What's In the Box
Whichever console you choose, you'll get the same contents in the box. Let's see what's included when you break open the seal.
- PS Vita 3G/WiFi console
- AC adaptor
- AC power cord
- Quick Start Guide
- Health and Safety Guide
Sony has done away with the Cross-Media Bar (XMB) for PS Vita, opting instead for an icon-based touch experience for navigating the system.
LiveArea will be integrated into almost each and every PS Vita function, and serves as a launch pad for your games and apps. It presents relevant information and features about the application you are running, which varies depending on which game or app you are running. You can have multiple LiveArea screens open at once, switching between them by swiping the touch screen left and right. You can also hit the PS Button to view all open LiveArea screens.
Near allows you to discover other PS Vita players within about a ten mile radius of your location, and connect with them in a variety of ways. You can see what games your friends and others are playing, recommend and share info about games, trade in-game items and challenge others to online matches. Near is free and is included in both PS Vita model (3G and WiFi). If you prefer not to share information, you can simply disable the feature, or set certain zones as private.
Party is your hub for creating groups and launching text and voice chat. You can join an existing party or start your own, which makes you the “Party leader.” As the Party leader, you can kick other users out and invite others in. You can also adjust your settings so that friends-of-friends can freely join, or restrict that privilege to your direct friends only.
A pack-in mini-game compilation that serves to introduce you to the handheld's unique features and controls schemes. These games let you turn photos into touch-controlled puzzles, introduce you to Vita's face recognition capabilities, and have you use motion controls to guide a tiny skateboarder. For the full run-down on this introductory feature, make sure to read our Welcome Park overview.
The Friends section of PS Vita menu allows you to see what your pals are up to in the world of PlayStation. You can launch Group Messaging, jump into Party or simply request nearby players to add you as a friend. Each of your friends will have a dedicated profile screen, as will you.
Chat / Group Messaging
PS Vita has a few options for chatting with friends. You can text chat directly with a friend, or send your message to a group of up to 16 people. You can also jump into a Party to communicate as a group and engage in voice chat. The PS Vita will also support cross-game voice chat.
PSN / PS Store
The PS Vita only allows one PlayStation Network account to be paired with the system at a time. If you want to use a different PSN account, you have to erase all saved data and perform a “factory reset” on the system. So, if you were hoping to browse the Japanese PS Store for all those demos we’ll never get, you may want to invest in some extra storage media.
Simply press the PlayStation and Start button at the same time, and voila! The system will save a screengrab of the action on-screen. This isn't compatible with all games however, so don't be disappointed if your favourite is a screenshot free zone.
Of course, the PS Vita isn't just for playing games and browsing the web. It also serves as quite the capable media companion, with HD playback and a wide array of supported file formats.
Housing two cameras, the PS Vita can take photos of its own, but you can also save pictures from the web and import them from a computer. You can create albums and slideshows, share your photos with friends, and set background for your home screen. Photos can be viewed in full-screen mode, allowing you to trim, crop and zoom in and out. Supported file formats include JPEG, TIFF, BMP, GIF and PNG.
Pairing 720p resolution with the PS Vita's bright OLED display makes for some very good movie watching. Netflix is already confirmed for the handheld, and more videos can be bought through the PS Store or streamed through Sony's Video Unlimited service.
Supported media formats are as follows:
- MPEG-4 Simple Profile Level 3, Maximum 320 x 240 pixels, AAC
- H.264/MPEG-4 AVC Baseline/High/Main Profile Level 3.1, Maximum 720p, AAC
You can choose to stretch your videos to full screen by double tapping the screen.
As a portable device, music playback is a key component for PS Vita. While you cannot download music from the PS Store, you can use Sony's Music Unlimited service on the device. Alternately, you can always transfer files from your computer via USB. Supported media formats include MP3, MP4 and WAV files.
The system also has a built-in equaliser with the following presets:
- Heavy — A powerful sound emphasising the high and low ranges.
- Pops — A sound emphasising the middle ranges, suitable for vocals.
- Jazz — A lively sound emphasising the high and low ranges.
- Unique — A sound emphasising the high and low ranges so that even relatively quiet sounds can be heard clearly.
You can also choose to turn the equaliser off for no effect.
Learning well from its older brother, PS Vita houses an impressive feature set, adapting some beloved capabilities of the PSP while adding in long-awaited functionality.
Unlike the PSP, Trophies are finally making their way into the portable realm with PS Vita. Once your Sony Entertainment Netwok account is linked to the system, all Trophies earned will be synced to your account. Like on PS3, you do not need to be logged into the PlayStation Network to earn Trophies. The system will save them to memory and sync them next time you log in.
Remote Play will work much in the same way it did on PSP. You connect your handheld to the PS3, launch a Remote Play compatible title and then the PS3 will stream the action on-screen to your system over the internet, allowing you to control the action remotely. This can be done to watch movies, listen to music and play games.
Cross Play / Transfarring
Several upcoming first-party PlayStation titles will include Cross Play, Sony's term for the ability to share save files between PS Vita and PS3 and compete simultaneously across platforms. For instance, WipEpout 2048 lets players race against each other on the same track regardless of whether they're playing on Vita or PS3, while MotorStorm RC lets you share save files between systems, allowing you to play some races on the bus ride home and then continue the game on the big screen. Kojima's "transfarring" feature is similar to the latter aspect, allowing Vita, PSP and PS3 games to share save data. Rather than being "cloud-based" however, you transfer the files via USB.
Sony's service aims to bring "certified PlayStation gaming" to Android devices, and will also be available on PS Vita later down the road. So, even if Game Archives never make it to the system, you'll still be able to play a selection PS One titles on the handheld. Currently, PS Suite offers Cool Boarders, Crash Bandicoot, Destruction Derby, Jumping Flash!, Kula World, Medievil, Rally Cross, Syphon Filter and Wild Arms.
The PS Vita requires you to buy proprietary memory cards, so don't expect to use any SD cards or Memory Stick Pro Duos you have lying around the house. Many PS Vita games — like Uncharted: Golden Abyss — require a memory card simply to launch, so you will definitely need one. They range from 4GB to 32GB with prices as follows:
- 4GB Memory Card – $19.99 / £17.99 / €19.99 / $26.95 AUD / $34.95 NZD
- 8GB Memory Card – $29.99 / £31.99 / €34.99 / $44.95 AUD / $59.95 NZD
- 16GB Memory Card – $59.99 / £44.99 / €49.99 / $64.95 AUD / $84.95 NZD
- 32GB Memory Card – $99.99
Sony currently has no plans to release the 32GB card in Europe.
Charging / Battery
PS Vita can be charged via regular outlets or USB, and the pack-in gear allows for both, containing a USB cable, AC adaptor and AC power cord. You can also set the system to automatically charge when a USB connection is detected.
The battery life runs roughly as follows:
- 3 - 5 hours of game time with network features off
- 5 hours of video playback
- 9 hours of music while in stand-by mode.
In March, Sony will release a car charger for the system in Japan, and chances are it will eventually make its way to the West as well.
For those looking for more portable power, there's the aptly-named PlayStation Vita Portable Charger. This peripheral holds 1.5 times the battery life of the PS Vita internal battery and can be connected to the system via USB. This enhanced battery offers:
- 4-7 hours of gaming
- 7 hours of video playback
- 13 hours of music when in stand-by mode.
Though Sony hasn't announced it for the West, GameStop lists the product for a 5th April release.