Sony PSP Go console - First Look review

Designed to make playing games more accessible on the go, Sony has created the PSP Go, a smaller, more pocketable offering of its handheld gaming console. But can a smaller new slider design be the answer? We managed to get some hands-on time with the new console when it visited New York, months ahead of its official launch later in the year.

The PSP Go, as it will be known, is around 50% smaller and 40% lighter than the original model, making it considerably smaller overall than the PSP-3000 model that is currently available.

But rather than reduce the size of the screen or the keys - it features a 3.8-inch screen, by the way - Sony has gained that extra space back by opting to move the controls found in the original PSP either side of the screen, on to a slide out panel. When not in use, those controls hide under the screen just like your standard sliding mobile phone handset.

That move from side to underneath is really where most of the space has been saved, making the PSP something that could theoretically fit into a pocket.

So instead of a plethora of buttons that adorn the panel around the display, now you just get two small speakers (either side) and a single button - the PlayStation one to the left.

The slide-out panel gives you a d-pad, the usual square, cross, circle and triangle buttons, start/select and an analogue stick just as before (there is still only one and it's a little bit more central now). The new layout is of course closer than before as it is not separated by the screen, but it's still comfortable in the hand - some would say more so in fact.

Get past the design and you'll notice some other differences too. The main one being that Sony has ditched the UMD drive around the back. It's good and bad news really. The good news is that you get a smaller design, as well as more battery life because the system isn't having to run any mechanical parts. The bad news is that you won't be able to play any of your UDM disks if you're a PSP-3000 owner.

To get around the lack of game cartridge slot you get a Sony Memory Stick Micro slot and 16GB of onboard storage to save music, movies and of course games that you've either side- or downloaded from the PlayStation Network Store (PSN).

Connecting the PSP Go to the rest of the world can be done either by Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or of course USB.

The Bluetooth function, while not actually letting you connect the gaming console to your mobile phone so you can play online, will let you connect Bluetooth standard peripherals such as headphones and headsets, as well as a PS3 wireless controller to be used when watching video content on a TV via PSP at home, although that surely defeats the object of making the device smaller in the first place.

Firing up the console was quick and simple with an identical interface to the original PSP (if you haven't seen this before its virtually identical to the PS3, if you haven't see that either just look at our gallery of hands-on pics).

We played with the new system watching (we should probably say scanning) a movie and playing a little bit of yet-to-be-released Little Big Planet. The result? Well it's the PSP being the PSP to be honest, with the performance not really improved or changed from the PSP-3000 experience.

The screen, which is incredibly crisp, is both the console's championing element and its biggest downfall. How? Well because it is so crisp, clear, and luscious, that you just want to reach out and touch it, swipe your finger across and pinch it (to zoom in, etc) just like you can on numerous mobile phones. The trouble is, is that the PSP Go doesn't sport a touchscreen display and so doing so will only result in smudges across that screen. It's a screen so tasty that you'll want to cover it too so you don't scratch it to pieces in your pocket.

Verdict

Yes the PSP Go is smaller, yes you'll be able to store content on it at the press of a button (as long as you are in a Wi-Fi hotspot) and yes that screen is lovely. However, the real question is whether we are ready to have a games console that you have to treat like your iPod, where you have to preload or download content from your computer or the internet to play.

For the most part I think we are, however it's not just the console that makes the complete story and with the PSP still lacking killer titles, it looks like this might still play second fiddle to the Nintendo DS and DSi when it becomes available in October.