Review by Phange
"This is what the PSP should've been all along, but it's too little and far too late"
I remember standing outside my local game store on the PSP's launch day, filled with the anticipation of playing a portable PS2. At the time, the PS3 was still somewhat of a distant fantasy and that meant the PSP would accomplish the near-impossible feat of being a handheld whose graphics were comparable to that of the current generation of consoles. It was an exciting time, and the system itself delivered in spades. In 2005, the PSP absolutely dominated all other portable media players in terms of features, hardware, and even price. The Value Pack was a no-brainer for me at the original price of $250.
But that was 2005.
Since then, the iPhone/iPod Touch and smartphones have grabbed the market in countless ways, from simple and cheap apps to limitless functionality.
The PSP Go outwardly appears to be a sort-of aesthetic copycat of the smartphone design, with its sleek sliding screen, chrome metal exterior and focus on digital distribution. Unfortunately, those similarities are only skin-deep because Sony all but neglected adding truly necessary updates to the PSP Go while forcing adopters to pay a premium for, essentially, a stylistic update. It's not all bad, but the PSP Go is very much a midrange multimedia device marketed (and priced) like a high-end one.
Aesthetics / Ergonomics
Hold the PSP Go just once and you'll likely agree that this thing feels like a million bucks. The glossed metal exterior is flawlessly executed. The sliding screen is sturdy. The styling, especially when closed, is great. Likewise, the PSP Go has, by far, the best screen of the PSP line. Despite being smaller, it's much brighter, has practically no ghosting, and lacks the scanline issues of the PSP 3000. The screen improvements are very much welcomed, but for as impressive as the PSP Go's screen is, it once again pales in comparison to that of high-end media players such as the iPod Touch in both refresh rate and resolution.
Perhaps the biggest insult is that for all the PSP Go's amazing looks and quality build, the system itself is not at all comfortable to use. The Go's buttons most closely resemble the old DS Phat in that they're clicky, which may please some but likely will alienate others as they're incredibly small and bunched together. Likewise, the analog stick is terribly placed in reference to the buttons and is virtually impossible to use for long periods of time. Worst of all, despite the Go's important design distinction of a sliding screen, there is no touchscreen. Granted, I can understand avoiding the introduction of a new control method to half-decade-old handheld, but the PSP Go desperately needs a touchscreen to take advantage of its media player functionalities. Having to slide out the controls mid-movie or mid-song is something that the iPhone and other smartphones eliminated years ago.
Make no mistake, there is a clear dichotomy between the quality of the hardware and what it actually does. The PSP Go is the best-built of all the PSP's, but it's the same system. The addition of Bluetooth is a nice touch but very few will take advantage of it. The elimination of the mini-USB port means that all PSP Go peripherals will inevitably have to be proprietary. Once again the PSP lacks 802.11g support, so download speeds are painfully slow. And, of course, the hottest topic surrounding the PSP Go is its total lack of a UMD drive. Perhaps worse even than the inability to transfer old UMD games to your Go is the blatant reality that Sony price-controls PSP games on Playstation Network. A UMD PSP game may sell for $10 used at a local game store but will not budge under $30 on PSN.
I hate to say it, especially since it's so sleek and well-made, but the PSP Go eschews functionality for form in the absolute worst way. It is the best PSP in terms of aesthetics, build quality, and performance, but only the screen received a substantial upgrade. On the flip side, I still think the PSP in general is a substantially better value in terms of hardware than the DS and especially the DSi, but realistically neither line of handhelds are price-competitive with the popular media players. Ultimately, the PSP Go does feel like a last-ditch effort to gain better control on game sales through digital distribution, but perhaps a bit more subtlety would've helped. Besides, a system built entirely around downloading games shouldn't be limited to 802.11b, right?
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 08/19/05, Updated 01/14/10
Game Release: PSP Go (US, 10/01/09)
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