If you’re a gamer of the hardcore variety then you’ll probably know that Sony released the follow-up to the PSP this week. Their new handheld, called PS Vita, went on sale on Wednesday in the US and Europe and we’ve managed to grab one.
Billed as the most powerful handheld ever made it’s Sony’s attempt to try and claw back some market share from Apple and their iPad and Nintendo’s 3DS. Jam-packed with some incredible hardware the PS Vita is compelling piece of hardware which Sony thinks is going to become a 21st century replacement for the Walkman.
Looking through the tech specs it’s hard not to be impressed with what Sony has managed to bring to the table for a fairly reasonable price of £230 for the Wi-Fi version or a rather eye-watering £270 for the 3G version. Although make sure you shop around, we managed to bag one from Asda for a mere £197.
Packing two quad-core processors, a incredible 5-inch OLED touchscreen, two, that’s right, two analogue sticks, a rear touchpad, 2 cameras and graphics that are more akin to a home console than a portable – it’s clear that the PS Vita can more than hold its own against any portable device you can buy.
The looks are fairly similar to the previous PSP, but don’t let that fool you, this is completely different beast. Measuring 7.2-inches from top to bottom it’s quite a bit bigger than the previous PSP. It’s definitely the biggest handheld Sony has every produced, but thankfully it sits in your hand incredibly well and it’s a lot lighter than you’d probably think.
On the front you will find everything a hardcore gamer demands: to the left of the screen you’ve got a classic d-pad, all be it a little smaller than what you’d get with Dual Shock controller, but it’s just as good. You’ll also find an analog stick, left speaker and glowing blue PS Home Button – which is used much like the home button on the iPhone or iPad.
To the right you’ll find your classic PlayStation triangle, circle, square and X buttons, as well as a right analogue stick, right speaker, a 0.3MP front-facing camera and the Start and Select buttons you’re most likely very familiar with already.
On the top side of the Vita are left and right shoulder buttons – there are no trigger buttons like you’d find on a PS3 Dualshock controller. Between the shoulders you’ll find the on/off button, volume controls, the PS Vita Card slot and a terminal to plug in future peripherals.
The base of the console houses the proprietary USB connector for charging and connecting to PS3 etc, as well as the headphone/microphone adapter and the Memory Card slot. And finally, the rear of the PS Vita is home to the brand-new rear Touch Pad, a rear 0.3MP camera and a microphone.
One of the most impressive features you’ll find on PS Vita is the screen. Instead of using old technology Sony has made sure that the screen is future proof, while it’s not HD, it’s a stunning OLED, which is similar to what you might find on the Samsung Galaxy S2. It’s bright, sharp and really makes the graphics pop out with eye-scroching clarity and depth. It’s packing a resolution of 640×960 which isn’t as sharp as the iPhone’s retina display, but it’s barely noticeable in the heat of gaming.
Where the screen really starts to come together is the touch capabilities, when you fire up the Vita you’ll be invited to watch and partake in a little orientation game. It’s pretty simple: pressing numbers in the right order, but what it shows off is that the touchscreen is incredibly accurate and proves that the touch capabilites are probably the best we’ve ever come across on any device, including Apple’s iPad or iPhone.
Inside the PS Vita there’s a host of accelerometers and gyroscopes, meaning you can control many games just by tilting the handheld. The good thing is if you want to play games normally you can just use the traditional controls and completely ignore the other control methods whether it’s touch or movement. It’s gives the player a choice and for this reason makes it a far better gaming experience than any other device on sale.
It’s not all perfect, though. In Sony’s wisdom they’ve decided not to give the handheld any internal storage, and instead have decided to use proprietary memory cards – they’re essentially SD cards, but you can’t use any old SD cards, you have to use Sony’s – while it’s annoying and quite expensive – it’s a forgivable misstep. It’s likely if they stuck 16 GB in the PS Vita it would have pushed the price up too much, so you can see why Sony went for this slightly odd decision. As of launch day, Amazon UK is selling the 4GB card for £15, 8GB for £28 and 16GB for £40.
When you buy games of course, they’ll come on their own cartridge-style cards with storage space for saves and updates so if you’re only gaming it’s less of a concern. Connection-wise both models come with standard Bluetooth and WiFi connections while the 3G model also includes, well a 3G connection.
So hardware-wise the PS Vita is a proper home run for Sony. We can’t come up with enough superlatives. Tomorrow, well continue our review and we’ll we delve deep into the software side of things. Well give you detailed review of how the OS and games combine with the hardware to make one of the most impressive pieces of gaming hardware money can buy.