Hardware Review: The PS Vita

On February 22 Sony released their new handheld, the PS Vita.  The Vita is the successor to the PSP and Sony hopes it will do well.  I can’t say how it will perform sales wise but I can give my opinion on the device itself and so far my impression of the Vita is mostly positive.

To start let’s talk about how the Vita looks.  It is a very solid device, feeling sturdy and having some weight to it.  When you just glance at it you can definitely see that the Vita is the follow up to the PSP.  They hold similar designs but with some major differences that make the Vita better.  First off the Vita has two analog sticks.  They are fairly short but with large enough heads to easily use.  They do have a nice range of motion for their size though.  One of the next things to notice about the Vita is the beautiful 5” OLED touch screen.  It is a large and beautiful screen for the device.

The buttons on the Vita are the standard X, circle, square and triangle.  When looking at the device they do not look that large, but I have had no issues using them and this guy has fairly fat fingers.  There are also the Select, Start, and PS Home buttons on the front of the devices.  Now these buttons are fairly flush with the surface of the device and one of my first complaints about the Vita.  I find the PS Home button to be fine since it is a bit larger but the Select and Start button are a bit small and thus difficult to press and  I have found  issues pressing them quickly due to this.  When looking at the front of the Vita you will also notice a small camera just above the buttons on the right side.  I have only used this camera a little, for some of the games.  It is far from high resolution but it does seem to do just fine for its purpose of adding to a gaming experience.  Finally the Vita has the standard left and right shoulder buttons that work smoothly.

Now if you flip the Vita over you will see one of the other big differences between it and the PSP.   There is a large 5” touch surface on the back.  This works just like any other touch screen and adds interesting functionality choices and options to games.  You will also notice above the touch surface another camera.  This is just like the front camera in that it is not high definition but it is up to the level needed for gaming.  You will also see two small indents on the back designed for you to rest your fingers in.  I was not sure how well I would be able to hold the device with just these small indents compared to the overall size of it, but it does fit well in my hands.  My fingers do naturally want to rest in those indents as my palms press to the side and do the majority of the gripping of the device.

Now if you look at the Vita from above you will the power button, volume buttons and two access panels.  One of the panels is labeled and is for the Vita game cards.  The other panel opens to show off what appears to be an accessory port (there is still not much known about this port at this time).  Now looking at the bottom of the Vita you will see the slot for the USB cable to connect in order to charge the system and transfer files.  Next to that is the headphone port and then the memory card port.  The Vita does unfortunately use a new format for memory cards so be ready to invest in one of those if you wish to save games or download games from the Playstation Store.  These cards are one of the other drawbacks to the Vita.  Currently a 4 GB card is $20, which is rather high for such a small storage amount.  I bought a 32 GB card myself which set me back $100.  Again, this is far too expensive in comparison to other storage formats.  I do realize this is a new format but Sony should have done a bit better on the pricing.

The Vita’s external surfaces all seem to be out of some hard black or silver plastic mostly.  As you would suspect this plastic does hold on to fingerprints well but I have not had an issue with seeing them on the screen while playing.  The speakers in the Vita also seem to do well.  When do I play using them over earphones they have fairly clear sound for such a small device.  The device is overall rather large however and not as ‘portable’ as some other portable devices.  I have never really carried a system in my pocket though so the size is not an issue for me, since I tend carry it in my work bag in order to sneak in some play time when I can.

There are a few internal things to talk about too.  The Vita comes in a WiFi only and a 3G/WiFi model as well.  The 3G is an interesting option since you cannot game over 3G.  It is only used for game downloads and updating status.  I don’t quite understand the reasoning here and I would not have gotten the 3G myself if it were not for the special offers going on at launch that made it a better cost choice.  One of the final things you can’t see about the device is the internal gyroscopes.  From the games I have played that use them they do seem very sensitive and pretty accurate.  To give an example, for those who played the original Uncharted game there was a feature using the Dualshock controllers to keep your balance on a log.  Well I sucked at using that but for some reason this exact same feature is in the Vita Uncharted game and I find it far easier and more accurate to use.

Now let’s move on to the dashboard of the Vita.  When you start up the Vita you will get the above screen.  You just peel back the screen to go to the dashboard.

Once at the dashboard the screen will look something like above.  Most of the icons on this screen are all applications or features.  You can have multiple screens of these icons, and you can browse through them by flicking up or down on the touch screen.  You can go to any of these applications or game launch screen simply by touching the icon.  In fact, you have to touch it; there are no controls for using the joysticks and buttons to do this.  Something I found rather disappointing

As you can see from the launch screen there are other options as well besides just starting the game.  Since games don’t come with manuals there are buttons for that and some games have other features that you can look at as well.  If you change your mind you can either close the launch screen by pulling down the upper right hand corner and closing it or leaving it open and flicking to the left to go back to the dashboard screens.

Now the dashboard can get a bit big and cluttered since every game you install gets an icon.  This icon stays even when the game card for it is not in the system.  Unfortunately there are no folders to organize these into and the icons don’t do much of anything when the card is not in the Vita.  You can download games and install them on the memory card however so you can launch them at any time.


Now Sony has included a few applications to get to know your Vita.  One of them is Welcome Park which is a collection of mini games that are suppose to get you use to the features of the Vita like the touch screen, cameras and gyros.  They are simple games and fun enough to play through to get use to the system but nothing that will take up your time for hours on end.  There is also an application called Near.  Now Near will show you other Vita users around you for several miles and what they are playing if they wish to share that information.  I find it an interesting application to see how many people have a Vita but don’t really find much other use for it.  I am not sure what the big social aspect of it is really suppose to be.

There is also a web browser application which seems to work very well.  It does not support flash but most pages I have gone to seem to display just fine.  There are several other applications you can use including a Friends list, Trophies, Playstation store and Chat.  I find this separation of everything to be rather odd.  If you want to add a friend or see your friends you go to the Friends application but if you want to send them a message you have to go to the Chat application.  Why these could not have been one and the same like on the PS3?  I am not really sur.

Overall I quite like the new PS Vita.  I find it to be an excellent gaming platform with just a few design and cost issues going against it.  It launched with quite a few good games which is essential, but unfortunately there are not that many more games announced for it beyond this initial list.  If you liked the PSP or want a portable with some great graphics and interesting features I highly recommend the PS Vita.

Final Rating: 9/10

CBR Break Down:
Console Played On: Vita of course
Time to completion: N/A
Gamer Score Earned: N/A
Price Bought at:  $350 (First Edition Bundle with free game, memory card and case)
Current Price: $300
Recommend Purchase Price: $250 (Get the WiFi only version)
Why you should buy it: You want the best graphical gaming experience out there.
Why you shouldn’t buy it: You hate expensive memory cards, the price is just too high, you don’t care for portable systems.



About Shawn Gardner

I have been playing video games since I was a kid. My family owned a Pong and I even bought the original Nintendo, with R.O.B., with my confirmation money. I have played games through many console generations. Currently I enjoy playing games mostly on my PS3 and PSVita. I enjoy many game types but prefer coop modes or single player