Sony PSP Go console

The PSP Go comes in as another reworking of Sony's handheld gaming platform, the PlayStation Portable. As such it is quite a drastic reworking on the original format, but in essence little has changed.

The biggest shift is the placement of a sliding 3.78-inch screen where previously the PSP saw a straight slab-like device. The screen retains the same resolution at 480 x 272 pixels, so despite the change in size, it still looks sharp. The changes mean the unit can shrink down to approx 122 x 66 x 15mm, meaning it is easily pocketable, where the previous versions weren't.

The PSP Go is dependent on the sliding screen which has a precise sliding action with plenty of pop. It feels like a quality device and is free from twist of lateral movement: when open, you don't need to be scared it is going to break off. The same goes for the rest of the build – it feels well constructed.

The exterior finish is mostly glossy, which will attract fingerprints, whilst the inner deck is a matte finish, where you'll find the main controls. These controls are ringed in silver, matching the edge of the unit, giving it a distinctive and premium looking finish. It's a fetching design for sure, and one we like.

One of the effects of moving the controls around is that the bumper buttons now sit behind the screen, with the screen brightness, volume control and mute buttons sitting right behind the screen so in-use they are more difficult to get to. It perhaps doesn't matter, but it does at least keep the device looks clean on the front.

Otherwise we found that we preferred the new layout of controls, with the PSP Go lying in a different grip on the hands, we found it easier to play for longer periods without feeling the thumbs cramp up, which was always a problem for previous editions. But this will come down to personal preference, the size of your hands on so on.

The new design also sees the removal of the UMD drive, so it no longer accepts the discs of previous versions. If you are already a PSP owner, this may be a serious consideration if you are looking at an upgrade – you won't just be able to slap in your existing games.

Those upgrading don't get left totally in the cold – there is an upgrade reward scheme that lets you register your old and new PSP on PSN, then you get access to three reward downloads to get you started. Three? Yes, that's right. Your past loyalty is rewarded with three downloads, rather than the conversion of every UMD you already have.

The move to download also kills the secondhand market so for those on a budget who like to play the trade, you are effectively stuffed.

Sony instead are moving gamers over to a download system using PlayStation Network. It's relatively simple in truth and something that people are now familiar with, especially on the music front. Here you simply visit the PlayStation Store, either on the device itself, your PS3 or a PC (using Media Go) to download games and install them on the PSP Go.

It's not a great process however, especially as you can't download in the background on the console itself, so you'll be sitting there looking at it slowly dripping in, rather than listening to music or playing something else.

To accommodate these games you now have an internal "16GB" of memory, although brand new out of the box you only get to use 14GB of it. An M2 card slot lives around the side for further expansion.

The PSP Go offers the same Wi-Fi as it did previously letting you connect to the Internet, now a core concern for the PSP. The Wi-Fi also lets you dive into Remote Play of your PS3, so you can access content, configure PlayTV or whatever whilst you are on the move. Wi-Fi on the PSP has never been great, compared to the simplicity of modern mobile phones, which will happily dive in and out of connections intelligently, something the PSP Go doesn't seem to want to do.

The new PSP Go also rocks out with Bluetooth, so you can connect to a Bluetooth device, or a new PS3 controller. This means you can tether your PSP Go to a mobile phone to access the Internet on the move using your phone's data connection, or simply go for Bluetooth headphones. We tried the data connection, but it didn't work, so don't get too excited.

There is a standard 3.5mm headphone jack sitting on the bottom of the PSP Go, alongside a new bespoke connector. In the box you'll find a new USB cable, providing your power and PC or PS3 connection. It's a shame to see another bespoke connection, as you'll have to carry around yet another bit of cable.

The PSP Go, with its new format really lends itself to being a PMP, albeit an expensive one. The screen looks fantastic and with the 16GB storage capacity, you can fill it with music and movies to take with you on the move. You'll be more likely to slip into a pocket for listing whilst on your commute, something that the old PSP didn't really excel at.

But in terms of overall functionality, the PSP Go isn't a revolution. Little has changed from previous versions. You still get the XMB interface which makes it easy to get around, but essentially the PSP Go offers you an external format change and little else. For this reason, it is unlikely to appeal to existing users, who will still be able to download games and can use the memory card slots on their existing device to expand storage.

The overall gaming proposition of the PSP Go remains the same as before, which might come as something of a disappointment for some. With the PSP Go closed it is begging to be tapped on the screen, but there hasn't been a move to touchscreen here.

Purists will argue that the screen looks better without touch which is probably true, but with the iPhone and Nintendo DSi enjoying successes in gaming with a touch-interface, it seems like Sony is holding back on something.

Verdict

Overall we can't fault the handware on offer with the PSP Go. It looks excellent and is a pleasure to play with. The compact format means it slips into a jacket pocket more readily than before, but the removal of UMD means a whole stack of games are sitting in the corner, unloved.

And then there is the price. Launched at £225, you can pick it up for just under £200, but it is seriously undercut by the Nintendo DSi, with the iPod touch also offering an alternative. Sure, the PSP Go may be better for pure video, but from a gaming point of view, the Nintendo DS range has been storming.

For those who were just about to put a PSP on their Christmas list then overall they get a better looking device, with expanded memory, but for us we'll be sticking to the old hardware and our old games.