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After the Playstation Portable’s first dismal year on the market, I don’t think many people expected it to ever have any sort of serious impact on the industry.  However, here we are five years later and Sony has just released the fourth and probably most significant version of the system: the PSPgo.

What makes this new portable gaming machine so important is that it marks the very first time a game company has released a device based solely off of digital distribution.  Making history doesn’t matter though if the system is badly designed with poor controls.  This begs the question, does the PSPgo deliver as a pure gaming machine, or should it be left on store shelves to sit and collect dust?

I think it’s important to start this review by letting you know the PSPgo is the first version of the system I’ve ever owned.  While I’ve played the original PSP model, its never been for extended periods of time.  I was therefore never able to collect my thoughts to piece together a well informed opinion of the system.  This review is based solely on the over 10+ hours of play time I’ve had with the PSPgo so far.

The first thing I should point out about Sony’s new system is how incredibly small and lightweight it is.  Besides the Gameboy Micro, the PSPgo is probably the smallest portable gaming system ever created.  To give you a good benchmark for comparison, the device is almost the exact same size and weight as the iPhone 3GS.  This is considerably smaller then the Nintendo DSi, and it allows you to easily stick it in your pocket without noticing it’s there.

Unfortunately, because of its small size, the PSPgo feels a little bit flimsy.  Everyone I’ve handed the system to so far has pointed out that they want to be careful with it because it feels like it can break easily.  While this could simply be a result of the “heavier equals sturdier” human mentality, I have to admit is really does feel like a delicate piece of hardware.

This is mainly due to the sliding screen which doesn’t firmly lock into place when you slide it upward.  It kind of jiggles back and forth, which gives the impression you could break it if not careful.  There isn’t really any evidence of poor build quality though.  It’s simply a result of the screen sliding mechanism Sony decided to use.  Eventually, after hours of use, you get used to it and stop worrying.

PSPgo iPhone Compare

Because the PSPgo is so small, the screen size has had to shrink to 3.8” across diagonally.  This is an 11% shrink from the original PSP’s 4.3” size.  While some might complain that this is too small, it’s still a larger screen than the iPhone and DSi.  Unfortunately, it’s very easy to smudge and even more difficult to see in direct sunlight.  To be honest, unless you can find some shade, you might as well not bother playing the PSPgo outside.  Using an anti reflective coating may help, but I haven’t had the opportunity to try one yet.

When you aren’t in direct sunlight, the screen looks absolutely gorgeous.  While there are three levels of brightness, controlled from a button on the top of the system, all provide more than enough light.  There is also enough contrast between the black and white levels to make watching the darkest movies enjoyable.

No portable gaming system would be complete without comfortable, easy to use controls, but this is one area the PSPgo falls short.  Let me begin by saying if you play a game that uses just the D-pad and the main four buttons, the controls feel absolutely great.  However, using the shoulder buttons and the analog knob is a completely different situation.

As far as the shoulder buttons go, I have two main problems with them.  The first is the entire button doesn’t press down when you push on it.  It’s kind of floating above the pad, so you can easily press down only the right or left side of the button without the entire thing moving downwards.  This is inconsequential because the system recognizes that you’ve pushed the button in either case, but it feels weird.  My tendency is therefore to push the buttons down more firmly, which is just wasted effort in the end.

The other problem I have with the shoulder buttons is that they are a little bit too narrow for my taste.  This is because the sliding screen cuts the width of the buttons in half from the original PSP’s size.  My fingers feel like they are constantly sliding off of them, which can get really annoying during long play sessions.  I therefore end up not resting my fingers on the buttons, which gets me into trouble when I have to immediately push them to dodge an enemy’s attack.

Holding the PSPgo

The other major problem with the PSPgo’s controls is the analog knob.  First of all, it’s placed in a location on the device that makes me have to hold my thumb in a very awkward position.  After a while my thumb actually hurts from using it, and I find I have to stop playing to stretch it occasionally.  You should never have to do this after only 20 minutes of use.  Another problem I have with the low location of the analog knob is that it makes reaching the left shoulder pad very difficult with your index finger.

Please note, none of these control issues make the system difficult to use, but they can make your experience an annoying one until you get used to them. By this point I’m not really bothered much by poor button layout, but my thumb does still get tired from using the analog knob for extended periods of time.  I highly recommend you try out the controls for yourself before buying the system.

