Compounded by the fact that production of the original PlayStation Vita model has now ceased, it’s no secret that sales of Sony’s handheld have been rather slack since its launch in 2011. A large part of the problem was that Vita entered the gaming market at the height of the smartphone craze and during a period where multiple companies were competing against Apple’s iPad with much more affordable tablets, such as Amazon’s Kindle Fire. With tech in the mobile arena becoming more and more sophisticated, people have increasingly been getting their gaming kicks from these devices, so Vita struggled to make an impact with its portable gaming machine, despite having many strengths. Step forward the Wi-Fi only PlayStation Vita Slim, a revamped model with a new design, which Sony hopes will help swell its install base in 2014. And, with the much-hyped Remote Play feature of PS4 now a reality, now seems a good a time as any to re-launch the handheld and catch the eye of PS4 early adopters.
Comparing the Slim to the original Vita, the difference is immediately apparent when you hold it in your hands. In terms of the length, width and screen size they are both identical, but the Slim feels much lighter. The difference in weight between the two is approximately 15 per cent, making the Slim not much heavier than a large smartphone, such as the Galaxy Note. Consequently, it feels more comfortable to hold over sustained periods of gameplay and is less bulky to carry around. It’s also 20 per cent slimmer with the thick silver rim that rums around the edges of the original Vita now replaced by a plastic, rubberised chassis that looks less fancy but actually blends in quite nicely with the glossy and matte black colour scheme.
On the face of Vita Slim there is one major change and a few subtle aesthetic tweets. The Start and Select buttons are now circular rather than oval and stick out of the chassis more prominently making them far easier to press than the original sunken ones. There are now eight speaker holes set up in a flower-shaped arrangement either side of the two mini thumbsticks, rather than six, which allows the volume to be turned up higher than the original, which was a little too quiet unless you wear a headset. Sony has also shifted its brand name to the top left of the screen rather than above the d-pad. Other than that the buttons and the rest of the layout is identical with two small thumbsticks either side of the 5 inch touchscreen, a 1.3 megapixel camera just above the small PlayStation action buttons, and a multi-directional d-pad on the left hand side.
Running across the top edge of Vita Slim is the cartridge slot, volume controls and the power button. The mysterious second slot found on the original has been dumped. This is another excellent design change as Sony has ditched the silver metal chassis and the hard-to-open slot of the original and replaced it with an easy opening rubber clasp. On the bottom edge of Vita Slim, the proprietary cable slot used for charging up the original Vita has been replaced by a mini-USB connection. Once again, this is a welcome design change as gamers can now use any mini-USB cable to power up the console.
Turn Vita Slim over and you’ll see that the rear touch panel area is now much smaller and the fingers pads are much bigger than the original. This now means you shouldn’t inadvertently brush your finger across the touch panel, which was one of the frustrations with the first model. So, overall, lessons have definitely been learned from the Vita original design and there’s a marked improvement, although without the silver rim there’s no doubt it does look a little cheaper.