The PSP Slim and Lite is the redesigned version of the popular Sony PlayStation Portable handheld.
The first thing that you notice when you slide the new PSP out of its slender 23(L) x 12.5(H) x 8(D) cm box is that it feels too light – is something missing? Even when you’ve inserted the new 1200mAh battery (30g compared with the original’s 44g 1800mAh model) – at this point may notice the battery cover open quite easily. However, it’s also musch thinner and more brittle – for an overall weight of 190g (compared with 280g), the handheld console feels disconcertingly insubstantial.
The sense of unfamiliarity continues once you boot it up. It’s nothing to do with the starting sequence, nor the front-end, both of which obviously remain identical (for those that may want to know, Slim & Lite comes with firmware v3.60 installed), but the new flat back is instantly noticeable. As is its enamel-like finish, which in a sense further contributes to the overwhelming cheap plastic feel (as well as showing up fingerprints with remarkable ease – the Ice White model can’t come soon enough).
Give it five minutes, though, and the most wonderful transformation occurs. Because far from feeling too light, too flat, too thin, Slim & Lite suddenly becomes the PSP you’ve always wanted.
Well, within reason, obviously – there’s still no second analogue nub, for a start. The point is, almost immediately the old model feels absurdly heavy and cumbersome, while its successor emerges as fresh and decidedly modern. The difference on paper may seem insignificant, but in the hand the contrast is striking.
In play, the improvements continue. The lower profiled face buttons are noticeable, though not as much as the alterations to the D-pad, which now boasts less travel and resistance, making it a considerably more comfortable proposition during prolonged play. The differentiation with regards to the analogue nub, meanwhile, is less pronounced but again the level of resistance appears to have been reduced, resulting in a perceived increase in smoothness and accuracy – although we’ll reserve final judgement on this particular aspect until we’ve tried out a wider range of titles.
One area more directly assessed concerns the other changes to the design. So, for instance, the UMD tray is now a far simpler affair, opening manually (rather than spring-assisted, as previously) but considerably wider, too. The first time it’s used it will feel a little odd, mainly because the UMD now sits loose against the tray until it is closed, but you soon appreciate the relatively more immediate, less fiddly nature of the new approach.
Similarly, the repositioned WLAN switch now feels more at home along the top edge of the unit, while the speakers appear to deliver better stereo imaging in their revised location.
Which leaves us with one obvious area of interest: the effect of the UMD cache on loading times. We’ll be honest in revealing that we’ve had little opportunity to try out more than a couple of games, but we did notice a two-second reduction in the return to menu screen after finishing a Sega Rally race. Okay, it’s a bit of a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it improvement but it could be related to the game.
Indeed, we’ve seen video evidence online confirming a massive improvement in the in-game transitions of some titles is possible. If the difference in the loading speed of Crisis Core – Final Fantasy VII, for instance, is indicative of what we should expect of future PSP titles, we’d have little issue with arguing that alone is enough to justify the purchase of Slim & Lite.
As it is, there are other reasons, too. More intelligent design and better, more responsive in-game control are two but it’s the overall improved feel – an element inherently difficult to quantify – that has us convinced. True, it’s nowhere near as radical an overhaul as Nintendo performed on the DS, but then you could argue the PSP was already a generation or two further along the handheld evolutionary line than DS Lite’s predecessor.
Nevertheless, we can appreciate current PSP owners will be thinking long and hard about whether the Slim & Lite model offers enough to warrant the upgrade when, at a glimpse, little appears to have altered. And, clearly, we can’t tell you what to do.
But if your head is having trouble justifying the purchase, and if it helps, we can at least say this: Don’t try the PSP Slim & Lite. Because the moment you do, you won’t want to go back to the old model.