Sony PSP Go £225
6th Oct 2009 | 12:00
The Sony PSP handheld games console re-emerges better than ever before
Sony PSP Go: Overview
Sony's first PlayStation Portable PSP handheld gaming console was first announced at E3 way back in 2003 and first arrived in UK stores in September 2005.
Fast forward four and a bit years and Sony has finally released a pocket-sized version of the PSP, dropping the hugely unpopular Universal Media Disc (UMD) format in favour of digital downloads via its online store.
The PSP was Sony's attempt to capitalise on the massive popularity of its PlayStation 2 while moving across into a new market – and one that was pretty much owned by its number one competitor in the gaming space, Nintendo.
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And while it's easy with the benefit of hindsight to say that Nintendo's 'disruptive' strategy with its lower-cost, dual touch-screen device has proven to be far more popular than Sony's notably higher-spec and costlier option, the truth is that Sony has still managed to carve out a significant market for itself with the sleeker, faster and sexier PSP.
Perhaps the major problem with both the original models of the PSP, as well as pretty much all of Nintendo's various iterations of the DS in the last five years (including the latest DSi refresh), has been that while they can properly be described as portable handheld consoles, they couldn't really be described as truly 'pocket friendly'.
Unless you favour cargo pants with immense-O-pocket styling.
Until now, that is, because the most immediate benefit of Sony's PSP Go is the fact that it's tiny enough to easily fit into the pocket of a loose-fitting pair of jeans, without too much of an embarrassing bulge.
Sony PSP Go: Performance
If you're a gamer who likes to rock the skinny-jeaned look, then you're still not going to shoehorn the PSP Go into your pockets.
But fashion faux-pas aside, what's the deal with Sony's new £225 price-tag for its latest bit of kit?
As numerous people have pointed out to us since we obtained a review sample of the UMD-free handheld, you can almost get a new PS3 Slim for that price. So why would you opt to buy this tiddler instead?
You might choose to buy it because you want to put some serious time in on your commutes to work this winter with the new Gran Turismo, Motorstorm: Arctic Edge or FIFA 10, (all of which we can heartily recommend).
If you do, then the next thing you'll immediately notice, after the obvious decrease in width of the PSP Go, is the fact that while the 3.8-inch screen is just a smidgeon smaller than a PSP-3000, the colours and screen-brightness have been ever-so-slightly improved.
Add to this the fact that the controls are now hidden away in a slider that pulls out from underneath the screen whenever you want to start playing (or viewing a movie), and you can see how Sony's product designers have so impressively reduced the size and weight of the console.
Yet while the Go's screen is noticeably improved and the hidden-away controls are a clear design win, there are a few minor gripes that we had in relation to Sony's ongoing march towards miniaturisation.
Firstly, there's no option to remove the battery, so you're going to have to ensure that you're no further than three to four hours of gaming time away from a power point.
Not too bad for daily use, but a killer blow if you're on a long-haul flight, perhaps.
Also, for those gentlemen with larger hands, the squeezing of the D-pad and analogue nub into a much smaller space might well prove to be a deal-breaker. Basically, if you have big hands, we would recommend you get at least a half an hour of demo (or borrow) time with Sony's new console before you consider buying.
Still, we did fare far better in terms of overall finger and thumb control and dexterity with the Sony PSP Go, when compared with Nintendo's latest DSi.
Secondly, and this really is the main reason why you may (or may not) choose to invest your £225, downloading games, demos, movies and trailers from the PlayStation Store via your PC or PS3 is pretty straightforward.
But if you have a stack of older UMD games that aren't being made available on the PS Store, then you are going to be a bit scuppered. And we imagine there aren't many gamers out there who will be happy carrying around two PSPs with them, to overcome these issues.
Sony PSP Go: Verdict
Sony's new PSP Go is a beautifully designed bit of kit for gaming on the go and it certainly boasts that all-important wow-factor if you enjoy impressing your mates with genuinely new and innovative tech.
While the slider screen initially seems like it might be a little frail, the decent build-quality means that you can happily throw this into your bag or jeans pocket without worrying too much about breakage.
The size is just about perfect for a handheld console – Sony has achieved an almost perfect balance between portability and functionality for gaming and this fits in your pocket better than any other handheld on the market.
Sony's downloadable game store works well either via your PS3 or PC, with a full copy of Gran Turismo (weighing in at just over 1GB) taking no longer than 30 minutes to download on a half-decent broadband connection.
The Bluetooth tethering function is superb – letting you hook up to the internet via your mobile phone and letting you use a wireless headset to Skype with.
After around half an hour of playing with your shiny new Sony toy you're going to have to reach for the duster and pledge, because while the piano-black, glossy finish looks the part, it's very easily smudged by clammy hands.
The cost at launch is nothing less than ridiculous! At an RRP of £225 you could almost afford to buy a new PS3 Slim with the Uncharted 2 bundle – not to mention Sony's penchant for expensive accessorising, with cases and straps and the like all set to cost you even more.
Luckily, retailers are already slashing this price to a more favourable £199, so make sure you shop around.
Another gripe is that there are still no real killer-apps when compared with Nintendo's DS Lite/DSi.
Our favourite PSP games are generally a few years old – and we keep returning to Ridge Racer 2, Lumines 2 and the like. Not a good sign. Gran Turismo is not enough.
Sony also needs to work on the PSP Go's battery life. Without the option of replacing your battery and with only around only 3-4 hours constant gaming on a full charge, this isn't a very useful device for long trips where you are away from a power point.
The lack of UMD-to-download programme for older games is sure to put off a lot of current PSP gamers, who will not want to buy a console that doesn't offer them a way of playing all of their favourite games.
With all of the above criticisms taken into consideration, this is still the best commercially available handheld gaming console on the market.
It feels, looks and plays better than older versions of the PSP and in most ways better than Nintendo's DSi.
Of course, the major issue that's going to really decide whether or not the PSP Go has a long-term sustainable life beyond Christmas 2009, is whether or not third party publishers decide to put their all-important development budgets behind the machine – because Nintendo unarguably has the edge when it comes to winning handheld game content.
And while Gran Turismo is a superb game, it's simply not enough when compared with the software on offer from the house of Mario, Zelda and Metroid.
Content, as the hoary old cliché goes, is king. Sony's new PSP Minis might well prove to be mildly diverting and cheap gaming snacks, but we need to see more quality, full-length AAA-titles in 2010 to be confident that the PSP is still a contender.
Overall, if you're a fan of Sony products, you're unlikely to wince (too much) at that unnecessarily-high launch price.
With the in-built Bluetooth, you can sync with your mobile phone (and use it to tether your PSP Go to the internet – natch!) or sync it to a wireless headset, which we found is particularly useful for Skype-ing.
You can also stuff plenty of games and demos on the 16GB of internal flash memory to keep you going for weeks on end. And if you still need more, you can put it all on a Memory Stick Micro (M2) card.