Sony PlayStation Vita Review

In terms of gaming, the Vita is a beast. Nothing handheld even comes close.
In terms of gaming, the Vita is a beast. Nothing handheld even comes close.
In terms of gaming, the Vita is a beast. Nothing handheld even comes close.


  • Beautiful OLED display
  • Responsive touchscreen
  • Dual analog sticks
  • Powerful hardware means huge potential


  • Weak battery life
  • Browser lacks Flash or HTML5 support
  • Hidden costs boost the price

If there were really any question before this, let’s go ahead and settle it right now: The PlayStation Vita is a much better piece of hardware than the Nintendo 3DS. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll enjoy it more, but in terms of hardware specs, there is really no comparison.

The Vita is first and foremost a gaming system — and a good one at that — but also capable of a lot more. If you took the gaming capabilities away from the 3DS, it becomes almost useless. If you did the same for the Vita, you would be left with what amounts to a passable tablet, just without many apps.

Compared to some of the other portable devices on the market, the Vita isn’t quite on the level of the high-end tablets, but it can hold its own. When you add in the gaming — which, of course, is the focus of the Vita — the device shines.

Video overview


The look and design

There has actually been a fair amount of talk about the feel of the Vita. Some think that it feels a bit cheap and flimsy, while others look at it as streamlined. The truth is somewhere in the middle.

The case is primarily hard plastic, which is the reason for the dispute, but it is also the reason that the device is so lightweight: The 3G version weighs only 280g (9.84 ounces, while the Wi-Fi-only version is even less, at 260g.

Compared to previous PSP design, the Vita shows a marked improvement. The awkward angles have been removed and replaced with rounded corners that make far more sense than the uncomfortable ridges on the early PSPs.

sony-playstation-vita-review-design-rear-camera   sony-playstation-vita-review-design-right-side   sony-playstation-vita-review-design-left-side   sony-playstation-vita-review-design-top   sony-playstation-vita-review-design-bottom

The gray protective bar surrounding the Vita may be where the contention over the “cheap” design comes from. It’s made of plastic, but from a distance it appears to be metallic. Making the plastic a darker color to match the body would have alleviated the confusion, but it would also make it look even more like the PSP. (The bar is probably there as much for aesthetic purposes as anything.) It’s a minor issue.

The Vita measures just 3.29 inches high, 7.2 inches wide, and 0.73 inches deep. It isn’t bulky, but it is slightly too big to fit in most normal pockets. It’s slim and lightweight enough to easily fit in cargo pants pockets, and won’t weigh you down if you put it in your backpack. Not that we would recommend it without some protection. Letting your Vita bounce around in a backpack could cause damage to it — at the very least scratching of the screen. A case or protective sleeve is a must. Protective casings to put Vitas in are going to be coming soon, and when they come out, they will be almost a necessity. In general the Vita doesn’t feel fragile, but dropping it will likely cause more than a few hearts to stop.


If anything, Sony could have made the Vita a bit taller to make the grip feel a bit more comfortable. After a while, the shape might cause your hand to cramp up. This is more of a personal gripe, but probably not an uncommon one.

The Vita is the first handheld gaming system to feature dual analog sticks on the front. The standard four-button configuration on the right side of the device and the D-pad on the left are also both present, along with two trigger buttons adorning the top of the device. One unique feature of the Vita is the trackpad on the back, which is roughly the same size as the OLED screen on the front — a deliberate design for gameplay reasons. Using the touchpad works well, but its utility will come down to the software, and how developers use it. It’s almost impossible to not accidentally touch it while gripping the Vita, so hopefully developers will take that into account.

Sound and display

Whether you are playing games on it or watching video, the Vita is built around the display. The OLED screen measures 5 inches across diagonally, adopts a standard 16:9 ratio, and displays an impressive 960 x 544 pixels, with around 16 million colors. And did we mention it’s a touchscreen? This is arguably the best-looking handheld device display on the market.


One downside is the reflective plastic of the screen, which makes watching video in sunlight — or really any bright direct light — difficult. The screen also seems to both attract dust and smudges. If you commonly use any touchscreens, you should be used to this.

The front stereo speakers are surprisingly loud — more so than some laptops — but not nearly enough to overcome the ambient sounds of most busy areas. Fortunately, the headphone output is loud enough that you can rely on a robust audio presentation in stereo.


If you own a PlayStation 3, then you should feel right at home with the software—including the stream of updates you can expect. In fact, the first time you connect online you should expect an update, possibly two. Of course these updates are a good thing, especially when they eliminate glitches and security holes, but they can be a tad annoying.

The UI is simplified, and moderately intuitive. Each time you open a program then switch to another, the first program remains open in a window to the side, leaving them in a standby mode. You can easily hop back in with the swipe of a finger. You will need to exit out of active processes you have going (like playing games), but it’s a smooth interface, and feels similar to many of the top mobile interfaces on the market today.

Beyond that, the Sony software is typical Sony, meaning nothing is quite as easy as you might hope. Connecting the Vita to a PC to transfer content should be a simple matter of having the PC recognize the device and see the folders within. Instead, you need to download a content manager, install it, then use that to transfer content over to your Vita using the Vita’s video, music, or photo apps.


