If the PS3 Slim was Sony's attempt to relaunch the PS3 and regain lost ground in the home console market, then the PSPgo represents the same for the PSP. Despite PSP sales of around 53 million, the last four years must have been galling for the house of PlayStation. The PSP never became 'the next iPod' as so many reviewers thought it would, and its UMD disc failed to take off as a next-generation media format. Instead, it was Nintendo's strange, ungainly DS that caught the public imagination, outselling the PSP nearly 2-to-1. Worse, Apple's iPhone/iPod touch has come from nowhere to become a third handheld gaming and media platform - arguably occupying the position of 'all-in-one' mobile entertainment device that Sony desperately wanted the PSP to grab. The PSPgo is Sony's best hope at redressing that situation, and putting the PSP back in the game.
As a physical redesign, the PSPgo has an awful lot going for it. The first and most obvious thing Sony has done is make it work a little like a slider mobile phone. When the device is switched off or when you're just watching a movie or listening to some music, the controls are covered by the screen and the unit fits comfortably in one hand. Then, when you fancy a game, you slide the screen upwards to reveal the D-pad, analogue stick and face buttons.
The mechanism feels extremely solid, and this change has undeniable benefits. For one thing, it makes the PSPgo a more easily pocketable games machine - approximately 3mm shorter, 5mm slimmer and a whopping 47.4mm less wide than the old PSP3000, and 29g lighter too. As PMPs have grown smaller, even the slim PSP was beginning to feel like a large and rather cumbersome media player, and the PSPgo takes it right back into iPhone/iPod touch territory.
I'd also say that the new control layout is a definite improvement. The old position of the analogue stick never felt right, making my hand cramp up after long sessions, particularly in games like Resistance: Retribution where you're making plentiful use of the L and R shoulder buttons. Now the stick falls pretty much where the left stick does on a dual-shock controller, and it feels more accurate and responsive to boot. The D-Pad and face buttons are smaller and more lightweight than they were on previous PSPs, but in use I can't find any negative effects, and I even prefer the new metallic shoulder buttons over the old Perspex jobs. As far as conventional, non-touch-screen gaming goes, the PSPgo is easily the most ergonomically satisfying handheld games platform around.