and personal data like photos and home videos. Using Sony's proprietary universal media disc technology, the PSP looks to build upon a growing market of mobile entertainment devices for consumers.

David James Rockingham III is a former radio disc jockey and network administrator. An avid gamer and technology guru who enjoys rock music, sunsets, Star Wars video games, Visual Pinball, classic hot rods and superhero movies (except The Hulk). You can find David James answering questions on DMN Forums ( His articles appear on Consumer Electronics Net ( and Digital Media Net (

Related Keywords:umd, universal media disc, Sony handheld gaming device, PlayStation Portable, PSP, handheld gaming

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