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.

Highs

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

Lows

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

Hardware

The Vita comes with a front- and a rear-facing camera, both of which feature lowly 0.3-megapixel (VGA) sensors.

The photo quality isn’t great, and most smartphones these days snap much better shots. The lack of a flash also means that the images taken are limited to well-lit areas. Video recordings are passable, but again, most smartphones do it better.

There are two main benefits to the cameras, even though they are weak: First, the cameras can be used with games. There are already a few instances where the Vita uses augmented reality, and you can expect more in the future. The second good argument for the cameras is the inclusion of Skype, which is due on launch.

sony-playstation-vita-review-camera

The Vita will launch with two models, a $250 Wi-Fi-only unit, and a $299 Wi-Fi/3G model that will use AT&T’s network (data plans may vary in cost, but should range between $15 and $30 per month). At the time of this review, the 3G SIM cards were not available for testing. We’ll update the review when they are and make any necessary changes.

Wi-Fi connectivity on the built-in 802.11b/g/n card was surprisingly solid, and I had very few issues with dropped signals. Gaming while using the Wi-Fi was also respectable, and while lag was an occasional issue, it was a minor one. The Vita also features Bluetooth support, which makes chatting through a headset while gaming simple.

sony-playstation-vita-review-top-right-button

The Vita has an undisclosed amount of internal memory at its disposal, but it is relatively small and requires you to use proprietary Vita memory cards for any information that needs to be saved, which are sold separately. These seem to be standard microSD cards — with the exception of the price. Sony offers four sizes: 4GB for $24.99, 8GB card for $34.99, 16GB card for $59.99, and 32GB card for $99.99. To put that pricing in perspective, you can find standard 32GB microSD cards for as little as $30. The memory is overpriced, but at the moment there is no alternative, and you need the memory to really use your Vita properly.

Oddly, there is no video output either. This was likely a sacrifice to keep the Vita lightweight and avoid another bulky port.

Gaming

Putting aside the interface, the programs, and all the other bells and whistles the Vita offers, the device is made for handheld gaming first and foremost. In this, it succeeds.

Like with any new piece of gaming hardware, a launch is only as good as the games that go with it — a lesson Nintendo learned to its chagrin with the poor launch window of the 3DS. With over 25 games due out now and in the first few weeks of the Vita’s launch (many of them being franchise titles), the Vita should have more than enough to offer right out of the gate. And like any new gaming hardware launch, the early games only hint at the potential of the device. That potential is high.

There has been a lot of talk over the nature of the Vita’s connection to the PS3. Some games will allow you to play on your PS3, then switch to your Vita. These games will need to specifically feature that ability. There are also some ports of existing PS3 games which are fairly faithfully transferred to the Vita. The games are not at the graphical or technical level of the PS3, but they’re impressively close. In fact, some of the graphics appear to be close to early PS3 titles.

sony-playstation-vita-review-rayman

It will probably take about a year before we begin to see the true potential of the Vita’s hardware, as developers learn the new system and find ways to squeeze the most out of the device. We are more than five years into the life cycle of the PS3, and developers are still finding ways to improve the efficiency of their games, so the Vita will take a while to hit its stride. And what a stride it will be.

While the Vita isn’t quite at the PS3 level, it’s well past the PS2, and can handle more than you would expect from a slim, lightweight device. Everything else included in the Vita is merely an excuse to make it appeal to as wide an audience as possible. This is a gaming device made for hardcore gamers.

The games themselves come on “PlayStation Vita cards,” which are similar to flash memory cards, but unique to the Vita. You simply insert them in a slot at the top, located under a (annoyingly difficult to open) cover. The main reason for this move to physical media is to combat piracy. The UMDs of the PSP are long gone, but there will be backwards compatibility, and most PSP games can be downloaded to the Vita through the PS Store.

The games look crisp and clean. Ported games like Rayman Origins and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 both look incredibly close to their console counterparts. The frame rate is good, and the CPU can handle a lot of action. The loading is still fairly long, since it is coming from flash memory, but that should improve.

sony-playstation-vita-review-rear-angle

Some games take more advantage of things like the touchscreen and rear trackpad, while others are still trying to figure out what to make of it. That’s not a reflection of the hardware, though. Given time, developers will certainly think of clever ways to make the most of all the Vita has to offer.

Dual analog sticks were important additions that give the Vita a sizeable advantage over all other portable gaming devices. The range of motion and location of the sticks won’t give you quite as much flexibility as a standard controller, but they remain a huge plus. Despite my own occasional hand cramps, the device responds well and feels good.

The Vita also contains the same six-axis technology found in a DualShock controller, as well as a three-axis electronic compass.

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

Check out our individual reviews of the vita launch title games, which will be posted separately.

Battery

When it comes to handheld devices, one of the biggest issues these days is without question the battery life. It has gotten to the point where a strong battery is a selling point on its own. The iPad’s reported 10-hour battery life is an advantage that Apple has leveraged extremely well, and that fact alone is enough for people to choose the Apple tablet over competitors. Battery life is a big deal, and the Vita’s battery life is an issue.

