PSPgo: New firmware, new connections

You can bin your old cables, it seems.

Sony's PSPgo is set to launch with a firmware upgrade featuring new options and tweakables. Expect a full video reveal in a forthcoming Eurogamer TV show, along with fuller hands-on, but in the meantime, check out this complete technical readout of the new, fully armed and operational PlayStation Portable.

The pre-release sample of the new hardware arrived with an unreleased firmware revision: 5.70. This may or may not be the system software that ships with the retail unit coming on 1st October, but either way it seems certain new firmware is part of the launch. Regardless, 5.70 does feature a number of changes over the current 5.51 operating system, albeit somewhat slight.

Not surprisingly, it's the Settings area of the XMB that gets the lion's share of the changes:

  • Network Update is now listed as System Update, but, curiously, has the same options.
  • Video Settings obviously doesn't have the first four UMD-related toggles.
  • System Settings now has a "Your Birth Date" option (second from top), and a "Display Panel Close Option" toggle, which allows you to set it to either "Standard" (goes to a clock graphic) or "Enter Sleep Mode". Also "Battery Information" seems to be gone, as do UMD-related options, but there's a "Format System Storage" option in addition to the usual Memory Stick format option.
  • Power Save Settings loses the "Backlight Auto-Adjust" option for some reason.
  • There's a new "Bluetooth Device Settings" entry, which consists of a toggle for switching Bluetooth on and off and a "Manage Bluetooth Devices" entry.

All other elements of the XMB are identical to the current 5.51 firmware, aside from a new "System Storage" folder similar to the "Memory Stick" one, which, as you might imagine, allows access to the PSPgo's internal flash storage. Hooking up the PSPgo to a Mac via USB, we find that the total available storage available to the user is 14.74GB, formatted in the FAT32 configuration (hence introducing a 4GB file-size limit - unlikely to be a concern to any PSP user). All this gives the PSPgo a marginal memory edge over a 16GB iPod Touch (mine comes in at 14.64GB total capacity).

We also measured file transfer times via USB, to the internal flash memory and also to the M2 memory card, using a 699MB file (715,647KB). The M2 transfer came in at 93 seconds, while the copy to the internal flash drive took 95 seconds, so effectively there's next to nothing in it.

What is intriguing is that Sony has opted out of using a conventional USB cable format on the new handheld. The PSPgo itself uses a wider, thinner connector for the console, terminating in the standard USB connector. So, similar to the iPhone and iPod Touch, it's proprietary cable time. It also appears as though Sony has moved away from the old AV port that debuted on the PSP-2000 - there's a common-or-garden 3.5mm stereo jack connection for headphones only, not the more traditional extended interface with its support for external remotes and the like.

Since the video output settings are still on the XMB, our guess is that Sony is indeed following Apple's lead by consolidating all connections into that new wider, thinner interface, which we strongly suspect will form the basis for an iPod-style dock. All very nice, but it once again emphasises that this is something of a clean break from the old PSP hardware - not only will your UMDs not work, but your component cables are now obsolete in the new order, as are your Memory Sticks: PSPgo uses the newer, smaller, M2 format as found in a number of the Sony Ericsson mobile phones.

In terms of other interesting information we picked up... well, we're going to assume that the final production PSPgo hardware won't allow you to flash the firmware with a system update designed for the older handhelds. Bizarrely, the sample apparently does, which resulted in a rather snazzy-looking brick once the PSPgo's previous trustees (who shall remain nameless) had finished with it - a side effect of which is that the rather intriguing-looking Gran Turismo demo included on the flash drive didn't work by the time the unit arrived in our possession, which - as you can imagine - we were really happy about...

On the plus side, the hard disk was loaded with a number of other demos, including office favourites WipEout Pulse and Ridge Racer 2, and we'll be commenting on how those feel on the new hardware, and doing our usual tour around and impressions of its exterior and how it works, in next week's hands-on and EGTV Show.

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