I don’t see any blinding speed improvements with the PSP Go as compared to earlier PSP models, but I really wasn’t expecting anything like that.
Games do load significantly faster now, since everything is stored in flash memory instead of on UMD, and I certainly appreciate the silence — that “scritch scratch hum” of the UMD spinning up and being read is something I don’t mind leaving behind in the brave new digital future.
Like its predecessors, the Go has Wi-Fi to enable web browsing, Remote Play (with a PS3), and game downloads. While no actual specifications are available, it’s obvious that download speeds have been significantly improved for this new model. Small games of 75 MB or less download and install very quickly. Larger games can take as much as 20-30 minutes to download, and unfortunately there is no background downloading option like there is on the PS3.
Bluetooth is a welcome new addition to the PSP Go, allowing the use of a headset for hands-free communication. Once you upgrade to firmware version 6.1 you can also tether this device to a cell phone for Internet access anywhere, without having to hunt for a Wi-Fi hotspot.
If you don’t have a compatible cell phone or have trouble finding Wi-Fi in your area, you can use the Media Go software (CD included in the box, or you can download it directly from the Sony web site) in conjunction with your PC to shop for games and video on the PSN Store, transfer music and photos from your computer, and backup your game save data.
You can also use a PS3 to download games from the PlayStation Network with the included USB cable, if you’re lucky enough to have the PSP Go’s big brother home console.
The PSP Go supports AAC, MP3, WAV, WMA, ATRAC3+, as well as AVC and MP4 files, so you probably won’t have to do anything to get your content ready to play on the device. Just connect this mobile console to your PC with the USB cable; you do not have to install the Media Go if you don’t want to, as the device will automatically enter USB mode and you can see everything in Windows Explorer. Just be careful to put the various kinds of content in the proper folders or it won’t be recognized on the device.
You can also purchase or rent video content from the PlayStation Network, and the TiVo-To-Go service is also supported (if you have an M2).
One new feature is the SenseMe for music playback, which automatically categorizes your songs into a variety of playlists according to mood, but it is only available if you transfer your music to your PSP with Media Go, because the playlists are created on your computer.
A sleep timer has also been added, so you can listen to your favorite tunes for a set amount of time and not worry about running down the battery if you don’t turn off the Go.
This mobile gaming console comes with Rock Band Unplugged starter version, which comes with five songs, and you can purchase additional songs from the PlayStation Network. A Patapon 2 demo and an interactive ESRB rating application are preloaded on the device.
The selection of additional games is somewhat limited at this point, since not every UMD legacy game is offerened on the Playstation Network at this point. Considering the recent massive update, I suspect that most customer favorites (as well as a lot of the clunkers) will be available in the near future — though I personally won’t be satisfied until Lumines, a launch game for the original system, is available. It’s the perfect on-the-go puzzle game, so I was surprised it wasn’t included in the PSN launch calendar.
One downside to the lack of UMD support is that import games will likely never come to the American PSN store, so if you’re heavily invested in certain genres such as bemani music games (Audition, Pump it Up Exceed, Taiko Drum Master Portable 1 and 2, and the four DJ Max games not released in the U.S. come to mind) you might want to stick with the PSP 3000 for now. UMD games (unlike movies and music videos) are not region-locked, so there’s an amazing amount of content out there for folks who want to import Asian and European games.
An additional concern is the cost. The hardware itself isn’t too bad at $250, but since there isn’t a “clearance bin” on the PSN or any way of acquiring used games, you’re looking at a more expensive pastime. Sony has said it intends to keep “pricing parity” for retail UMD games and PSN digital downloads, but as others have shown, PSN downloads are generally more expensive because they don’t account for sale or promotional pricing available in retail stores.