Probably the most disappointing thing to date about the PSPgo is the small library of digital games available for it.  Currently there are a little over 100 games on the PSN store to choose from.  While that might seem like a large number, it’s really not when you consider the small number of quality titles contained in that list.  For every good title, like God of War: Chains of Olympus and Patapon 2, there are six or seven mediocre or bad games that most people won’t want to play.

Why hasn’t Sony put some of the best selling and highest rated titles on the network yet?  Where is Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7, Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, and Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories.  When you launch a new system based on digital distribution, you should make sure your #1 selling titles are available for download from day one.  I really don’t know what Sony is thinking to be honest with you.

While you are waiting for more games to be released, there are still plenty of other features to be excited about.  The PSPgo incorporates every feature the original PSP models have, including internet browsing, built-in Skype support, external speakers, and PS3 remote play functionality.  You can also still output the audio and video to a TV to play your games on the big screen.

PSPgo angle

Added to this list are a couple other unique features like built in blue tooth support.  This mainly comes in handy by allowing you to plug in a blue tooth headset to talk on Skype.  In addition, you can also use it to tether to an existing device, like a cell phone, to surf the internet.

Another new feature is the dualshock 3 controller support.  This supposedly allows you to use your PS3 controller to play games on your PSP.  I don’t know why you would want to do this though.  If you are holding the controller in your hands, how are you going to hold up the PSP screen to see it?  This might be desirable if you are projecting the image onto your big screen TV, but I don’t even see why you would want to do that.  I’m sure I’m missing the point, but I just don’t understand why Sony included this.

The nicest new feature Sony added to the PSPgo is the ability to put the system into sleep mode without exiting out of a game.  This is something the Nintendo DS has had for years now, and many people love it.  I can’t tell you how many times I get interrupted while gaming on the go and need to put my system away.  If you are not near a save point this can result in the loss of a lot of play time.  Now I can simply put my PSPgo to sleep and walk away without any worries.

The final thing I want to discuss is the battery life.  While there might not be a UMD drive to use up energy, Sony has shrunk the battery, so there’s less charge to siphon from.  If you turn the wireless off and set the screen to its lowest brightness level, you might be able to get four hours of life out of the battery.  That has been my experience so far.  If you leave the wireless on and have the brightness all the way up, you’ll be lucky to get a little over 2 ½ hours of play time in.  Please be wary of this before you try to play the system for extended periods of time without charging it.

Overall, I am generally satisfied with my PSPgo, but I wish Sony had more big name titles available for download, and I wish they had made the controls more comfortable.  However, this hasn’t stopped me from getting hours of enjoyment out of the system.  The problem is, I would have gotten the same amount of enjoyment out of the regular PSP for less money.  I’m an enthusiast though, so I always like owning the newest and most high tech gadgetry.

I can really only recommend the PSPgo to people who don’t already own the system and who enjoy owning the newest technology on the market.  If you already own a PSP, I highly recommend you stay away, especially since there is currently no way to port your current UMD games over to your hard drive.  I think it’s important that we all pay close attention to the success of the PSPgo and its digital only system.  We could very well be watching the birth of the next generation of video game systems.  Only time will tell.

  1. Great job on the review! I agree that it feels very flimsy. If you are the type of person to throw your controller when you get angry or frustrated with a game make sure to throw it onto something really soft!

  2. Really excellent review mate, covered every issue I could think of. I don’t currently own a PSP and I doubt I’ll be picking one up, if I did it would be the cheaper and bigger one, because I’m not fussed at being able to have something in my pocket and I like owning a physical product when it comes to my games.

  3. Thanks Shawn! Along with your video unboxing, I’d say consumers have all the info they need on the PSPgo.

  4. Awesome stuff, mate. Sony’s been a hot steaming pile of mess since 2006 unfortunately :(

  5. avatar Blublub

    Hmm…the sleep and resume function has been available on the PSP since its first release. Anyway, let’s hope this sort of game distribution model dies a quick but painful death (no sort of transfer mechanism for people with existing UMD copies of games, prices at full retail, inability to trade in games you no longer want, etc.)

    • avatar Jinnett

      Please could you send a simple vsroien of your tutorial translation of the game? And an easier place to download the applications required for translation.I am Brazilian and things usually take to arrive here. So the only recourse I have is to appeal to your great talent.If you could, an iso, already translated, would help a lot.I’ll be grateful.

