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Review: PlayStation Vita Hardware

Posted by Corbie Dillard

The good, the bad and the proprietary

When Sony's PSP successor was announced last year, it was met with a lot of excitement and anticipation. This fervour was readily apparent at last year's E3 trade show in Los Angeles with extremely lengthy lines to play the system at Sony's booth. While we were fortunate enough to get some hands-on time with the black beauty, it wasn't enough to come away with anything more than a vague feeling of what the machine was capable of.

After a brutal six month wait for the Japanese launch on 17th December, we grabbed ourselves an import PlayStation Vita system and a selection of games to go along with it. Having spent the past four weeks putting the system through its paces, we've gotten an opportunity to familiarise ourselves with the system and exactly what it can do.

Out of Box Experience

There aren't a lot of bells and whistles when it comes to the box contents. The system is the bulk of the package and will likely surprise most people with its sheer size: it's a beast, and substantially larger than the PSP. You'll also get the standard AC adapter and USB cable that serves as both the extension of the AC adapter that charges the system and the connection between the Vita and your computer. Mac owners are once again out of luck, as the content manager is required to even connect the system to the computer, let alone move content to and from the system, and this program is only available for the PC.

Last up is the documentation, which is mostly just a couple of quick-start sheets. This isn't too surprising since many companies are moving over to digital manuals nowadays: the English PS Vita manual is online now.

Nice Hardware

There's no two ways about it: PlayStation Vita is a sexy piece of hardware, a fact that's perfectly evident from the moment you remove it from its protective sleeve. While it closely resembles the PlayStation Portable in terms of form factor, it does have a much more rounded appearance to it that Sony's calling the Super Oval Design. Even with its added size, it still remains surprisingly light, something that makes extended playing sessions much easier on the hands.

If there's one aspect of the system that inspires awe, it's the system's 5" OLED screen — no games console has ever had such a clear and vibrant display. Even with the brightness turned all the way down, the screen's still easy to see. All the better to see the Vita's 960x544 high resolution output, meaning you'll get some absolutely striking visuals to behold. As impressive as the screen was on the original PSP, it pales in comparison to Vita's.

Another new addition to the Vita comes in the front and rear cameras. Not only can you use these cameras to snap photos, but they're also quite effective when used by the various augmented reality games. Having played around with the cameras on the DSi and 3DS systems, we were quite impressed with the step up in quality of the Vita cameras.

As far as ports go, there's a port on the bottom of the system that's used for connecting it to the AC adapter and the USB port of your PC. The cartridge port is on top of the unit and features a flush cover that can be rather tricky to get open, especially for those with very short fingernails. The memory card port is on the bottom of the system and features a nice little ridge that makes gaining access to it much easier than the cartridge port. If you thought the Vita cartridges were small, wait until you get a load of the microscopic proprietary memory cards.

Control Freak

When it comes to controls, there's a lot to like with the Vita. For starters, the D-Pad has received a major overhaul and now has a much more indented curvature to it that not only makes it more comfortable on the thumb, but also far more responsive. Fighting game fans will be especially pleased as executing the rolling directional movements required to pull off special moves is extremely smooth now. Sony has also finally answered the pleas of PSP owners by adding not only a second analogue stick, but this time choosing to go with a more traditional tilting-style stick. It doesn't take long to realise what a great decision this was once you start putting a few games like Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Gravity Rush to the test using these sticks. Even with their shorter tilt range, they feel so much more comfortable and responsive than the PSP's nub.

Two more brand new control features on the Vita revolve around touch controls. The 5" OLED screen serves as a touch screen and exudes a solid level of responsiveness, even allowing for some very pinpoint touching. It takes a little getting used to having to navigate the Vita menu exclusively using the touch screen, but once you get a grip on it, it proves to be quite efficient. The system also features a touch pad on the back of the system that's every bit as responsive as that of the front touch screen. This inclusion is probably the one new feature that will take people the longest to come to grips with, but once you get a taste of how developers are making use of it, you'll begin to understand the potential it brings to the table.

As large as the Vita itself is, it's worth pointing out that the analogue sticks are rather close to the D-Pad and action buttons. While it should feel good for gamers with smaller hands, it might not be as functional for gamers with larger mitts. The same thing can be said of the rear touch pad as it takes up quite a bit of rear real estate, leaving your fingers no place to go but the small rubber indentions on each side. Much like other facets of the system, it's more about finding what method of holding the unit works for you and sticking with it. In truth, it's a small price to pay for what amounts to a wealth of control options that developers will hopefully fully exploit during the system's lifespan.

