[Hardware Review] PSP Slim and Light (PSP-2000)

Sony's newer PSP model breathes new life into their little wunderportable.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: March 16, 2008
When Sony first announced the PlayStation Portable, it sent ripples through the industry never before seen in the handheld space. Finally, it seemed, Nintendo had a worthy opponent in an area where they'd never been seriously challenged before. In light of the PlayStation 2's complete domination of the then-current generation, speculation as to just how strong the PSP was going to be ran rampant, and when put up against Nintendo's DS, the raw numbers had many believing Sony would end up taking the majority of the handheld space too.

The truth as we know it now is that Nintendo's cautious approach to hardware and push to deliver a different kind of experience got people to bite more than raw hardware horsepower, but the PSP has enjoyed a level of success that most home consoles haven't seen -- including the other three consoles that challenged the PS2. The runaway success of the DS should be no means be seen as a knock against the PSP, but rather an opening up of the market to allow, finally, for two contenders.

The PSP has plenty going for it too, not only in terms of the games it offers (some of which offer an honest-to-goodness console-level experience on the go), but in what the hardware brings to the party. Sony's attempt to create a new proprietary standard in the Universal Media Disc may have gone the way of ATRAC, Betamax, Memory Sticks and Mini-Disc players (read: relatively successful, yes, but by no means the kind of gold standard that Blu-ray seems to have taken with hi-def video discs), but the PSP also exhibits a keen sense of timing in just how open the rest of the non-disc offerings are.

As we'll detail in our parallel coverage of how the PSP has matured since launch -- in many respects paving the way for the PS3's firmware updates -- Sony's little portable is not the same machine that launched a few years ago. It's laundry list of formats, from internet radio to WMA, MP3, AAC and, yes, ATRAC audio, visualizations, RSS feeds and podcasts are all a marked departure from the music and video that was originally going to ship on disc. The problem was that the PSP, as sexy as the form factor and gorgeous little screen are, was still starting to feel a little bulky next to svelte players like the iPod.

The solution was to change only what needed fixing, and Sony managed to shave off a third of the weight and a fifth of the thickness. Internally, things changed a little too; the internal memory was bumped up, allowing for UMD data to be cached at the expense of some battery life, which helps speed up loading time on some games, and the pop-out UMD caddy that had echoes of Mini-Disc players got the PS two treatment and became a manual eject door where UMDs now just rest instead of clicking into place. The face buttons, d-pad and analog nub all got a little springier, more precise and offered more travel, respectively.

Otherwise, though, the thing is the same PSP you've come to know and love -- no new second analog nub, no crazy new screen... just about everything is the same, though the quality of the plastic seems a little cheaper (it's a gossy plastic rather than Lucite on matte plastic) and the locations of things like the memory stick slot and Wi-Fi on/off switch have been moved up and on top of the PSP, respectively, while the back of the unit is now flat rather than being rounded off on either side. Also, the previously down-firing speakers now straddle the screen and kick out audio directly at the user, a welcome (if subtle) change that always confused me with the older model.

While the difference in load times with the new buffer didn't really wow me, the weight and feel of the new unit were night and day. The first dozen or so times I picked the thing up, it honestly felt like something was missing, but much like the SIXAXIS controllers, the decrease in weight was absolutely welcome after the initial shock wore off.

There is one other little thing the new "Slim and Light" PSP offers over ol' bricky: Skype. The very same service used on PCs can be downloaded and used for free just as you would on a PC. You'll want to pick up the new headset and headphones (which, like the regular headphones and earbuds only work with the new PSP -- the old ones won't work on the new system and vice-versa), but connecting to other users is of course free and if you want to make calls to a landline or cell phone, it's done fairly easily (though you'll need Skype Credit). It's not quite the offering that Euro users have with their whole cell phone/IM/video chat uberapp, but it's certainly worth the entry price.

Despite not quite feeling like the expensive bit of kit that the original PSP was, the new weight and overall feel of the Slim and Light is a marked improvement, and the small little tweaks that were made all over the place are not only welcome, but invaluable once you get used to all of them. For those wondering if they should ditch their old model and go for the fancy schmancy new one, the answer is an unequivocal yes; there are a couple different options, including bundles and special editions with silk-screened faces on the back, but honestly any model is an improvement over the old one, and once you go Slim 'n Light, there's no going back.

The Verdict: Buy It!