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Monday, October 5, 2009

I bought a PSPgo - initial thoughts part 1

Saturday night I went out & bought a PSPgo.... I'm not sure if I should keep it.

There are some really nice things about it, but there are a lot of issues. There's tons of reviews out there of the handheld-- so I'll try not to go over the same ground too much.

In a nutshell: The PSPgo is a great small media device first, and a handheld gaming console second.

First, the price. At $250.00, it's expensive. But there are a couple things to consider: The Canadian price is the same as the U.S. price, which is rare/unheard of right now. More importantly, the PSPgo has 16GB of flash storage built in. In Canada, a 16GB memory stick pro duo usually retails for about $100.00. So it is close to the price of a PSP-3000 & a 16GB memory stick. I'm not saying that the PSPgo should be $250.00, but it is almost understandable. I do think that there will be a price drop soon, maybe after Xmas.

My initial impressions:

The screen panel that slides out.... it's jiggly. It doesn't feel like it will slip out of the extended position; I've held the PSPgo straight up & down & it stays in place. But there is some wiggle of the panel-- about 1 mm-- which is annoying. On my DS Lite, once I unfold the top screen out it clicks into place & feels solid. The 2 DS lite panels feel like one unit. The PSPgo... the shakiness of the top panel constantly reminds you that it's balancing the top screen panel on the 2nd one when you hold it, and I don't like that. Normal micro-tremors of your hands will shake the screen panel. It's the single biggest issue I have with the gadget.

The screen quality, however, is pretty good. Colours are noticeably deeper & more vibrant than on my previous PSPs. In the System settings there's a color mode: wide or normal. Wide is a little better, but they're both fine. It seems that Sony has adopted the colour mode from the PSP-3000 but there's no interlacing issues that screen has. This is more like the previous PSP screens... and I know that LCDs fade over time, so the brighter colours of the PSPgo screen may just be because it's newer (than my other PSPs)

The screen is smaller, not by a lot, but smaller, with the same resolution. This is good, but it may be problematic for some games that are made for the regular PSP screen. I know there were some comments that God of War: Chains of Olympus had parts where Kratos is really small on the screen... well, if he's small on the regular PSP, think how small he'll be on the PSPgo.....

Drag & drop: I've talked about how I love that the PSP is a drag & drop device. Fortunately the PSPgo is, too. I was shocked to find that not only did it have the PICTURES, MUSIC, VIDEO, PSP folders, it also has the MP_ROOT folders with 100ANV01 and 101MNV01 inside! I was really happy to see that, as a lot of my video will only play in the ANV folder, and not in the VIDEO folder for some reason. Basically the firmware 5.70 which ships with the PSPgo still supports it.

Built-in storage with memory stick micro (M2) expansion. Yes, we all know that the PSPgo has 16GB actual use 14GB onboard flash storage. But how does it work if you also have a M2 card in there? I don't have one, so I haven't tried it, but I'm pretty sure that it sees them both as seperate storage areas, like partitions on a hard drive. So say you go into PHOTOS, below the camera icon will be storage (with however much memory is left) and below that would be memory stick (with however much memory is left).... I'm not sure, but I think that if you have a memory stick in the PSPgo, it will just double the folder structure that's on the onboard storage? So just another set of PICTURES, MUSIC, VIDEO, PSP folders, etc.??? Sounds weird, but I can't see how else they'll do this. So when you access any data, you basically have to pick from where you want to access it from? That's less convenient than my current Photofast 32GB MicroSD setup, where both 16GB cards are seen as 1 big 32GB memory stick on my PSP-2001.

Gameplay on the PSPgo: Ok, this is a big one. The control scheme is laid out very differently than previous PSPs, particularly the D-pad & analogue nub. We're all aware of this.

I kinda thought that a layout like the one below would be better:

I was skeptical of having the analogue nub so close to the center of the device, but the PSPgo is so small that it sort of makes sense. Your thumb stretches out more to reach the area, and it sort of works. It also makes it easier to grip the PSPgo, if the nub was closer to the left edge less of your hand would be able to hold the handheld, maybe? I dunno, there's so little control realestate there, not a lot of space to work with.

So the controls feel sort of ok. The analogue nub is about 2/3 the size of previous PSP nubs. But the biggest problem is it's recessed into that hole around it. I think the analogue nub on the PSP is one of its greatest strengths as a handheld; nobody else had done this before. So I really wanted to see how the PSPgo's nub would deal with some of the more intense 3D shooter games-- I loaded on the demo for Syphon Filter:Dark Mirror. I found the skin of my thumb getting pinched in that recessed hole quite a bit. I think if I raise my thumb rather than lay it flat against the nub it might help, but it will take some getting used to. I've said it before, but it feels like the PSPgo would rather players use the D-pad.

Which brings me to the D-pad & face buttons. They are also smaller than on previous PSPs. The d-pad has that slide around feel, you know how you can slide the d-pad around underneath the faceplate? But both the pad & face buttons are very low to the system. They don't really press down, more like a clicky feel to them. So any amount of pressure triggers the click of the button response. It's not bad exactly-- but it all feels less like a console, doesn't even feel like the regular PSP buttons, feels more like a less intense gaming device. Like if you play games on a cellphone.

The shoulder buttons are the most different. They have way less "press" to them, and in fact are very VERY sensitive. Overly sensitive. I found myself accidentally shooting my gun in Syphon Filter, and skipping tracks while on the music playback screen. I also played a Loco Roco demo, and I had a harder time with it than I normally would. Again, might just take getting used to.

The small screen & the less precise controls made it harder for me to do accurate things that I need to do in Syphon Filter, like aiming for headshots. it may just be that I need to get used to playing on the PSPgo, but I do find it's not as suited for gameplay as the regular PSP. The priorty of this system seems to be to make a smaller PSP. I've thought many times that I would like my PSP to be smaller; I originally bought it for mp3 playback, and while I got into the gaming part of it bigtime, I love its media functions and a smaller form factor would really help its portability. I guess it's sort of a case of "be careful what you wish for". Sony is like one of those evil Genies that corrupts your wishes. I can't even count the number of posts I've read where people said they wanted a downloadable PSP, and all the hate for UMDs... which I don't exactly understand; to me it's like saying "I hate that the Xbox plays game discs!!!!!" or "I hate that the DS plays cartridges!!!" What's the difference? UMD is just a format. I will say that DS carts are small; I have about 12 DS games & most of them fit in my DS case. But back on point: all those digital download fans got what they asked for, just that Sony corrupted their wish by making digital version cost the same/more than the UMD version, lack of selection, etc.

So the PSPgo is sort of a culmination of corrupted wishes. But all that said, it is still kinda nice. It is easily the most portable PlayStation Portable created so far.

UPDATE: I started writing this entry on Sunday, and it's now Monday night.... I have to admit, the PSPgo is growing on me. I'm not sure if I *will* take this thing back after all.... I dunno. I'll have to see if I can install Media Go and access the PS Store properly. I've had problems with them & haven't gone back since then.


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