The Ups and Downs of Sony's PSP Go

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The Ups and Downs of Sony's PSP Go

First off, is it PSP Go? PSPGo? PSPgo? PSP go? Or just the PSP-N1000? I'm not sure Sony's got this sorted, quick as they are to call their remodeled PlayStation 3 a "PS3 Slim" (despite nothing on the retail box or system), or simply "The PlayStation 3," followed by thrilling modifiers like "now available" or "for $299" or "Yes, NOW!" I mean, it's the Wii or DSi, not the W ii or DS i, right?

It's almost here--available this Thursday in North America--and I'll finally put knuckles and palms around our review model later today. So how's Sony's new micro-portable look going in?

Upsides: The PSP Go is 16% lighter and 35% smaller than the PSP-3000, shares every feature with the latter save its screechy UMD drive, puts the thumb-nub in a much smarter position relative to your grip, adds Bluetooth support (rumored to exist in older model PSPs, but disabled), and packs 16GB of internal flash memory out of the box.

Downsides: The PSP Go's 480x272 LCD is 3.8" (compared to the PSP-3000's 480x272 4.3" screen), which means a 12% reduction in the legibility of already smallish fonts (especially text in emulator-interpolated PS1 games). The screen-slide mechanism protects the wrong features (the d-pad, thumb-nub, and action buttons, as opposed to the screen itself, which remains fully exposed, iPhone-like). Mini-USB cables no longer work with the system (you're stuck with a proprietary one). The absent UMD drive, which was supposed to be a boon, may turn out to be a boondoggle, with Sony backing away from suggestions it might provide a mechanism for carrying players' existing UMD libraries over. And then there's the system's price tag: $250, when the regular PSP-3000 with a UMD drive costs just $170 (possibly dropping soon).

I can live with the smaller screen and work around its vulnerability with the usual protective "socks." The proprietary cable's no big thing as long as it's included. But the UMD library conversion issue and the steep price point leave Sony in an unenviable position. Enthusiasts who already own one of the earlier PSPs and who might still be inclined to drop $250 on a gee-whiz upgrade face the prospect of repurchasing games they already own in UMD-format. So-called "casual" gamers who the PSP Go seems labeled and styled to attract may balk at the $250 price tag and opt instead for Nintendo's 32% cheaper, family-friendlier DSi. In short, the PSP Go seems to be positioning itself at the wrong ends of either spectrum.

To be fair, the $170 DSi costs $40 more than the DS Lite, but then it comes with supplementary features, e.g. two 640 x 480 0.3 megapixel cameras, instead of subtracting major ones. My lineup of UMD games changes frequently, but I'm usually packing a half dozen, minimum. That translates to between $180 and $240 in library-replacement costs, if I have to purchase them (as downloads) a second time.

Our PSP Go just arrived (while typing this up), so stand by for initial impressions (and a bunch of silly un-boxing snaps) coming later today.

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At a Glance
  • Costly and compatibility-conflicted, Sony's PSP Go marries design elegance and disc-free gaming with worrisome pricing and upgrade uncertainty.


    • Bluetooth; better thumb-nub placement; 16GB memory
    • Smaller, lighter, and quieter without UMD drive


    • No upgrade path for UMD owners
    • Pricey; no touchscreen
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