    • avatar Michelle

      he didn’t say anything about what coolsne he’s a fanboy of, unlike someone *cough*you*Cough*.2. considering that my 3DS came with 21 free games (ambassador program plus four swords anniversary edition! HOOAH!) many of which are some of the best games of the last 20 years, I’d say that too is also un-merrited.3. Windows Phone 7 actually works fairly well, now if you were to say that about that phone msoft did before the windows phone 7 series I would agree 100% (I forget the name of it but it was discountinued less than a month after release)4. why do you always have to try and aggravate people? seriously it’s getting irritating.5. also something I find odd: 3DS sells 371,326 units in first two days, launch was a failure but when the PS Vita sells 321,407 units in first two days, Launch was a success! kind of a double standard yknow?VN:F [1.9.17_1161](from 4 votes)

  6. avatar Jeff

    Wow- what a dud from Sony. Better luck with the 5th gen, guys.

  7. avatar raowler

    Great review, I have one as well, and find it great.

    Cant see why everyone finding fault with the “digital buisness model though”, It works for Music – ipod/zune and Films will be that way shortly thanks to Microsoft and Netflix etc – Sony soon to be doing it…so whuy not games – its the same idea on mobile phones – apps for iPhone and Android etc.

  8. avatar Dredneck

    Good article and I agree with most of the points. A few points were left out.

    I traded my PSP 1000 for the PSPGo and I love it. Granted it took me 2 days to decide if the trade was worth it but now I can say I wouldn’t go back the PSPgo is great. Yes the nub could have been placed better but Im used to it and have no issues.

    Great article but forgot to mention.
    1) There is a new Pause feature that will save the game anywhere you are you can then leave the game for weeks , play other games – whatever. When you ready just select the pause file and hit resume – bam right where you left off.

    2) The Bluetooth works awesome not with just a headset to speak but audio headphones, i have the Logitech free-pulse and the Bluetooth function send the audio no problems.

    3) With the Sony PSPGo leather case (you play the Go in the case ) It feels very sturdy and doesn’t add any bulk
    Not sure why he is getting so short battery life, I am getting about the same as my PSP 1000 with bluetooth and wireless turned on (about 5 hrs)

    Why I like itbetter then the old PSP.

    1) It is so small I am taking everywhere now. I never did that with my old one because it was bigger and I had to carry games separate.

    2) Every game is on the internal memory, I love not carrying and switching he games.

    3) I play more of the games I have since it is so fast and easy to quit one and start another now

    4) Volume is louder

    5) Screen looks awesome.

    I don’t get why people say the system or the PSP is crap. It isn’t it is a great device. If you find it to expensive or doesn’t have games you like then it isn’t for you , but that doesn’t make it a hunk of junk. I don’t like the DS or most of the games, that’s me – doesn’t automatically make the system crap because I don’t like it, that seems foolish.

  9. avatar Dropping Dueces

    …. Just to let you know, you’re wrong. Even the original PSP can go into sleep mode while playing a game. (You might want to know what you’re talking about.) The new feature added to the PSP go is that it can save the state of your game. This allows you to quit the game so you can browse the internet and listen to music. Then whenever you’re done jamming you can jump right back into your game.

  10. avatar Danny

    Note that the deep sleep function has been in place since the 1st PSP. I have been using that for a while now on my old 1st generation model.

  11. As I states at the beginning of my review, I have had little experience with the original models of the PSP, yet I thought I had a good understanding of the feature set. That being said, it appears I as incorrect when I said the original PSP does not have a sleep feature. I was under the impression this was the new feature added to the PSPgo.

    I should have written that the new feature added was the state save feature. In any case, both features are great to have, as I states in the write-up. I apologize for this error though.

  12. avatar todd

    Shawn i totally disagree with you. i bought the pspgo day 2 and i totally love it. i took it on a plane trip to Honolulu and back. it was great small to fit in my pocket. i had the games down loaded no umds to take up room. i used it as a mp 3 player and played games. the battery lasted over 5 hours playing games and mp3s . i do not have issues with it feeling flimsy and the screen locked normal in the up posistion. i sold my psp3000 and i wouldn’t go back to it. the screen imho may be smaller but seems brighter and sharper. i love the ds3 support and the state save feature.

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