PSP Go launched last Thursday and I was there with my hard-earned money to buy one. I have, after all, owned each iteration of the PSP at some point, and I even had my pic in the paper when it originally launched in 2005.
The rest of the GamesRadar team goaded me for buying a console that was effectively the same as I already had, only 'less', and I can see their point. But after several days now getting to grips with the retail unit and prodding around with no respect for its dignity, I've identified the real gamer's pros and cons for owning the machine right now.
So if you're considering buying one, make sure you read this first.
1) That '16GB' is more like 14GB
It may well be common practice to take up some hard drive space with the console's OS, but if something's advertised as having 16GB of storage space, I'd like to be able to use all of it. 14GB looks like it's enough for a decent-sized games collection (and of course it can be managed with Sony's free Media Go software), plus you can use M2 memory cards to boost that storage pretty cheaply.
I asked Sony about it and was pointed towards the technical reasons for the lower number. Fair enough, though I'd still prefer the number on the box to be the number I actually get.
2) Not every PSP game is available for download
I can understand the issues behind the UMD transfer scheme and its non-appearance. But if I can't transfer my games to PSP Go for free, I'd at least appreciate the option of buying them. However, not all PSP games are available on the store at present and the full catalogue may never make the leap onto the PS Store. This presents a problem. I now can't sell my old PSP 3000 (as I originally intended) as that would mean losing some of my favourite games.
Current games missing in action (in the UK store at least) include some much-loved favourites like Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core, and Star Ocean. Personally, I'm missing Power Stone Collection, F1 2006, Virtua Tennis and OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast. And how am I supposed to buy Sonic 1 for the twelfth time if Sega Mega Drive Collection's not there to be bought? Eh?
Above: How the UK store currently looks to me
3) The screen is a tad dark
I'm going to come back to the screen in the 'good' list too, but at times it does seem a bit dark. It's especially noticeable on PSone games, where I often found I needed to use the +1 Black Level Adjustment feature. So far as proper PSP software goes, it's better, though I did find myself changing the brightness in Tomb Raider Anniversary several times over the weekend as the levels went from dark to light and back again.
PSP games have always been hard to see in daylight, but a proper option to tweak the gamma levels of all games would be welcome, and not entirely out of the question as a future firmware update.
Above: Tomb Raider Anniversary looks a little dark in places on PSP Go
4) Downloading games takes a long time
You may well be completely at ease with the downloading revolution. It's probably one of the reasons you're contemplating buying the new system. It's unlimited, it's on your terms and it's simple to do. But there's no escaping the fact that here you have to download anything you want to play - and that means waiting.
You can buy content via PS3 (my prefered method as it lets you sync with multiple PSPs very easily), PC via Sony's Media Go software, or directly through the unit via wi-fi. However, the direct way (which is going to be the only way for some users) is undoubtedly the slowest.
I downloaded WipEout Pure (310MB) in about 20 minutes using only the PSP Go, which was acceptable (with a couple of additional minutes of waiting after that while it installed). But then I tried Syphon Filter: Logan's Shadow (1549MB) and the machine wavered around 120 minutes on the expected time readout. I cancelled the download and did it via the faster PS3 instead, but I appreciate not everyone has that luxury.
5) The button placement is not ideal
While it's never as bad as some people make it out to be, the buttons on PSP Go are not quite perfectly-situated. One GR editor (Meiks, I believe) pointed out you have to hold it like an N64 pad to use the analog nub but that's exaggerating a little. You can reach all the buttons but not always comfortably. Also, the Start and Select buttons now make up two halves of a circle, so it's not easy to press one without pressing the other in the split-second moment of need during gameplay.
Above: The more central analogue nub and Select/Start combo
The D-pad, also, does have a bit too much looseness in its neutral position. Sure, pressing it feels precise, and it's probably better than the old PSP d-pad for doing diagonals, but it looks slightly cheap when you see the whole thing moving around when you touch it.
6) The battery isn't that much better than it was
Despite not featuring a battery-sapping UMD drive, the PSP Go's battery life is not significantly longer than that of the PSP 3000. Running it on maximum brightness, with the sound up, I got about four hours out of it between charges. That's not a disaster, by any means, but I was hoping for DS Lite-style gaming sessions.
The USB charge cable is also very short and doesn't allow you to plug in an extension (and features a unique new connector), so unless you've got a socket right by your armchair/bed you'll have to sit on the floor to carry on playing, or get out a mains extension cable, which looks a bit daft.
Above: The full length of the UK charge cable. Note the new connector
7) The cost of playing
From Sony's point of view, the great thing is that you can't trade-in your digital products. So they get your money and then they get it again when you buy your next game. No middle man. That's a definite negative for me, as I regularly buy second hand games. They're cheaper, just the same, and I get some resale value too when I'm done. The thought of simply deleting a completed game that I would otherwise have traded in sounds like a waste of money to me.
Then there's the competition. Some of the PSP Minis like Tetris or Hero of Sparta are available on Apple's App Store - at a lower price. I appreciate the overall cost of owning an iPhone is probably higher when you take contracts into consideration, but still, there should be some parity here. Why should I pay more on my PSP?
Above: Apple's Apps are cheaper than identical versions on PSP
OK, that's it for the bad points. Hit the next page and I'll show you the good side...