This unnecessarily cumbersome process forces you to use Sony’s interface, which isn’t the smoothest to begin with. The music transfer is easy enough, and the Vita accepts MP3, MP4, AAC, and WAV files. But video files are especially problematic, because the Vita will only accept your MPEG-4 and H.264 files. If you have a lot of video already on your computer, this is a problem. The lack of .AVI compatibility is especially aggravating.

The Vita is all about melding with the PlayStation 3. That includes access to the PlayStation Store and all the content it offers — which is a lot. The PS Store UI remains true to itself, so browsing can be a chore. But once you find what you are looking for, downloading and playing the game or video is easy.

Preloaded on the Vita are a handful of Vita-specific programs, including the PS Store, Party (where you can join with friends online to chat and play games online), Near (which allows you to recognize nearby Vita users), a photo app (which allows video recording now), and Google Maps.


Several high-profile programs are on the way as well. Netflix, Twitter, Skype, and Facebook will all be available on launch, presumably through a system update.

The overall Vita UI feels a bit awkward at times, but is generally solid and easy to use. The main OS allows a lot of customization, and things like changing the background to a specific color or a personal photo are a nice touch. The more you use the Vita though, especially with games, the tougher it becomes to navigate. Every time you load a new game on to the system, it creates an icon on the main page. You still need the physical game to actually play it, but the icon will remain. The icons can be deleted easily enough, but once you start playing multiple titles, they become an unnecessarily bulky addition to the main launch screen. Having the option of creating a separate folder with the game icons, or any unused software, would have been nice. Not a big deal, but weird.

The built-in Web browser currently features cookies, JavaScript, and displays full webpages rather than mobile, but despite early hints from Sony, it does not currently support Flash or HTML5. Both are an option in the future via firmware updates, but neither are accessible now — which is a shame — but par for the course with handheld devices.


Apex Legends dataminers discover upcoming characters and weapons

Dataminers have discovered code in Apex Legends that refers to characters named Octane and Wattson, and weapons named the Havoc Rifle and the L-Star EMG. Octane is believed to have a Stim Pack ability, while Wattson has the Tesla Trap.

Here's our take on the best game-streaming services currently out there

You can still get your physical video game discs or cartridges at your local store or download games digitally, but another option is even more convenient: Game streaming. Here are the best game streaming services.

This list of PlayStation 4 exclusives puts its competitors to shame

The PlayStation 4's game library and incredible selection of exclusive games could make anyone with an Xbox One or Nintendo Switch think twice. Here's our list of the latest and greatest PS4 exclusives.

How do the revised Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles stack up?

Microsoft's new Xbox One S and Sony's PlayStation 4 "Slim" have bucked the generational gaming console trend. But which of these stopgap systems is worth spending your paycheck on?

What is Wi-Fi 6? Here's a look at the next evolution of the wireless standard

We're exploring the new naming convention for wireless standards, how it affects the devices you buy, and what the upcoming Wi-Fi generation is changing for the better.

Bayonetta 3 still in the works, set to launch on Nintendo Switch this year

Bayonetta 3 was notably absent from the latest Nintendo Direct presentation, raising concerns that the game will be delayed. A Nintendo executive clarified that the Nintendo Switch exclusive remains on track for a 2019 release.

Over 16,000 Apex Legends cheaters have already been banned by Respawn

Respawn Entertainment revealed that it has already banned over 16,000 cheaters in Apex Legends in the less than two weeks since its release. The developer may be working on an in-game feature to report cheaters.

Get the most life out of your Xbox One controller with these tips

The Xbox One controller has fantastic battery life, but eventually your batteries will still die. To make it even better and ensure you never have to stop gaming, follow these tips.

How you can share your best gaming moments with friends on the PS4

Check out Digital Trends' quick guide to everything you need to know to save your outstanding PlayStation 4 gameplay moments, share them online, and transfer them to your computer.

A beginner’s guide to Far Cry New Dawn’s postapocalyptic Hope County

Far Cry New Dawn is yet another entry in Ubisoft's popular open world shooter franchise. But while it may feel quite similar in motion, the progression system is changed in a lot of ways. Our beginner's guide is here to help.

Learn to scavenge like a pro with our Far Cry New Dawn crafting guide

Far Cry New Dawn revolves around the hunt -- the hunt for materials to craft new weapons, vehicles, and other useful items. It's easy to miss out on great opportunities to find new materials if you don't go off the beaten path.

PS4 vs. Switch: After weighing the pros and cons, which one comes out on top?

Nintendo Switch versus PlayStation 4: Which one has better overall value? We break down the pros and cons of each platform to tell you which of these consoles is truly worth the money.

Xbox's app lets you access your console while away from home. Here's how

Microsoft's Xbox allows you to access your profile information and launch media content directly from your mobile device. Check out our quick guide on how to connect your smartphone to an Xbox One.

Here’s how to set up a virtual private network (VPN) on your Xbox One

Online privacy is more important now than it's ever been, and gaming is happening online more than ever before. Here's a quick guide on how to set up a VPN for your Xbox One so you game in safe anonymity.