Review by Ben Reilly

"PSP Go! - Simply put, its not meant for everyone!"

Ah the PSP Go, in recent hardware history I can't begin to think of another release that has created as much fighting within video game communities. Maybe the PS3, but even that didn't seem to have as much backlash, since most still agreed it was a good deal for all you were getting if you wanted that stuff. So is the PSP Go a raw deal? Or is this an example of a loud vocal minority raining on a products parade? Find out below.

Design

When I original purchased a PSP 1000 in 2006, I did so because I was looking to get an MP3 player, and I felt if I was going to spend a couple hundred, maybe it would be smart to look into getting one that did other things including play game. Well guess what? Its 2009 now and two PSPs later (1000 then a 2000), and I own an iPOD. Why you ask? Because while I love the gaming on the PSP, the 1000 and even the 2000 models were much too large to effective be an MP3 player. I mean you can't really jog well with the old PSP. Then from a portable media perspective, because the system was reliant on the Memory Stick Pro Duo, It couldn't effective store as much music as I would like.

Now this brings us to the PSPGo, which in terms of design is a dream, especially if you experienced the same issues as I did. The size of the unit has been decreased substantially to now when closed its slight longer than a deck of cards, or just a little bit larger than an iPHONE or iPOD Touch. Sony decided to incorporate a sliding screen that hides the gaming controls, similar there own Mylo device or a lot of high end Pocket PC Smartphones. The unit feels great in your hand, and is so much easier to carry around. A lot of people have complained in the past about how they don't carry their PSP because they have to “think” about it. That is no longer an issues with the Go, for the most part I find myself carrying it, without even thinking about it. The best thing I can tell you about the size is this, with my Go in one pocket, and my smartphone in the other, I could not tell which was which, and grabbed my Go to make a call. That is something that would NEVER happen with the old PSPs, unless you had a Zack Morris Saved By the Bell Phone.

There are some negatives for this size reduction that might be a deal breaker depending on who you are. First the screen has decreased from 4.3 to 3.8. Now while this decrease ends up only being 1cm or so, some people take issue with it. For the most part, while you can tell the screen is smaller if you're familiar with the past PSPs, it's not much of a difference. It is almost like comparing a 40” HDTV to a 37”. Sure the owners of the 40” can tell the difference but it's not a huge difference.

But the good thing is, the screen is the best PSP screen to date. Basically it has the brightness and color levels of the 3000 without the interlacing, and without the ghosting of the 2000.

Next the buttons on the unit. The buttons are actually a slight bit smaller and have a new layout that parallels Sony's own Dual Shock 3 Controller with the D-Pad and analog stick placement. If you're used to using the normal PSP, this new button layout may take some getting used to, but once you do it feels just as natural if not better.

The only issues some might have with the buttons are the following: The D-Pad now sits lower, so if you're a fighting game fan, while its better than the PSP 1000 was, it is not as good as the 2000/3000 models. Next is the placement of the L and R buttons. To me, the felt at little weird at first, and they don't seem to fit your hand placement as naturally as the old PSP, but for the most part they work well and I no longer have problems. For those with larger hands, do not worry. You shouldn't have any problem with the Go, I have large hands, and I had more hand cramps on my normal PSP then I have had in my play sessions with the Go.

The Go now uses a propitiatory multifunction port and Sony's new M2 memory stick. This means that your old accessories will not work. Nothing new in the world of technology, but that the same time that doesn't make it any less annoying. The new port handles everything from USB syncing to AV output, the handheld includes one cable, but you'll probably want to buy another.

Games and multimedia

Getting Games onto the Go is a love hate relation ship for some. There are three ways to buy games, that all take you back to the same place.

1.Search for games on PSN and download the ones you want.
2.Buy a download card for the game you want at retail (if available) and download it from PSN when you get home.
3.Buy a download code from Amazon to download the game from PSN

All three methods are depended on PSN, this is a gift and curse for some and should weigh heavily in your decision to buy a Go or Not. Not every PSP game is on PSN, and not every PSP game will EVER be on PSN. Going forward Sony has announced that first party releases (Socom, LittleBigPlanet, Jak and Daxter, etc..) will have have same day digital releases as retail. While third party games maybe released on the same day, a few days later during the weekly store update, or even months later. It all depends on the company. So if you're the type that only games on the PSP and constantly needs a new game, or loves to go to midnight launches for every game, the Go might not be for you. There are already complaints because DISSIDIA Final Fantasy arguably one of the best PSP games period is not on the store yet (its coming) or the fact that last Store Update(10/8/09) only had two of the three basketball games released that week, with no Star wars, Naurto, or even Legacy UMD Games. Every new game should at some point make it to PSN and most of the top old games, but if there is a game already released that you can't live without playing that is not on the store, or you want a new game and can't accept that is not released on the same day, the Go is probably not for you.

