PS Vita System ReviewFebruary 24, 2012
PS Vita. Aren’t you a sexy little thing in your little black dress. Your glossy black glass, curves, and giant, brilliantly bright screen. Those sticks, look at those sticks. There are 2 of those things! Oh, and what’s this in the back? is that a giant touch panel? Oh my goodness. Oh I know, I know…it’s not all about the looks. I know you’re smart too, with your quad core chip and mind numbing amount of transistors and gig and megs of who knows what! Truly, you are one of the most advanced pieces of beautiful tech I have had the privilege of owning so far. But, just like all beautiful things. That sexy black exterior hides some of the exact same grating issues that still, to this day, plague the PS3. Is the PS Vita’s advanced tech enough to outshine it’s flaws?
The most stand out feature of the Vita is it’s large 5-inch AMOLED screen. This thing is pretty. Sporting a 960×544 resolution at 24-bit color depth, it easily outclasses The 3Ds, the original PSP, and many Smartphones on the market today. Blacks are deep and inky, colors are vivid and accurate and the contrast ratio is pretty spot on (maybe a little too dark, but still pretty.) Playing games or watching Netflix is a joy, there is no ghosting to be seen, indicating that the screens refresh rate is nice and high. The brightness of the screen is adequate, but I would have preferred to have it be brighter at it’s max, and dimmer at it’s lowest settings. Even at it’s dimmest setting it’s still plenty bright for games that don’t have really dark areas. The screen also has a VERY excellent viewing angle, tilting the device to the point of barely being able to see what’s going on still doesn’t distort the colors. Very impressive. A small issue I’d like to bring up though, if this is such an advanced system, why omit a light sensor? All newer smartphones have a sensor to automatically adjust the screens brightness. I really feel this should have been included in this. Moving past the big beautiful screen we see an old friend, the directional pad. Except, he’s not the same, he’s changed. Sony decided against adding the tried and true four, independent button-style D-pad that they made famous, and instead has opted for a Nintendo DS style D-pad. I know some of you might be having a nuclear meltdown, I mean, they are messing with an iconic design used since the original Playstation! Relax, it actually works pretty well. While not as great as the traditional Dual-shock cross, and looking more in appearance to the 3Ds pad, it’s better than the 3Ds’ by a pretty decent amount. It’s not as spongy, has a shallower travel, and is a bit clickier, which is nice. Traversing over the screen to the right side of the device are the familiar, diamond patterned action buttons. These are much smaller than the PSP variant but have a decent amount of space between each button, so it doesn’t make it a problem of pushing an adjacent button by accident. Something the 3D’s could have used a bit more of, space. just above these buttons is a little 0.3MP camera for.. well, who knows right now. a likely guess is Skype in the coming months. And farther down, below the buttons and on both sides of the screen are 2 ACTUAL joysticks. Like, not knubby, sliding pad things, either! Actual, for the love of god JOYSTICKS, and they feel pretty damned good too. They have the right amount of tension and a smooth travel all around it’s perimeter. One thing I’m worried about though, which the PSP never had me do, is that the sticks will get pushed into the system while in your pocket. Or worse, get caught on the pocket while being pulled out and fall to the ground. Aside from those worries, they are miles ahead of the PSP and 3D’s analog stick designs. On the top of the system we have the shoulder buttons, a little less clicky than the PSP’s were, and although not any bigger, they are more rounded which makes them a bit easier to use doing play. Moving inward of the top of the system, we have a power button, 2 slots with covers. One for the PS Vita game chips, and one for PC/PS3 connectivity and finally 2 volume buttons. Moving back to the front of the system, just under each stick are more buttons. to the right are the familiar start and select buttons, a little too recessed into the face for my liking, but since they aren’t used that much, it’s fine. And to the left of the screen is the PS button, pressing this takes you out of a game or app and back to the UI system were this review is heading too….
The Operating System is still the same architecture as the PS3 and with that comes some issues. For one, you still have to sit through both the download of a program, and then the installation of said program. This is something that annoyed me with the Ps3, the PSP, and now the PS Vita. It’s a little worse here because they seriously had 5+ years to get it right and they haven’t. Aside from that annoyance, the actual UI is much different and suited specifically for the PS Vita’s touchscreen. In fact, no other control method can be used while in the Main Menu. Which is fine, because it works very well for how much is going on on the screen. As you’ll see in this badly recorded video. There is a main hub area, swiping up and down here shows all your programs installed, alas, an Android app drawer. swiping left will reveal everything that is currently loaded into the memory. Aside from some of the mainstays such as vide, music, etc. There are a couple new things specific to the Vita:
- Near: This feature allows you to use the GPS built into the Vita to find other Vita players in your immediate area, see what they are playing and invite them to play with you, or add them as a friend and chat. It’s a pretty fleshed out feature that includes a little Radar like screen and how far you’ve moved.
