The PSP Go is Sony's latest device in the PlayStation Portable family, which has seen three different models since it was originally launched in 2005.
The latest is something of a departure for the line, since it's an all-digital handheld with 16 GB of built-in memory. It also sports a much smaller sleeker design since the UMD drive has been removed, but still has a 3.8-inch screen plus Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
It was released on October 1 in Ceramic White and Piano Black, and retails for $250.
DESIGN & BUILD:
The PSP Go is beautifully designed, and should incite lust in gadget lovers of all kinds, even if they aren't necessarily gamers. It can be best described as the elegant little brother of the original PSP, but thinner, slimmer, and lighter. Most of the space savings is in the narrower width of the device, since Sony went with a slider design and placed most of the controls on the lower panel.
The smaller size of the PSP Go means that it's the first model that is truly pocketable, and I'm not talking about sticking it in one of those gigantic pockets in your cargo pants either. The Go is roughly the same size as an iPod Touch, just a bit longer because it curves out on each side and a bit thicker as well. The old model simply had to go into a purse, backpack, or gear bag, so this is a welcome change for the better.
The display on the Go is smaller than on the original device; roughly 3.8-inch on the new model instead of 4.3-inch on the original. Even with that apparent downgrade, I'm really happy with the screen on the PSP Go -- it's bright, vibrant, and incredibly sharp. I didn't see any ghosting or interlacing, which was a problem on some of the early PSP 3000 models. And even though the screen is a bit smaller, I really don't miss the extra real estate either -- games and movies scale appropriately to fill the whole screen, and everything looks great.
There are three different brightness levels. The brightest setting is almost uncomfortably bright, while the lowest setting is the most comfortable for late night viewing in a darkened room. The lower your brightness setting, the more battery life you can eke out, so that's something to keep in mind.
Since the PSP Go is so small, its controls are located in several different areas of the device.
The home key of the original PSP has been replaced on the Go by a PlayStation key which serves the same function as before with the addition of a game pause function. Since the Go is meant to be an extremely mobile device, it makes sense that there will be times you need to stop playing at a moment's notice and you won't have time to hunt around for a save point. (More about this later in the review.)
The main gameplay controls are under the slider, including the D-pad, the analog nub, the Start/Select buttons, and the face buttons. The controls are pleasantly tight, yet also a bit "clicky" for good tactile feedback. The analog nub in particular feels great, and I didn't experience any thumb strain, even when using it for long periods of time. The shoulder buttons on the top edge of the device don't have as much "play" as on the original PSP, but they work great and I didn't have any problems.
When I first heard about the new button/control design I was concerned that the PSP Go would be an ergonomic nightmare, but that is defintely not the case. The only real negative is the split Start/Select button layout -- they're each about half the size they should be, which can be a problem if you're trying to pause a game and don't want your character to meet an untimely end while you're fumbling for the right button.
My other major concern also turned out to be completely unfounded; I've reviewed other slider devices in the past and found them to be awkward and unwieldy, but the PSP Go is nicely balanced even when the top is extended. Both "halves" of the device are quite similar in weight, which is wonderful -- you don't have to worry about the device tipping out of your hands.
The top of the PSP Go houses the screen brightness controls, volume up and down keys, and the music effect button, which is used to alter the tone of a song during music playback.
The Memory Stick Micro ("M2") slot and Wi-Fi switch are on the left side of the device, and the power/hold switch is on the right side. The headphone jack and the charge/sync port (which is NOT compatible with earlier PSP accessories) are on the bottom.
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth access indicators are on the front left and right sides of the device, respectively, and there are external speakers on each side as well. They can get very loud if you turn the volume all the way up, but for the best listening experience you'll definitely want headphones.
The back of the device has a rubbery "grip strip" on each side, and they do help you keep a firm grasp on the unit, though I don't think it's slippery enough to make that necessary. The are color coordinated with the finish of the device, so they don't detract from the overall aesthetic. One thing to note is that when you slide up the screen the back is silver, with the serial number and the regular regulatory labels and such. It's understandable that those things had to go somewhere, so it's nice that they're as hidden as possible.
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