PlayStation Vita Review

Lukewarm reviews, complaints of system crashes, and reports of unresponsive touchscreens from the Japanese launch hasn't instilled us with confidence for the U.S. and U.K. release of PlayStation Vita, but finally we get to judge Sony's new handheld for ourselves.

Though we still have no idea how Vita will perform when online services such as NEAR and the PlayStation Store are officially activated, we can tell you all about Vita's hardware, its operating system, its games, and how it performs right at this very minute, a little over one month prior to its February 22 release date.

Reviewed: Vita, U.K. Edition, Wi-Fi version

At first glance, there doesn't seem to be a huge amount of differences between Vita and a PlayStation Portable. Other than the dual-analog sticks sitting either side of the 5-inch OLED touchscreen, and the noticeably smaller action buttons, truth is (apart from sporting a similar chassis and the fact that they're both designed specifically for gaming) they couldn't be more different.

Drooling over hardware specifications

The PS Vita, for instance, is powered by an intensive quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore processor, capable of clock speeds of 2GHz, but more likely to run between 800MHz and 1.4GHz, which probably explains why a fully-charged battery has lasted a disappointing three hours and 10 minutes with moderate use.

While playing the processor-intensive Uncharted: Golden Abyss, we clocked it at just two hours and 45 minutes before it shutdown. Charging times were much more impressive as it took approximately one hour and 15 minutes until the battery icon indicated it was fully-powered.

We've therefore spent most of our Vita experience plugged into a wall socket so that we don't need to worry about the battery icon draining in front of our very eyes. It's a bit disappointing that gaming on our Xperia PLAY smartphone outlasts our dedicated gaming device, but it's not an issue that's likely to ruin our experience, unless the games don't live up to expectations.

What it lacks in battery potency, PS Vita makes up for in power, with a quad-core GPU SGX543MP4+, the plus indicating that it's been modified specifically for Sony's device. It has some serious graphical and computing power behind it, and you only need to spend five minutes mesmerized by the quality and performance of Sony's flagship launch game, the lag-free Uncharted: Golden Abyss, on its 960 x 544 screen to witness this impressive new benchmark in handheld gaming.

It also comes equipped with 512MB of RAM, compared to the paltry 64MB of the PSPgo, and is backed up with 128MB of VRAM to ensure you can move between the features of the PS Vita quickly to multi-task, chat, game and watch videos.

Using some of PS Vita's power is the Sixaxis motion sensing system (three-axis gyroscope, three-axis accelerometer,) multi-touch display and a rear touchscreen pad that should, in theory at least, deliver a new kind of gaming experience.

Examining PSVita's sleek design

On the front of PS Vita, to the left of the screen, sits the d-pad, analog stick and PlayStation Home button. The multi-directional d-pad makes a slight clicking sound as you move it around with the tip of your thumb, while the analog stick rotates extremely smoothly and silently, though is smaller than we imagined it to be (being almost exactly the same size as the original PSP's awkward analog stick).

The Home button is sunk into the chassis of the Vita unit, which is a deliberate design decision that ensures you don't accidentally press it. The same applies to the Start and Select buttons situated on the right hand side of the unit, which are impossible to press when your finger-tips are flat on the unit but can be pushed with ease when you raise your digit at an angle.

On the right hand side of PS Vita's display sits the 1.3 megapixel camera, which is extremely tiny, as are the action buttons - about half the size of the circles that surround Vita's analog sticks. The four action buttons are also fairly close together and require a little bit of force to activate, which ensures you don't accidentally knock the wrong button by mistake.

While holding the Vita in two hands, our thumbs rest ... (continued on next page) ----

A gamer since the days of the ZX Spectrum, Steven Williamson now works as General Manager for PSU. He's supposed to be managing, but if you're reading this, it means he's dipped into editorial again.
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