Playstation Vita – My Hands On

As you’ll have no doubt seen from the flurry of Ready Up reviews, the Playstation Vita is here, and in several of the team’s hands. I decided to write down a few thoughts on the device after having it for about a week now. It’s not really going to be a review, as I’m not going to score it, but I’ll try to cover as many positives and negatives as I can.

Like the PSP, the PSV is a nicely made piece of equipment. It’s light enough to hold comfortably, but heavy enough to feel like you’re holding something worthwhile. When I first turned on the screen, I was reminded of the first time I saw an iPhone 4’s screen. The PSP had a nice screen, but the PSV’s screen is something else. It’s a whopping 5″ OLED screen which looks fantastic. The picture below does no justice to it at all.

The Vita is all about the big OLED screen.

Of course, no self-respecting piece of handheld hardware would be seen dead these days without the de rigeur touchscreen, and the Vita has one, and a good one at that. It’s extremely responsive to your touch, and supports multitouch inputs too. However, this does lead to one of my niggles with the PSV. Gone is the XMB, and games and apps are now launched via a new interface, which is entirely controlled by touch. The sticks, D-pads, buttons and triggers all do nothing at all on this main screen, which seems a bit daft to me. Still, it works well enough, though.

Small, but proper, sticks replace the PSP's nub.

With the Vita, Sony have gone insanely overboard with the amount of ways it is possible to interact with the device. Two cameras, two touch sensitive surfaces, two sticks, two shoulder buttons, a microphone and all the usual face buttons seems like a lot. I have to say, though, that the only input that persuaded me to buy the PSV was the second stick on the right. The lack of it was my least favourite thing about the PSP, and it felt to me like it crippled the whole console. Also, when I said second stick, I meant stick. Gone is the half-stick half-nipple device, replaced with a small but perfectly functional proper stick. It works well, although it does make the PSV a little harder to put into your pocket. It’s a sacrifice I was more than willing to make.

The second stick (finally!) and the small face buttons.

Given that the device is actually physically larger than the PSP, it is surprising that they have chosen to make the face buttons a little bit smaller. I have to say, in use it’s never an issue but I was surprised to find that when comparing the two devices. Ergonomically, I’d say the Vita is more comfortable than my PSP Slim ‘n’ Lite, but nothing like as comfortable to hold for long periods as a PS3 or 360 controller. It almost feels too thin, and if I’m playing a game where I am using the shoulder buttons for any period of time I do find my finger gets a bit tense.

The rear camera at the top, and the rear touchpad.

The cameras on the PSV are pretty much exactly what you’d expect: kinda crappy. Sure, they work well enough for the bundled Augmented Reality games, and you can take quick snaps with them, but they’re not a patch on even the cheapest smartphone out there. In fairness, though, there is one hugely successful device out there that the PSV could absolutely demolish in a photography contest: the iPad 2. The rear touchpad is an interesting gimmick, but in the games I have only Uncharted: Golden Abyss has used it yet. In Uncharted, you use the rear touchpad to manipulate a 3D object. It works surprisingly well, and gives you an odd sensation of actually holding something in your hand and turning it over and over. A bit of a gimmick then, but quite well done.

Looks like USB in the picture, but it isn't.

After going all a bit crazy with the PS3, and using all standard USB connectors, Sony are back to their old tricks again with the PSV. The PSV has a proprietary connector at the bottom, meaning you can’t just use a normal micro-USB connector like a lot of other devices, and need to carry the PSV specific cable. Bad Sony! They’ve also invented another new memory card format, which is a little irritating, and people are raving about how expensive they are compared to standard cards like Micro-SD cards, or even Sony’s own Memory Stick Duo. It’s true enough, and I wish they hadn’t, but it was something I factored into my decision when I chose to buy one. It’s still significantly cheaper than you used to pay per mb when compared to the old PS2 memory units!

The top of the unit. From left to right: volume buttons, (tiny) memory card slot, game card slot, power button.

The memory card is really something that Sony don’t want you messing about with. It’s clear it has been designed for you to put it in once and then NEVER TOUCH AGAIN. This is partly because the card is so small you could easily lose it inside a matchbox and partly because they tie everything on it to one PSN account. As the only person who uses my PSV, the only time I’m going to care about this is if I fill my memory card and have to mess about swapping it for another.

Small box, even smaller game.

I think I’ll also be needing somewhere to put my games, too. Despite being even smaller than the PSP game boxes, at the same width and two thirds of the height, PSV game boxes are still ludicrously large compared to the tiny memory card that lurks within. I have no doubt that even as we speak five million different PSV cases are either on the market or on their way to it, and I’ll be one of the customers in line.

So that’s the hardware briefly covered. Check out Ready Up’s reviews of the launch titles for a feel for the games, which I personally think make up one of the strongest launch line-ups for any console. Right. I’m off to play Motorstorm RC. Add me on PSN (NewCode) and I’ll see you on the leaderboards.







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