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User Comments (35)

Magi

#1

Magi said:

Great review Corbie. Between playing the Kingdoms of Amalur demo last night and waking up to read this review, I fear I may have had TOO much awesome in the past 8 hours!

Karakato

#2

Karakato said:

Thank you for sharing that Corbs, great to hear that you're enjoying the system. I will no doubt get one but I'll have to wait until mid year before anything else. And that launch window release looks impressive hopefully I wont get tempted.

WaLzgiStaff

#4

WaLzgi said:

After the fiasco with my PS3, I dunno if I'll ever be interested in the Vita. I couldn't afford 2 handhelds time and moneywise anyway :P Ah well, enjoy the good times Vita owners :)

Kirowan

#5

Kirowan said:

Thanks for the comparison pictures - gives me an idea of how much of a beast it will be.

Magi

#6

Magi said:

Just stopped by GameStop over my lunch break. They had a Vita display with several games included. If the game display cases are size-acurate, then they seem to be very small. (which is probably an eco-good thing!)

turtlelink

#7

turtlelink said:

Awesome review, Corbie. Did you try out the remote play feature? Looks like a cool idea.

Oh yea, and this is a day one purchase for me! :D

Bacon_Gal_Blaze

#9

Bacon_Gal_Blaze said:

Great review Corbie. Probably gonna put in my preorder soon. I honestly think the system is amazing, as well as the brilliant launch lineup. If it wasn't for those hugely overpriced memory cards I'd have put in my preorder months ago. From what you've wrote it just makes me even more desperate to get my hands on it come launch! :-)

cyphid

#12

cyphid said:

@Gambitttt yeah it could be a good year until a price drop, especially if it is successful in the market.

Speaking of pricing, I'm glad Nintendo dropped the price of their 3DS!

Rambo-Hamster

#13

Rambo-Hamster said:

What I liked best about the review is that there wasn't a score arbitrarily attached to the text. I wish all reviews were text only, just so that people understand the level of subjectivity in a review.

Great review that hits all the major points and most of the minor ones. This is a great example of a review that's meant to inform and not persuade, like all reviews should be.

DrCruse

#15

DrCruse said:

Great review! I'm pretty hyped, but I'm also ticked off that I'll have to spend 50+ dollars to get a decent sized amount of storage. Why couldn't they just include 4 or 8 gigabyte memory card with the console?

Azikira

#16

Azikira said:

@15: I agree, I mean the store I ordered my Vita from will most likely not even have the memory cards so I will have to hunt all over town to be able to play anything.

CanisWolfred

#18

CanisWolfred said:

You guys should do that more often. I honestly was just gonna read a score (it's late), but when I saw there wasn't one, I decided to read it all anyways. Glad I did, it was a good read.

Wesker

#19

Wesker said:

Excellant work there Corbie!

The only real downer is the issue with memory cards. One could easily walk out of a store with a Vita plus Uncharted combo, get home unpack everything and find that it won't even boot up without a memory card. That sucks, and it suprises me Sony is going down that route, especially as you get a 2 GB SD card in a 3DS as standard; much more customer friendly.

GTWarrior77

#20

GTWarrior77 said:

Nice review. I'm not surprised with Sony's proprietary memory card at all.

Sony has a history with consumers needing to use proprietary accessories with their devices. Just look at their consumer video cameras. Where other brands of consumer video cameras come with a universal shoe mount (for mics, lights, etc), Sony has a proprietary shoe mount, forcing you to buy their accessories. This is a blatant attempt from Sony to force people to buy their accessories and I can see why people get annoyed by it.

I personally find it lousy that Sony did not include a memory card in the box, especially when certain games require it for booting up.

Anyways, rant over. I am looking forward to the release of the Vita and I think it's going to do well. This will co-exist quite nicely with my 3DS.

cyphid

#21

cyphid said:

Yeah I'm kinda bummed about the memory card idea but I bet some third party may make an adapter to allow micro sd cards.

One thing I wonder about is the reason for a new memory format; maybe the new cards have a faster transfer rate?

Rambo-Hamster

#22

Rambo-Hamster said:

@slapshot, aha okay that makes more sense then. But I'm still fine with games having scores because they're more short-term compared to a console. Games are more of a snapshot of that developer's mindset and direction whereas consoles are much, much more evolutionary and thusly cannot be scored as easily, if at all.

While personally I would never assign a numerical score to a game, I do see the appeal and necessity in the industry to do so. I tend to ignore the numbers because I'm horrendously picky with my games. So, I drink up as much text about the games I'm interested in and don't put huge amounts of weight into the numbers.