The standby mode keeps the battery respectably fresh, but playing a game with the Wi-Fi on will drain the battery dry in around four hours. Watching a movie will allow you to squeeze out a bit more life, but if you are running an app, the Vita will probably max out at around five hours. You can turn the brightness down, the volume low, the Wi-Fi off, and so on to keep things going a bit longer, but the battery is a downside.

Fortunately for Sony, a lot of high-tech hardware share the same issue. Consumers are used to a poor battery, which should give Sony a bit of a pass. It is still painfully short, though. The battery is also built into the Vita, meaning that users can’t remove it (another anti-piracy measure). The device charges quickly enough using a USB or AC adapter, but for long trips it will only get you a bit of the way.

Conclusion

If your primary reason for considering the PlayStation Vita is for games, you won’t be disappointed. All my main issues with the Vita were all unrelated to the gaming.

The Vita is the next big gaming device, but it is not the next big gadget for a few reasons. The price is already on the high side, but adding in the hidden costs of things like the proprietary memory cards makes the Vita tough to justify if you are on a strict budget. The weak cameras and lack of Flash or HTML5 also hold the device back, as do the limitations on the video files.

You need to consider all of these issues when looking at the Vita. It is like a tablet, but it is not one. It is similar to a smartphone, but in a different class. If, however, you are looking for a gaming system that towers over the rest, Sony’s PlayStation Vita is the device for you.

Highs:

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

Lows:

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

Page 2 of 2

12
Gaming

PlayStation does the smart thing, stops selling digital codes at physical stores

Sony will no longer offer PlayStation digital full-game downloads at retail stores. The game downloads will now only be available directly from the PlayStation Network's own digital store.
Mobile

24 must-have apps for rooted Android phones and tablets

Rooting your Android device opens up a world of possibilities, along with a few apps. Here are 24 of our favorites, so you can make the most of your rooted device and unleash the true power of Android.
Gaming

Google’s Stadia lets you stream big-time games from nearly any device

At GDC 2019, Google unveiled Stadia, a game streaming service that lets you play games on PC, tablets, smartphones, and TVs. Stadia looks to open up gaming to everyone, removing the need to buy additional hardware.
Computing

Netgear’s new Nighthawk Tri-band AX12 router brings Wi-Fi 6 speeds to the masses

Available in May for $600, the Nighthawk Tri-band AX12 router allows for maximum Wi-Fi performance on smart home devices and offers everything needed for gaming, streaming, and other high-bandwidth applications. 
Gaming

Sony to launch State of Play videos for PlayStation 4, PlayStation VR

Sony will debut a new video program named State of Play on March 25. The first episode will focus on new PlayStation 4 and PlayStation VR games, and it remains to be seen if Sony will tease the PlayStation 5.
Gaming

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild bug lets Link ignore temperature effects

A newly discovered bug in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of Wild allows players to max out both hearts and stamina. The glitch also disables temperature effects such as the heat of Death Mountain and the cold of Hebra.
Gaming

Report: Nintendo will release two new Switch models in 2019

According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, Nintendo will unveil two new Switch models at E3 and release them this year. One of the models will target hardcore gamers, while the other will be budget friendly.
Gaming

Twitch streamer somehow beats Bloodborne, all the souls games without getting hit

A Twitch streamer named The Happy Hob has managed to play through all Dark Souls games, Demon's Souls, and Bloodborne in a row without getting hit a single time. He has been attempting the feat for months.
Gaming

Here are the best items a Shinobi should buy in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a brutally challenging game that requires persistent focus and a lot close calls with death. You can make things a bit easier on yourself with by purchasing important items from vendors.
Gaming

Here’s everything you need to know about MLB The Show 19

MLB The Show 19 launches on PlayStation 4 on March 26. If you're interested in finding out what's new in the latest iteration of the annual baseball sim, we've got all the details, from new gameplay mechanics to Road to the Show changes.
Gaming

Newegg slashes prices on PS4 accessories and AAA games like Anthem

Newegg is currently offering big savings on a number of games for PS4 and Xbox One, including Anthem, Metro Exodus, The Division 2, and Kingdom Hearts 3. Accessories including headsets are also on sale.
Gaming

Apple Arcade might be the new game subscription service worth signing up for

Apple Arcade will launch this fall bringing a new game-subscription service with cross-platform support for iOS, Mac, and Apple TV. At launch, the service will feature more than 100 exclusive games, with more added to the service regularly.
Gaming

Fortnite World Cup kicks off April 13 with $1 million in weekly prizes

The Fortnite World Cup kicks off on April 13 with the start of Online Opens for solo play. $1 million in weekly prizes will be awarded during the Online Open Finals, so get practicing!
Gaming

These are the must-have games that every Xbox One owner needs

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.