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PSP Go: The official details

CNET previews the PSP Go, the latest iteration of the PlayStation Portable.

Update (September 28, 2009): Read the full, hands-on review of the Sony PSP Go.

The PSP Go may have been the worst-kept secret of this year's E3 show, but Sony's press conference has now supplied the official details. For the most part, there's little that wasn't already revealed or correctly assumed: the PSP Go is smaller, has a slide-up screen, no UMD drive--and no game-changing upgrades, such as a touch screen or second analog stick. But the big news is that the new PSP will be available in North America on October 1 for $249.

Here's a roundup of the PSP Go's features and specs, as we understand them so far.

Form factor: The PSP Go has a 3.8-inch wide screen (versus 4.3-inch on all previous PSP models). It's said to be 43 percent lighter than the PSP 3000, which means it would tip the scales at about 3.8 ounces. The PSP Go design is very reminiscent of the Sony Mylo--the screen slides up to reveal the controls.

Storage: The Go will offer 16GB of built-in flash memory, and it's expandable via a Memory Stick Micro (M2) slot. There is no UMD (Universal Media Disc) drive on the PSP Go. While that no doubt allows for the smaller size (and, we hope, the potential for better battery life), it also means there's no way to play existing PSP software you might own on the PSP Go.

Controls: While the layout may be different, the control scheme on the PSP Go is little changed from earlier PSP models: a four-way d-pad on the left, the standard quartet of geometrically coded Sony controls (circle, square, cross, triangle) on the right, select/start buttons in the center, and the PlayStation "home" button to the left of the screen.

A second analog control is always at or near the top of wish lists for PSP redesigns, so its absence is a disappointment. At the same time, sticking with the same control scheme means game compatibility between the PSP Go and older PSPs is maintained. It remains to be seen whether the single stick's placement--closer to the center of the control deck rather than the outside right, where it sits on earlier PSPs--will be problematic for seasoned PSP gamers. That said, the Go control layout is more closely aligned to that of a traditional full-size PlayStation controller.

Despite early rumors, there is no touch screen on the PSP Go.

Wireless: In addition Wi-Fi support, the PSP Go adds Bluetooth capability to the Sony handheld platform for the first time. That should allow standard Bluetooth headsets (and, presumably, A2DP headphones and speakers) to pair with the PSP Go. In the leaked video, Sony rep John Koller also specifies the ability to tether the PSP Go to a Bluetooth-enabled cell phone. The advantage of that isn't highlighted, but that would potentially allow Web browsing and online gaming via a tethered phone with a 3G data connection (when Wi-Fi access wasn't available). Another possibility (though pure supposition) is that you could pair a PS3 controller (which is Bluetooth-enabled) to the PSP Go.

Games: At Sony's press conference, the company confirmed new PSP versions of many of its most popular franchises. Notable titles--many of which will be released in 2009--include Little Big Planet, Gran Turismo, Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker, Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier, MotorStorm Arctic Edge, and SOCOM Fire Team Bravo 3. The first Resident Evil game for the PSP is scheduled to appear next year as well.

PSP games will be available for download directly from the PlayStation Store over the console's Wi-Fi connection. In addition to direct download, Sony says that "all" new PSP games will continue to be available on UMD, too. We have to wonder how long that'll last, given the fact that the company seems to be embracing digital-only distribution on titles like Patapon 2. However, since older PSPs can also access and play download-only titles, the eventual death of UMD shouldn't make them obsolete.

Digital media support: The Go boasts the same support for music, video, and photo files as earlier PSPs, so you should have no trouble transferring gigabytes of media from a PC (or via the M2 flash media card). Downloadable movies and TV shows can be purchased directly from the PlayStation Store over Wi-Fi (no more need to use the PS3 or PC as an intermediary). Despite early rumors of a PSP-centric music store, Sony's instead opted for a partnership with eMusic. In other words, users can purchase DRM-free tracks from any online music store (Amazon, iTunes, eMusic, and so forth) and simply copy them over to the PSP.

Sony will be releasing software called Media Go to help users manage the PSP's content on their PC (this replaces the older, and not terribly useful, Sony Media Manager software). The company is also promising a feature called "Sense Me" that will analyze your music library to play music based on a mood you choose.

PS3 integration: Again, it appears the existing interoperability between the PS3 and the PSP line will be carried over to the PSP Go. That includes the ability to cross-load some games and media, as well as the Remote Play option (access PS3-based content from the PSP over the Internet).

Price and availability: The PSP Go will be available in North America on October 1 for $249. (The portable console will go on sale in Europe the same day for 249 euros, and availability in Japan will follow a month later.) The PSP 3000, currently $169, will stay on the market concurrently.

Unanswered questions: We're hoping to get more details on the PSP Go in the weeks and months ahead. Chief among our unanswered questions: does the Go support video out like the PSP 3000? How's the battery life? Does the screen have the same weird interlacing issues that bothered some on the PSP 3000?

Is it worth waiting for? That, of course, is the big question. The PSP Go isn't the PSP2, to be sure--it's more like the PSP 1.5. Like Nintendo's done with the DSi, Sony is extending (and, it hopes, revitalizing) a portable platform that's sold tens of millions of units worldwide. Considering that this is an evolutionary product--the only real appeal is the smaller form factor--the high price is certainly going to be a barrier for those who already own and enjoy the existing PSP.

On the other hand, owners of the older (and heavier) PSP 1000 and 2000 may find the PSP Go to be the upgrade they've been waiting for. But with the DSi and iPhone/iPod Touch competing for the time--and pockets--of casual gamers, the ultimate answer may again rest with the quality and desirability of the games. We'll be able to answer the question more definitively when we get some hands-on time with the PSP Go later this year.

Additional reading:
Sony's missed opportunity: How the PSP could have been the iPhone
Sony's Mylo killer: PSP2?
CNET hands-on review: Sony PSP 3000
E3 2009: complete coverage