We go hands on with the PS Vita!
A couple of weeks ago I picked up a PS Vita, as those of you who listen to our Podcast may be aware, and now it’s time for my hands-on review of Sony’s Next Generation Handheld Console. Having been an owner of the original Slim PSP, I must say that everything did feel quite familiar, even though it’s been updated in a big way.
This unit is slightly larger than both of the previous generation handhelds from Sony in physical dimensions as well as weight. They make use of that extra space by packing in an Arm Cortex A9 processor (Quad Core, however only 3 of the 4 will be available for applications, reportedly) as well as many other features, Bluetooth, WIFI, and a beautiful OLED screen. The approximate dimensions are 182.0 x 18.6 x 83.5mm (width x height x depth) and the device weighs in at 260 grams. When picking up the Vita, you’ll feel two grooves for your fingers to rest in, which may take a little getting used to, and calling it a pocket gaming system would only be technically accurate as it takes up an entire pocket on my baggiest jeans, with the largest pockets, making it a little bulky to carry around.
The 5 inch, OLED display bring you full 16:9 format visuals and supports multi-touch gestures. These factors make for a stunning display that uses a resolution of 960×544 and can display up to 16 million colors. Everything from the OS, to games, to videos displays in a crisp and clear fashion which will not disappoint.
The Vita comes with both front and rear facing cameras which don’t quite pack the punch I expected, with a max resolution of 640×480 on both the front and rear facing cameras the picture quality is grainy at times and inferior to most current tablets and cell phones that are out there. This is even more evident when using the Augmented Reality feature. The unit is shipped with 6 flash cards that will display a graphic in place of the card wherever it is in the environment (if it can read it). Unfortunately the camera performs poorly in low light situations so it limits the venues in which these types of games can be played.
Sony has not abandoned its signature control scheme so you will see the familiar X, Circle, Square, and Triangle buttons with dual analog joysticks on either side of the screen and a D pad in the top left corner. Along with the standard PlayStation controls, the device also includes a Six Axis motion sensor, a full touch screen display (as I mentioned earlier), as well as a touch sensitive back panel. The introduction of the back panel touch screen is a fresh idea that has been implemented well across most of the games and applications it supports, that I’ve played.
Unlike its predecessors, the Vita uses a new proprietary memory card format, the ‘PlayStation Vita Memory Card’. This card is required for you to use your PlayStation Vita and the issue I have with this is two-fold. The first is that it’s expensive. On average a 32GB PlayStation Vita Memory Card will run you 99$, when you can get a 32GB standard Class 10 SD card for 30$. This is an unnecessary expense when cheaper alternatives are available. The other issue I have with the storage scheme is that you can only have 1 PSN account configured per memory card. I think most parents can see where I’m going with this, if you have 1 Vita and 2 kids, they both can’t log in using the same proprietary memory card which, I feel, is an unnecessary expense.
When it comes to the methods of game distribution Sony has gone back supporting physical media, only they thankfully have gone away from the UMD in favor of locked PlayStation Vita Cards, slightly smaller in dimension than an SD card. This is a nice improvement over the size of the bulky UMD disks that were required on the previous PSP models. Of course Games, Demos, TV Shows, Movies, Apps, and more are all available via the PS Store directly from the device.
Here’s one of the topics I’d rather not talk about. If you’ve ever played with a PSP, and used the Internet browser, then unfortunately you’ll be well acquainted with the Vita browser. The slow to render, bulky to use browser hasn’t seen many improvements and it falls very short of acceptable as far as a mobile device web browsing experience is concerned. The only saving grace would be how nice it is to browse for Apps, Games, Movies and TV Shows through the PlayStation store and the fact that there are already separate apps for Facebook, Twitter, flickr, NetFlix, Skype, and foursquare.
If you’ve seen a commercial for the Vita, it’s undoubtedly featured the PlayStation Crossplay feature which allows you to continue playing a PS3 game while you’re on the go with your PS Vita. At the time of writing this article only 3 titles support PS3 cross play. Hustle Kings, MLB 12 The Show, and Wipeout 2048, and I didn’t have a chance to check out any of these game and I hope to see many more titles that support this feature in the near future.
In the newest iteration of its handheld Sony has really taken portable gaming to a new level. Introducing touchscreen controls on both the front and back of the device is a refreshing new touch. Even considering the expensive proprietary memory format and the terrible web browser that was included this device really nails it where it counts. Games.