Sony PlayStation Vita June 2011
Sony PlayStation Vita
The PlayStation Vita is Sony's latest handheld gaming console. We got hands on with the Vita at its E3 2011 unveiling in Los Angeles.
The PlayStation Vita is Sony's attempt to recapture the mobile gaming market from the dominance of DS and iPhone, and was formerly known as the NGP. We got hands-on with it at the E3 gaming summit where it was first unveiled.
Visually, it's almost identical in design to Sony's previous handheld, the PSP Go, but behind that superficial resemblance it's packed with all sorts of new tech. The most immediate change on picking it up is the weight; it's extremely light, it feels half that of the original PSP, though its bulk means it's definitely not for smaller hands. Make no mistake, this is an adult's toy.
Official Sony PlayStation Vita video
Bright OLED screen
On the front is the first ever OLED screen we've seen on a gaming device, a 5-inch touchscreen. It's very bright and the colours are nicely saturated; and we expect it will even perform well in daylight. These two factors alone are a huge improvement on its predecessor.
Around the screen is as much other tech as Sony could cram in: there's the usual control pad, dual analogue sticks, four face buttons and two shoulder buttons. Then there's the front and back cameras (which have built-in facial recognition and head-tracking), stereo speakers, a microphone, a rear touch pad, and Sixaxis - the PlayStation 3's combined gyroscope and accelerometer for motion gaming.
In terms of connectivity, it has wi-fi, 3G and Bluetooth. Sony, as ever, has introduced yet another proprietary memory technology for the Vita, called NVG Cards – they're basically expensive small flash cards with a non-standard socket.
Sony PlayStation Vita games
The games for the platform, at the moment, demonstrate the technology without completely convincing you of the benefits. Little Deviants is a series of mini-games that each show off a different element of the Vita; a ball-rolling game using the large back pad, a tilting game to use the gyroscope, an augmented reality shooter using the rear camera, and so on.
The cute platformer game, Little Big Planet, requires the use of the front and back touchpads to build a tower of blocks, whilst racing game Wipeout had us using the touchpads and accelerometer for control. Wipeout also served to show off the cross-platform play, as we got to play against someone playing the game on a PS3 across a wireless connection. Wipeout supports up to eight players for this.
Did we enjoy playing on the Vita? That's difficult to say. Though it fitted comfortably in our hands, we found it difficult to use the touchscreen and rear touchpad effectively, especially if other controls were required. Though we're sure it's capable of impressive graphics and physics, the small screen precludes a lot of complicated imagery and the familiar design makes it difficult to separate the PS Vita from the PSP and its problems.
Like the Nintendo Wii U, which was also unveiled at E3, the Vita includes a lot of functionality and its price tag isn't too steep - £230 for the wi-fi only model and £280 for the wi-fi and 3G version. Also, like the Wii U, it's currently a platform in search of a killer application and has secured an impressive line-up of Sony-developed titles for its launch for that reason.
At release it will definitely be the most powerful handheld games system available; whether it succeeds or fails is likely to depend on how easy it is to program for and how many people make use of its huge array of features.
What are your thoughts?
The Sony Vita will have some stiff competition as more consumers are using their mobile phones for cheap, disposable games. Do you think the quality PlayStation Vita will outclass the smartphone competition? Have your say know at Which? Conversation.
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