£200 device with games priced at £40 - sounds crazy in today's world where, like it or not, gaming
is moving toward a more casual market. And in this economy too, Sony have taken quite the gamble. I
decided to take the risk with the Playstation Vita (Wi-Fi only model though, what with the economy and
all) and am happy to say i believe i made the right decision. I hope my review can help you make
the right one as well...
= HARDWARE =
Firstly the battery life surprised me, consdering the rumors of horrific life, and the doubts i had after
reading the Vita's spec sheet, the battery life is good consdering the amount of pressure the system is
under, especially when gaming. With brightness at 50% and with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enabled, the Vita
lasted for around 4 hours when gaming and messing around with it. A full on gaming marathon of the most
demanding game currently available (Uncharted Golden Abyss) lasted for a respectable 3 hours and 30
minutes - enough to cover most journeys without the need for a recharge. Pumping up the screen brightness,
and disabling Bluetooth and Wi-Fi will no doubt have a big impact on the battery life. Recharging the battery
from 0% to 100% takes 2 hours and 30 minutes, this is mainly to do with the size of the battery itself.
The PS Vita is armed with a quad-core processor and GPU - both of which are needed to drive it's gorgeous
5" Super AMOLED touchscreen which has a resolution of 960 x 544. It's a great display, with accurate color
reproduction, good viewing angles, vibrant colours and deep blacks which sometimes blur the line between
screen and bezel. It's not as sharp as some of the mobile phone displays out there but it has a respectable
220ppi, the iPhone Retina display is 326ppi and the Galaxy Nexus' 316ppi. It's not a big deal however and
cannot take away from how gorgeous the screen looks when playing games, its truly amazing.
Along with the familiar Playstation buttons and analog stick is a newcomer - the second analog stick.
The Vita is the closest thing to a home console like experience while on the move, something which no other
handheld device has accomplished. There are no more genre restrictions, shooters and adventure games will
work just as well on the Vita now that there are two analog sticks available for controlling. Like the
analog sticks the buttons are good quality too and have a nice and responsive clicky feel to them. The
shoulder buttons are smooth and the D-Pad is nice and accurate. Coupled with how comfortable the Vita is
to hold, how solid and high quality it feels due to its weight, playing games on this thing is a treat.
The rear touch pad is new and works well enough, its the same size as the screen and allows for controlling
whilst keeping your main fingers free. The two built in cameras in the front and back are of average
quality, both capturing images at VGA 640x480 resolution as well as recording video. The stereo speakers and
microphone are surprisingly good quality. The Vita also has built in 3 axis gyorscope, accelerometer, electronic
compass, GPS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and maybe even 3G. It's a beast of a machine and although it's gonna be a tight
fit in your jean pocket, it's still a fairly light and portable handheld device. Put simply, the PS Vita gets
it all right on the hardware front packing some impressive tech into a small-ish and affordable device.
= SOFTWARE =
The Vita has a touchscreen operating system similar to iOS and Android, the PS3's XMB interface is no more.
The home screen is made up of bubble icons and navigation is fairly simple. The whole OS is designed for
touchscreen use, the physical buttons take a backseat which is fine but you also miss out on things like
skipping through music with the shoulder buttons and scrolling through a website with the analog stick.
The OS has a touchscreen keyboard which is pretty standard, but due to how wide the Vita's screen is you
will need to stretch your fingers a bit to get to the middle letters, it's not ideal for typing super quick.
Like everything nowadays the Vita has apps with more available to download from the PSN Store. The main ones
which come preinstalled are Party, Group Messaging, and Friends. Party gives you cross-game voice and text
chat functionality for the first time on PlayStation Network for up to 8 players. It also links you to their
game. Group Messaging is a 4 person chat app which allows you to send photos. Friends is a simple friends list
for viewing profiles, trophy information and your PSN friends' own friends lists. The Music and Video player
apps are simple but only support basic formats like MP3, MP4 and WAV while the video player only accepts MP4
files. Social apps for things like Facebook, Foursquare, Skype and Twitter will also be available soon if not
already. Finally, the Vita also has a good web browser which looks good on its big screen. It has standard
smartphone features like pinch-to-zoom but is lacking things like Flash and HTML5 for video. It's a decent
browser and almost as snappy as ones found on smartphones. The "Near" feature is a way to find and interact with
other gamers on the go, i haven't used it at all yet because hardly anybody has the PS Vita yet.
= GAMES =
The stuff which will make or break this thing are it's games, and i'm glad to say that the launch lineup isn't
bad, and whats scheduled looks even better. There are around 25 games available from launch day and i've found
that my favouites were Gravity Rush, WipEout 2048, Virtua Tennis 4 and of course Uncharted: Golden Abyss. The
Vita won't suffer the same fate as previous PSP's, there is and will be plenty of quality games available for it.
Because there is no built in memory on the Vita you'll need to buy seperate PS Vita Memory Cards which come in
4GB, 8GB and 16GB flavours and are needed for storing saves, updates, patches etc as well as your own media. If
your going to be buying and downloading your Vita games straight from the PSN Store then you'll need the space the
memory cards offer to actually store those games too. But Vita games will also be sold through retail with boxed
copies, these come on the new Vita memory card format and can be also used to save your games onto.
The Vita is also backwards-compatible with most PSP games you purchased from the PSN Store. PSP games are upscaled
to four times their resolution on the Vita's screen but they look OK. Sony is working on some UMD passport program
which will allow you to register your old PSP UMD games and downoad them for the Vita at a reduced price.... hooray.
= CONS =
1) The Vita is tied to one PSN ID, you can't share the Vita or browse other region's PSN stores or manage your other
PSN accounts. Once you sign into your PSN account thats it, to change accounts you'll need to reformat the memory.
So although the Vita is region free, DLC and downloaded games will only work when the account they were purchased
on is active. Because there can only be one active PSN ID at a time, you'll need to reformat your card to switch.
2) Expensive proprietary memory which Sony created (again) just for the Vita. If your going to be downloading all
your games then storage will be an issue, i think Uncharted Golden Abyss uses around 3GB of memory which is huge
consdering the maximum memory card available is only 16GB and its pricey as well. The cards are also tiny, easy to lose
and when you need to switch them out its very fiddly. It's too late to change now but they need to price them better.
3) Media management is poor. You can't just drag and drop files from your PC or PS3 to the PS Vita, you have to use the
content management app which is a chore.
4) One of the Vita's cool features is being able to play PS3 and PSN games remotely, but remote play is not working yet
at all. So right now you cant stream Killzone 3 to your Vita - another problem which should be fixed with a firmware update.
5) Expensive Games. The RRP of the heavy hitters like Uncharted Golden Abyss is £45 - thats more than what PS3 games launch
for. Even the smaller Vita titles are asking around £35. Obviously good retailers like Amazon will sell them for around £40
or £30 but still, for a portable game that is asking too much. Vita titles need to launch for £20-£25 maximum in my opinion.
= VERDICT =
Most of the cons above can be remedied with firmware updates and price drops which is great. Apart from that the Vita shines bright.
It's easily the best handheld gaming device available today with powerful tech behind it, great controls and a gorgeous touchscreen.
Most importantly it's competitively priced at launch for what it can offer. Sony has gone all out and created a new mobile gaming
platform which it intends to back 100% - you can just tell by looking at the games available now and also scheduled for release.
The PlayStation Vita is the best handheld ever made and offers an experience which the DS, 3DS, iPhone nor iPad can match. Once the
firmware updates start rolling in to iron out the minor things the Vita will keep on improving. Hopefully prices will get better for
the device itself as well as the games and memory so the Vita has a chance at being widely adopted. Great device - well done Sony.