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Console Review: Sony PSP Go

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By now you have no doubt heard the good, bad, and ugly of the PSP Go. However at the root of any discussion is one simple point: Does the PSP Go succeed as a portable game console? This single question seems to have gone unasked, unnoticed, and pushed aside. We have spent a week with Sony's newest portable to see what we like, and exactly what all the fervor is about.

Sony is getting a lot of use from the Mylo design, which is the first thing that comes to mind when getting your hands on the PSP Go. This is not a bad thing; this modified Mylo shell is a welcome change. The Go easily fits in your pocket, where you cannot comfortably carry around its predecessor so easily. More accurately, it is the size and weight of an iPhone, and as someone who carries an iPod Touch everywhere, I love the new form factor. This is what "portable" gaming should be.

Of course when you go lopping off size and weight as they have, compromises are bound to happen. All but one will be a real issue to most – UMD discs are gone in favor of 16 GB of internal storage and digital downloads. For people like me, who not only have a large library of UMD games, but a fairly sizable amount of Japanese imports as well, this spells utter doom for the PSP Go as my main unit. This may be a problem for you, too.

The other "big" compromise is the screen size; it is noticeably smaller when side-by-side with an older PSP model. Thankfully it is noticeably clearer, and brighter, too. The resolution is the same, so everything is super crisp. Those jaded by the PSP 3000 screen have nothing to worry about here with bright colors and far less ghosting than what we have had in past models.

Those are the biggest issues, the others will hurt depending on how many accessories you have, and how many PSP you own. The only accessory I would have to purchase again is the AV cable, though I never invest in many accessories – so be aware of this incompatibility if you have an investment in things such as the GPS or Camera attachments. The last major wrench you might run into is Sony's DRM – which to be fair, is better than most.

There are no two ways about it, the DRM on these consoles is a briar patch, and not the easiest thing to understand. Most people don't own more than two PSP units, but they may have sold older units to upgrade to the newer model, and not given a thought to DRM. This was the case while reviewing the PSP Go. The process to de-authorize one PSP and authorize another is not as easy as it could be. One piece of advice I would give to any PSP or PS3 owner is to de-authorize the hardware before you sell it or trade it in. Go to Account Management and scroll down to System Activation. Three or four clicks later and you are set.

You can only have your account on five PSP systems at once, and unlike Apple's iTunes DRM, a call to Sony support with an explanation of your problem does not wipe your DRM slate clean so you can play games. Believe me, I tried, and got nowhere. Granted, my case is not anywhere close to "normal," but at the end of the day the DRM that has been put in place is doing what it does best, preventing actual consumers from using their digital purchases. I can't fault the PSP Go for my DRM issues, I go through worse on a yearly basis because of a Red Ring of Death or another malfunctioning DVD drive on the Xbox 360. I just wish Sony's support understood the DRM problems described above.

So who exactly is the PSP Go for? Your UMDs won't work, your Memory Stick won't work (it now uses Micro) and your accessories won't work. New PSP purchasers have less of a barrier of course, but the hardware is appealing nonetheless. If the unit came down in price, I would have it in a heartbeat as a second PSP. The Go is so small and so light; it is not a burden to carry with you all day. The "Pause Game" feature is ideal for short bits of gaming on a commute to work. Simply choose Pause Game from the Home menu and next time you want to get in a few minutes you are not spending a few minutes just to start things up.

I would like to see software companies, Sony included, more aggressive in getting their games on the PlayStation Store on the same day as the physical units go on sale in stores. LittleBigPlanet saw a couple week delay in digital form. Another big game not even available digitally is Rock Band Unplugged. PSP Go owners get a "Lite" version, but there is no way to purchase the full game on the PlayStation Store. On the subject of software, you will be missing out on cheap used UMD games, too.

There is also no reason they could not shave a few bucks off the digital version of the games, instead going with "price parity" with MSRP. That is not to say there are no good deals to be had on the PS Store. Some of the PSP Minis are a good value, and older PSP games are available at reasonable prices. But after two months we should see everything new being released digitally day and date.

This thing has geek lust written all over it, so for people new to the platform, it is worth a serious look. Bluetooth support means wireless headsets, and even a Dual Shock 3 for playing games, and the Pause Game feature really comes in handy, not to mention you have a Skype phone here, too. The buttons feel good, the screen looks great, and the form factor cannot be beat. No question about it, there are a lot of drawbacks and features to weigh. It mainly comes down to paying $250 for a UMD-less PSP, and that will sting too much for some.

I am much more likely to grab the PSP Go and take it with me, because of the new form factor and weight. When you stop looking at we wish it had, and boil it down to portability, that is what makes the PSP Go a successful game console. Whether it succeeds in the marketplace is a different story, and will depend largely on your wallet and what you need to get out of the purchase.

Listen to episode 101 of our radio show, Multiplayer Chat, to hear Ken, Jason, and Mike discuss the PSP Go.

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About Ken Edwards

  • The PSP Go just looks straight up awkward. I think Sony needs to let the handheld market go, or fund SNK to make a real go at it again.