- Party: This lets you start a cross game chat with your friends using the built-in microphone. From here, you can all agree to start a game. If one of the people in the group doesn’t have the game, you have the option of buying it quickly from the shop the play against them
- Group Messaging: Pretty self explanatory. You can message groups of people, they don’t even have to be in your friends list to do so though.
- Remote Play: This feature was on the PSP as well… I have a feeling it’s going to get about as much play here as it did there. Essentially, it lets you play PS3 games on your PS Vita, or, if the game has special functions specific to the PS Vita while playing the PS3 version. Very cool idea, was never utilized on PSP
Like I said previously, There are other things you can do that is built into the system. listen to music, watch downloaded videos, a web browser, etc. etc. These are all things from the PS3 and PSP and they are standard fair.
This thing is a MONSTER inside, packing an ARM Cortex A9 4-core CPU and a PowerVR SGX543MP4+ 4-core GPU. Yeah, that is 8 freaking cores of face melting awesome right there. This thing runs circles around all mobile devices put together and even does laps around some consoles (Wii, I’m looking at you, buddy.) It’s not all roses though, for whatever reason, Sony decided to couple these colossal beasts together with only 512MB of RAM and 128MB of VRAM. in my mind that just doesn’t cut it. Hell, my dual-core phone has 1GB of RAM. an 8-core device needs deserves more!. This is evident when the system starts having to completely close out programs instead of just being able to minimize them to the side windows. You can have a couple stay open, unless you want to run a large game like Uncharted. With 1GB of RAM it could have multitasked much easier. Also inside this little thing is a Bluetooth chipset, allowing ADR2.1+ profiles. Meaning, full stereo sound from your Bluetooth headphones. I’m actually excited about this, I love me some BT headphone usage!
“What else is in that thing?” Well, have a seat on my lap here and I’ll tell you! There is a GPS, Wireless-N connectivity, Two 0.3MP cameras front and back, If you decided to get the 3G model, then there is a 3G radio for use on AT&T networks and Sony’s SixAxis gyro-magic thing… which, didn’t amount to a whole lot on the PS3. here is hoping they do something with it here! Did I mention there is a massive touchpad on the back? yeah.. it’s got a touchscreen and touchpad for you touchy feely people. I honestly thing it could have been smaller, although I haven’t used it in game yet, the way I hold the system, I touch it constantly already. One thing that REALLY pisses me off about the system though, that I have hated about Sony for the longest time, is the memory card, and this is a 2-fold hatred: 1.) nearly all games require a memory card and the system doesn’t come with one (if you bought a basic bundle.) That’s annoying. Many games require to be installed from their chip on to the memory card… not only is this poor programming, requiring you to move data from one chip to another just to play the game, it also forces you to drop BIG bucks on a new card. “But ReverEND, it’s all good, I have a few MS Duo duper super Pro awesomo sticks already.” Uhh, NO… I’ll reply to you. Sony, in their infinite need to milk you of your money, and their infuriating desire to make proprietary and mandatory hardware, has made a memory card specifically for the Vita, no other card will work. Is there anything ACTUALLY different aside from the casing? No, absolutely not. It’s the same chip as the MS Duo, just a different shell..so it can’t fit in anything else. That, for starters is bullshit. People like to accuse Microsoft of milking you, buy not allowing a regular hard drive and so on. Sony has been doing it longer and for some reason gets away with it. How much do these new cards cost? Sitting down? for a 4GB card it’s $19.99. Yeah, no shit, a 16GB MicroSD can be had for cheaper. Ready to shit your pants? a 32gb card, which, if you plan on downloading a lot from the PS Store is likely to be needed. is 100 fucking dollars. I literally just bought a 32gb card for 35 bucks. This is the number 1 problem I have with the Vita so far. It makes my prostate weak.
