|Meet a Vita.|
(image courtesy of Amazon)
While you're holding the Vita, one other difference becomes obvious. Reviewers often called the PSP "sexy" when it debuted in 2005, but nearly a decade later, the system seems far less elegant, with sharp edges and a thick, heavy frame. The Vita is more comfortable to hold, with rounded edges and grips molded into the back. It may not be the most hand-friendly handheld I've ever owned (for all the system's issues, the rubberized shell of the Gizmondo felt heavenly), but it's up there.
|Not quite ready for prime-time.|
Console-quality or not, the Vita is a huge improvement over both the PSP and the 3DS where raw horsepower is concerned. The system sports a quad-core ARM processor running at 1 GHz and its own dedicated graphics processor, which can display up to 133 million polygons per second. The PSP could only manage 33 million polys per second, while the 3DS limps along with just 15 million polys. The gap in visual quality is not so evident on the relatively small screens of the Vita and 3DS, but you'll definitely notice the faster processor in the Vita when you're starting and switching apps. It takes about five seconds to start the Vita's social gaming app near... for the 3DS's Street Pass Mii Plaza, it's closer to seventeen.
|From left to right: PS Vita memory card (and |
Micro SD card beneath it), Memory Stick Pro
Duo adapter, PSVita game cartridge,
standard SD card.
Vita memory cards come in sizes ranging from four gigabytes to a kingly sixty-four gigabytes. The four gigabyte card was recently discontinued, and it's not hard to figure out why. It's just barely enough storage to scrape by, with room for one Vita, PSP, and PSOne game. More dedicated players will want at least a 16GB card, but at $40, that storage doesn't come cheap. A 32GB card costs a hair-raising $60, and a 64GB card... well, if you have to ask, you can't afford it.
|Please sir, can I have some manual?|
By the way, Vita games don't come with instruction booklets. This usually isn't a problem, but it took a lengthy online search to find out how to silence the bedeviled caddy in Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational. So usually, but not always.
(You press start while you're playing, then select Options from the menu that appears, then go to Caddy Voice and pick Off. There, I just saved your sanity.)
The simple but effective Cross Media Bar from previous Playstation systems has been replaced with a new interface designed especially for the Vita's touchscreen. Circular icons are arranged on the screen in a honeycomb pattern, and can be either tapped directly with a finger or selected with the D-pad or left analog stick. The interface is an awkward halfway point between the ones in traditional game consoles and smartphones, and doesn't make the best use of the Vita's display. The staggered icons waste a lot of onscreen real estate, and they're neither practical nor attractive, resembling Mentos with their narrow edges and fat centers.
|Quick, peel, peel!|
|The best thing to ever happen to a|
Sony game system. (Aside from Bernie
Stolar leaving to join Sega, I mean.)
The analog sticks are an improvement over the sliding pad on the PSP as well; easier to grip with the thumbs and more sure of their positions than the slightly mushy cycloid. On the downside, the action buttons are needlessly small, and the option keys (Start and Select) are not only tiny, but flush with the unit. If you need to pause your game for any reason, you'd probably be better off using the Home button, or even tapping the on-off button on the top of the Vita to put it to sleep.
Oh yes, about that on-off button! The silvery circle is far more user-friendly than the finger-shredding switch on the PSP. Just tap it and your Vita enters sleep mode. Tap it again (or just press the home button... that thing is handy) and the system snaps back to attention. Want to turn off the system completely? Hold the on-off button until a prompt appears, then tap the orange bar on the screen. It's beautifully simple, the exact opposite of the PSP's accursed power switch.
|What is this I don't even...?|
|A comparison of the screens on the PSP|
(top) and the PS Vita (bottom).
Like other post-Game Boy handhelds, the Vita squeezes about four hours of life from a full charge of its internal battery. That time is cut in half if you're using online features like the Playstation Store. On the flip side of the coin, putting the Vita in sleep mode uses almost no power at all. There have been reports that the system can be put to sleep for weeks at a time with barely any drain on the battery, so if you plan to use the Vita with any frequency, you probably won't want to shut it off at all.
|Hey, that weird-looking face in the sun is MINE,|
you papercraft putz!
Compared to the 3DS, well, the two systems don't compare, really. They're different experiences, just as the DS and PSP were, and I wouldn't want to sacrifice one for the other. I personally think the 3DS has the best games overall, but there have been times that I wish the system had everything the Vita offers, like dual analog thumbsticks and shoulder buttons that actually do things when you press them. (Glares angrily at Kid Icarus: Uprising) The Vita is also the better choice if you're looking for multimedia features, because its large screen and loud speakers are better suited to music and movie playback than the 3DS.
|So near, and yet so far away...|
(image courtesy of Powet.tv)
Getting the system's other online features to function has been a struggle. I couldn't get the E-mail app to accept my Gmail address; I kept getting time out errors. It doesn't seem possible to view my friends list through PSN, and downloading games through the Playstation Store has only worked intermittently and is painfully slow. Granted, I live out in the boonies and my internet is far from ideal, but my 3DS works well enough with those limitations... what's the Vita's problem?
The Playstation Vita is worth owning if you know what you're getting- what you're really getting, not what Sony promised when it launched- and if you're comfortable with the price. I paid seventy five dollars for mine, but I realize that others paid double or even triple that price. For the two hundred dollars it costs at retail, the Vita is a lot harder to recommend. If you want a console-quality gaming experience, you might want to just take those two C-notes and buy a console.
(Special thanks to IGN, Wikipedia, and Gizmag for confirmation on technical specifications and stuff.)