Previous PSP owners looking to upgrade to latest device will be glad to know that their previous game saves will (probably) work on the PSP Go, as long as they use a computer to transfer over their save data from the old device. I have found a couple of games where this is not the case, most notably Super Stardust Portable. When I started up that game after transferring over the save data, I got an error message saying that the data was saved on another device, and I was forced to use the Saved Data Utility on the PSP to erase that particular file before the game would start. That seems to be a rather isolated case at the moment, but it is something to consider if you’ve spent hours on a game unlocking everything and don’t feel like starting over.
One particularly nice touch is the new resume game feature; this allows you to stop playing a game at any time and instantly save it for later play. Just press the PlayStation button on the bottom left side of the screen, and you have the option to pause the game or quit completely. You can then switch to music or video playback, or shut down the device entirely. Note that you can only have one game paused at a time, but that’s still a handy feature if you want to use the Go to while away those lost minutes here and there while waiting in line, etc.
If you need to stop playing for just few minutes but come right back to where you were, you can simply slide the screen down to the closed position. That has the same effect as sliding the power switch up quickly to put the device in sleep mode, as it was on original PSP. It works better in some ways, because I sometimes turned the device off by mistake, which is pretty frustrating when you just got a new high score but haven’t yet had a chance to save your progress…
There have been some concerns about battery life; Sony’s estimates are somewhat low at roughly three hours of gameplay with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth turned off. I’ve been using the Go very heavily since I picked it up, both downloading and playing games. I haven’t run the battery down in the course of a day yet, and have charged it each night, but so far I’m on track to exceed Sony’s three hour gameplay estimate. It seems that Sony underpromised and overdelivered, and I”m thrilled.
One surprising note is that there is no way to accurately determine how much battery charge/playing time is left, because Sony completely removed the Battery information screen from the Settings menu. That means that the only guide you have to how much of a charge is left is the battery meter in the top right corner of the home screen, which (if it works like the older PSP models) is somewhat less than reliable. Older PSPs (and even my unbearably ancient Sony Cybershot digital camera) offer a very accurate approximation in minutes of how much time you have left before the battery dies, so I’m really disappointed that feature has been removed from the PSP Go.
The PSP Go retail box includes a USB cable, power cord, and AC adapter brick, in addition to a Rock Band Unplugged starter version voucher. A basic instruction manual is included in booklet form, but for more advanced functions you’ll want to access the online manual referenced in the booklet. Unlike the original PSP, headphones and a slip case are not included.
The AC adapter is extremely light, even lighter than the cords that come with it, but the whole setup is ungainly at best, and definitely not the sort of thing I want to put in my gear bag on a regular basis. It’s very similar to what comes with the original PSP models, but I had forgotten since I don’t use the OEM chargers that come with my devices. I use a single charger with interchangeable tips from Gomadic, and I hope that they or someone else comes out with a more portable solution.
In the meantime, if you don’t want to carry around the AC adapter brick and power cord, you can charge the PSP Go with the USB cable and a computer, though it will only charge in USB mode. That means that you can’t plug it in to charge while you’re still playing a game or listening to music. You also can’t carry a spare charged battery for the Go as you could for the original PSP, because while it is possible to remove the battery, that operation requires removing six screws and breaking the warranty seal on the device.
Optional accesories include a video-out cable, a desktop charge/sync cradle, in-ear headphones, and two different carrying case styles. I had the opportunity to try the Soft Carrying case, which is nicely made and does a good job of protecting the Go, but won’t win any fashion awards. I do like the fact that the headphone pocket is on the outside, so nothing can scratch the Go when it is enclosed in the case.
Screen protectors are also available, and I highly recommend them. You get two for $9.95, they’re some of the best quality protectors I’ve ever seen — and I’ve tested a lot of them over the last ten years. The Sony version is just stiff enough to install easily, but not so stiff that it’s hard to work with. The directions are very clear, and I had the film installed in about thirty seconds–no issues with dust or air bubbles either. Now that it’s on, I can hardly tell it’s there, but the screen is fully protected from scratches and also immune to fingerprints too.