In keeping with its plan to extend the lifespan of the PlayStation 2 to 10 years and stimulate sales for a console facing increased competition from Microsoft's Xbox, Sony is shipping a trimmed-down PS2 that's half the size and weight of the original and has built-in network connectivity.
It's a similar strategy to what Sony did with the PSOne, a smaller, more transportable version of the original first-generation PlayStation. In an unusual move, Australian consumers will be amongst the first to be able to buy the 'new' PS2, as it goes on sale on October 29th here, several days before its US, Japanese and European launch. At the time of writing, Sony Australia had yet to announce concrete pricing for the new unit, although if it follows the announced lead of its US and Japanese counterparts, you can expect the new unit to be priced essentially identical to the existing PS2 system.
Upside: If you're used to toting around your PS2, having a svelte unit that weighs only 900 grams and measures in at a titchy 230mm (W) x 28mm (H) x 152mm (D) will make you happy. Sony Australia estimates that it's sold more than one million PS2 units in the Australian market, so having a unit that's visually so different could make it something of a talking point, as well.
The integration of network connectors into the new unit is also a nice touch, and pretty much the only real technical difference between the new unit and existing PS2 models. Like the original, the new PS2 is also a DVD player that plays recordable CD and DVD discs without your having to buy an additional accessory, though you'll want to pick up a remote.
Downside: Though the new PS2 can be stacked vertically, you'll have to buy a separate stand if you want it to stand on end (and sorry, the old stand isn't compatible). Also, like the original PS2, this model has only two controller ports, so you'll need a Multi-tap accessory to allow up to four players; again, the original Multi-tap accessory isn't compatible.
Outlook: Yes, the PS2 remains less powerful than the Xbox and the GameCube, but the slimmer design will appeal to those who already have large PS2 game collections and want to upgrade or add a second system. Not coincidentally, the new PS2 is being released right around the same time Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas hits stores. The combo should find its way under many a tree this holiday season.