The PlayStation 3 has had a tummy tuck and been on a diet. Releasing on 3rd September, the new "Slim" model is half the thickness and a substantial 1.7 kg lighter than the previous model. It also sports a sizable 120 GB hard drive, and a very welcome price cut to $629 RRP (and can be found on sale for as little as $589).
In fact, price cutting seems to have been the primary motivation for the new model. The PS3 Slim is cheaper to make, and it shows - the old "phat" PS3's familiar piano black gloss finish and chrome bling have been replaced with a subdued slab of matte black plastic, which we were a little disappointed by. On the plus side, though, the matte finish is much more practical - dust and finger marks are no longer an issue.
Internally, the Slim sports an updated Cell Broadband Engine CPU manufactured using a 45-nanometre process (compared with the previous model's 65-nm and the original launch model's 90-nm Cell), which helps the new console to run cooler and consume 34% less power - so it's better for the planet and your electricity bill, too.
With the Xbox 360 Elite dropping in price to $499 later in September, Sony will still have the most expensive console in the NZ market - but with Blu-Ray, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth all built in, the PS3 Slim arguably represents as good if not better value than its competitors. Overall, we think the Slim is just what the doctor ordered.
The PSP has also been on a calorie counting course, with Sony announcing a new model - titled the PSPgo - at E3 this year. Putting the "portable" back in "PlayStation Portable", the PSPgo will get a much more attractive form-factor than its older sibling, the PSP-3000. The PSP was never as truly portable as it perhaps should have been - it was far too big to put in your pocket, and if you wanted to play more than one game you'd need a backpack to lug it and your UMD library around with you.
The PSPgo will change this situation entirely. On paper the dimensions might not sound a lot smaller, but when you pick one up and hold it in your hand you quickly realise that it's a much better scale now (it's about the same size as an iPhone, albeit a little thicker). With the bulky UMD drive mechanism eliminated completely, it's much lighter, too. This is a device that you can quite comfortably stuff in your pocket and carry anywhere.
The display slides upward to reveal the primary control buttons, while supplementary functions like volume and home buttons have been moved from the face onto the sides of the unit, simplifying things somewhat.
The biggest news is that with no UMD drive the PSPgo will be completely reliant on downloading content from the internet via PlayStation Store. Full games will still be released on UMD as well (as the PSP-3000 will continue to be sold alongside the PSPgo), but will simultaneously be available to download digitally. Games may take a while to download though - a UMD can hold up to 1.8 GB of data.
Sony has announced there will also be something called "MiniS", which will be smaller, casual games with a maximum size of 100 MB so they are fast to download, will cost less and be easier to develop - a nod to the success of Apple's iPhone App Store. At launch there will be 15 MiniS available ranging from Sudoku to Solitaire, with many more on the way. PSPgo owners can either download content direct to the device over a Wi-Fi network, or download to a PS3 or a PC and sync the PSPgo with USB. The PSPgo has 16GB of internal memory, which can be expanded with M2 memory cards.
Unfortunately, PSPgo's biggest stumbling block may be its price. An NZ RRP hasn't been confirmed yet, but it will be €249 in Europe, so we're guessing it could be between $450-500 here. That will put it well above the PSP-3000's $329 (for which you arguably get more PSP, with a larger screen and UMD support), and will allow Nintendo to undercut it with the DSi's existing $399 price tag. Sony has a secret weapon though - it will be giving PSPgo buyers a voucher to download Gran Turismo PSP (which releases on the same day as the PSPgo) completely free. The Gran Turismo series has proven before that it has the power to sell platforms, so Sony will no doubt be hoping it will work its magic on their handheld.