Also the pricing of games on PSN is a factor. The games can be the same as retail, less than retail, or more expensive than retail. And when I say retail, I'm talking about Manufacture Suggested Retail Priceor MSRP. So if you're like me when it comings to shopping, you know that if you do enough internet searching you can find almost anything cheaper than the MSRP, so the fact you can't do that with PSN might be a problem for some. Then also relating to the cheapness factor, you can't buy used games. For some this won't be a big deal, because they don't buy used or trade games anyway, but if you're one of those people who do, don't buy the Go.

Once you decide to purchase a game from PSN, you can download the game directly on the Go itself. Download the game via Media Go from your PC and transfer it to your PSP, or Download the game on your PS3 and transfer it to your PSP. I recommend the last two options, because downloading from the Go itself is very slow. Also since there is no kind of background downloading you can't do anything else with the system while downloading a game. The only time I would ever recommend downloading directly to the Go is if your downloading a game that is under 50MBs, or you're way from your main set up and have no other choice. Also if you're download is interrupted, you can't start where you left off, you have to start all over.

The Go has built in Wifi and Bluetooth for all your networking needs. With Wifi you can connect to the internet for gaming, or just simple web browsing. You can also connect to a PS3 for remote play, which will allow you to control and game on your PS3 via the PSP. Bluetooth is a welcome addition and one of the main reason I was excited about the Go. With Bluetooth you can connect to a headset for gaming or Skype calls, you can connect to a PS3 controller for gaming, and you can tether to a cellphone for downloading and surfing when Wifi isn't available. Connecting to a PS3 controller is a lot cooler than I thought it would be, when in use it even unlocks the multiplayer features of PS1 games. So you can easily connect your Go to the TV, then connect your controller for a console like experience.

For multimedia the Go's 16GBs of one board flash memory plus the option for additional expansion through the M2 make it a storage beast. Currently on my Go I have 28 Games (20 PSP, 2 Minis, 6 PS1), 18 Albums, 2 Movies, 6 TV shows, and a few pictures, and I STILL have over 1GB of memory left, and I still can add an M2 if I want. The Go is flexible enough to were I can truly replace my iPOD and PSP with one device, that incredibly portable.

The system comes with Sony's Media Go software. Which is designed to help you download game and store them between your Go and your PC. The software works well enough allowing you to import libraries already on your PC for quick drag and drop syncing of the Go. The system is slower than an iTunes when doing the same activities, but it works.

Performance and battery life

I've had the Go for a while now, and I have to say for the most part I love it. The handheld is not perfect, but its exact what I would want out of a PSP redesign (that doesn't add anything compatibility breaking like dual sticks). The unit feels great in your hand and even better in your pocket.

A lot of people have asked about the units battery life. I have to say I'm very surprised on how good it is. It definitely last just as long as my 2000 with the stock battery did, if not longer. And that's with more heavy wifi use and bluetooth use. I easily get 5-6 hours with the volume at medium and the brightness at low, which with the new screen looks better than my 2000 ever did. Sure if you have the old units you could add the stamina battery or carry additional battery for added battery life, something you can't due with the Go due to is nonuser-replaceable battery. But that added additional bulk to the handheld making it less portable, and making it less likely I would bring it with me.

Conclusion

When it comes down to it, the Go is a Great handheld, but its clearly not meant for everyone. Its expensive and removed some consumer friendly features in order to fight piracy. But If you're like me and you love the PSP, but hate its size and UMDs and prefer digital downloads, or you want to reduce the number of devices you carry on a daily bases, Go for it (pun intended). The Go is pretty much what you wanted out of the PSP. Otherwise if you have any interest in used games, or being able to shop in bargain bins for deals, stick with the normal model.

1- Abysmal
2- Terrible
3- Poor
4- Mediocre
5- Average
6- Good
7- Very Good/Great
8- Excellent
9- Spectacular
10- Perfect


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 10/12/09, Updated 01/25/10

Game Release: PSP Go (US, 10/01/09)


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