Knux

#23

Knux said:

Awesome review, Corbs! I can't wait to play this sexy handheld next month! :D

Dynetheous

#26

Dynetheous said:

lol, vita camera is alot better than the 3ds camera.. just google it. vita has 1.3 mega pixels and and the 3ds only has .3 mega pixels....so yeah

CorbsAdmin

#27

Corbs said:

Oh yea, the Vita cameras are far better than those on the 3DS. It's not even close really. :D

stromboli

#28

stromboli said:

Actually both cameras have exactly the same resolution (0.3 MEGA PIXELS or VGA), and in terms of colors etc, the comparisons made show that the 3DS cameras are actually much better lol, so I'm sure the above comments were just jokes.
http://gonintendo.com/?mode=viewstory&id=169522

Anyway, nice review, except for that strange car comment. 3D graphics tramp the standard OLED that all new cellphones have surpassed anyway. So the Ferrari for me would be the one that shows the amazing 3D graphics that the 3DS does :) My Google Nexus has a much higher resolution that the Vita.

CorbsAdmin

#29

Corbs said:

In all seriousness, both cameras are very similar as far as image quality goes. I've done some side-by-side tests, and it's so close, it's tough to tell which one is better. To me, the Vita camera produces a much more focused image and functions better in lower light conditions, whereas the 3DS image seems to have slightly more vibrant colors, but needs better lighting.

The "step up" that I spoke of mainly revolves around the test I did between the 3DS augmented reality games and Little Deviants on the Vita. And that camera difference is fairly significant with the backgrounds produced by the Vita camera being extremely impressive.

As for the Ferrari comment, that was made in comparison to both handhelds, not a $600 or $700 smartphone that features no physical buttons or analog sticks. :D

stromboli

#30

stromboli said:

Yeah, I realized you were talking about AR. My comments referred to the above which suggested that Vita had a 1.3 megapixel camera and 3DS had a 0.3. That's not true, it's a myth that someone promulgated, perhaps it was the plan. But you can see in the Vita site that it's 0.3 MP. It's exactly the same resolutions. And there are many comparisons in Youtube and other sites showing that the 3DS' camera might be superior. But it's a personal taste of course.

I saw Vita's screen at the store. I don't know why you would think that. What I was saying is that the screens of new cellphones, and with plans, they actually cost $200 or even less, are much better. The resolution of new cellphones is 720p and if you check some of these huge Samsung and Google screens, it's almost as big as the Vita.

So in terms of awe, that doesn't really do it to me. It's been there done that. What I felt when seeing the 3D first time in 3DS though was utterly amazing. So yeah the comparison isn't fair. Vita is a Ferrari, but 3DS is an Apache or an F-15 then. :D

CorbsAdmin

#31

Corbs said:

I love my 3DS and Vita both equally, but to me the Vita is a far more advanced piece of gaming technology, really from top to bottom. It's far more capable in the processing department, has a much larger and more vibrant screen, and has two tilting analog sticks, not a bulky plastic add-on. :D

That being said, the 3D display and the Nintendo franchises are enough to keep me coming back to the 3DS, and judging from the upcoming 3DS titles, it's an exciting time to be a 3DS owner. :D

But ultimately, it's going to depend on what games you want to play and what type of portable gaming experience you're looking for as to which system will appeal to you.

SilentJ

#32

SilentJ said:

Sounds freakin' awesome, Corbie! I seriously can't wait to get my hands on the Vita!

stromboli

#33

stromboli said:

@Corbs - right, sounds reasonable. Many people would feel the same about other Nintendo consoles and possibly Sony consoles. To me the proceesing department means little, because just like with consoles, they stay for a long run and become "outdated" quite quickly. Again, tablets/phones might not have buttons (although solutions are available) but if it was just power, they would win. It's the games that matter or the special experience (3D for me). So I don't consider a non 3D device more advanced, but that's just my opinion. Keep in mind I don't see why it matters if the add-on is bulky or not - it still provided dual analogue capability, a capability I am tempted to buy for the 3DS just for complete feeling, but I don't like playing dual analogue to begin with....

DrCruse

#34

DrCruse said:

I think I'll hold off buying one until they decide to include a memory card with the console.

Drewroxsox

#35

Drewroxsox said:

I personally prefer nintendo to Sony, but I'm not gonna lie, the Psvita looks very good, but I don't see third party developers using the rear touch screen very much. I would buy this system , but nintendo stole my wallet, so I will get this maybe next year. ( gotta get nintendo's new console first )

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