I won’t get into any reviews of actual games here, but I will give some details about a couple just to give an idea of how they run. First off, Uncharted. If you’ve played the others, this is exactly like a shrunk down version. The graphics are pretty damn impressive by themselves and stand above any other mobile game I’ve played. What makes it even more impressive is the animation. The amount of frames used are nearly that of the PS3 counterpart. It’s impressive to be holding a device that can show that much graphical power. One thing I did notice with Uncharted, and I’m not sure if other games will show this same thing, but because of the amount of detail…things begin to look pixelated or over sharp, maybe. Screenshots can end up making the game look jagged and dated. I can guarantee that this is not the case, the game looks pretty phenomenal. I also picked up Hot Shots Golf…..shut up, don’t judge me!. I like golf games, I fell in love with gold games thanks to my EVO 4G, playing Let’s Golf and later Let’s Golf 2 3D on my Evo 3D. So, it seemed fitting to get one on the Vita. The amount of animation in this game is mind blowing as well, sometimes looking as if you are playing a cartoon. this game uses the gyroscopic and camera in interesting, if not gimmick ways too. Again, won’t go into it here.
Using Netflix, much like the PS3 version.. is slow and a little painful. taking it’s sweet time to load and lagging when swiping left and right to show more things to watch. once it’s actually playing though, there are no skips and the video is top notch, truly impressive color saturation and deep blacks. The stereo separation is pretty good as well. easy passing the PSP and even slightly outpacing the Nintendo 3DS, which has good stereo (not the best overall sound though.)
I’m going to say it right up front, this thing is not going to win any awards in the longevity category. But it isn’t as bad as you might be thinking. And really, wrap your head around what this thing is actually doing: Wifi,Bluetooth,GPS,2 touch areas and 8 cores to power… it’s impressive it doesn’t die from the anticipation of having to power all that! The 3DS got a lot of flake for it’s sad battery. At it’s highest, headache inducing, 3D setting at full brightness it latest as low as 3hr. That doesn’t sound like much, but take into account that they are measuring that by full 3hrs, not play and standby time. I haven’t done a full on rundown of the battery yet, but I have killed it a couple times already. I woke up and unplugged the Vita at 10am and immediately started playing, played for about 2 hrs, then when out to eat with girlfriend, came back around 2pm and played for another hour and 1/2, then stopped to rebuild a phone. Started back up around 6 and at about 9 it started whining of a low battery. That is when I stopped. that’s 6 1/2 hours. I was playing an a little lower than middle brightness level with the sound pretty low (listening to TV in background.) That’s not bad. But again, I can easily say the days of leaving your mobile gaming device unplugged for weeks or even months at a time and except it to still have some juice to play a little are LONG gone. This thing likely won’t die in the middle of the day, but it will need to be recharged nightly. Since the screen is an AMOLED, playing at the dimmest brightness is easily doable, even in regular to low lighting. I know that with the state of new Li-on batteries, that they tend to hold a better charge after the 1st few initial cycles. So, this should get a little better after a couple days. I personally feel this is adequate battery life for such an advanced device.
This is the biggest hurdle (next to the retarded price on their memory cards….seriously!) Both of Sony’s previous attempts in the handheld market didn’t amount to a whole lot. The PSP, like the Ps Vita, was a great piece of tech that was NEVER utilized, cracked wide open for pirating, and failed to gain steam outside of Japan. Meanwhile, There piss poor attempt at killing off the pirates with the all digital PSPGo was hyped to no avail, but ultimately, crashed and burned because Sony had no freaking clue what the hell to do with the damn thing. Games not being released side-by-side with there UMD touting older brother, on top of being the same price! no discount for going all digital. It was embarrassing quite honestly . While the PS Vita has amazing specs, that really means little if developers don’t back it up. Sure, the first handful of games coming out are all either good to fantastic. But it’s the next batch of games that has me worried. The Vita NEEDS a strong 3rd party developer pool or it will end up like the PSP.
Final Thoughts and Score:
The PS Vita is instant Gadget-Nerd boner material. super amounts of power, the Tech is amazing, the current games are fun and showcase the features, big, beautiful touchscreen, decent amount of battery life, the list of pluses goes on and on and aside from some nitpicking about the annoying OS that Sony is still using (requiring installing of most everything all the time.) It’s a solid, great device…. Until we come to the sour notes. That a new Memory card is REQUIRED and it’s expensive, That Sony won’t be allowing PSP transfers to the Vita here in the states but already have the program available in Japan, and the uncertainty of longevity the device has thanks to the bitter taste the PSP/Go had in developers mouths.
8.5 out of 10