Many wonder if devices specifically geared towards handheld gaming have much of a future. After all, with the introduction of gaming functionality into smartphones and tablets, some see handheld gaming devices as nothing more than an extra cost. The team at Sony apparently believes that such devices still appeal to the hardcore gamer on the go, and the company has done its best to become the marketís leader with the latest release of the PlayStation Vita. Is this portable gaming powerhouse worthy of a purchase, or is it just an extra gadget to add to your technology arsenal? This review will break it down for you.
Sony initiated Vita fever when it officially introduced the portable product to eager eyes at the companyís press conference during the E3 2011 trade show. Successor to Sonyís PSP, Vita is hitting the market via an opportunistic window, as its competitor from Nintendo, the 3DS, hasnít exactly taken the world by storm. For some reason, Sony decided to delay the Vitaís release in the United States to February 22, 2012 and failed to capitalize on the holiday shopping fury. Gamers in Japan, on the other hand, enjoyed availability just prior to the new year. Now that you have a bit of background on the product and its launch, letís jump into its features.
The PS Vita, like many tablets and other portable devices hitting the market, comes in your choice of a Wi-Fi only or Wi-Fi/3G version. The Wi-Fi version checks in at $250, while the added convenience of 3G pushes up that versionís price to $300. Neither price is necessarily cheap in the grand scheme of things, but they are competitive within the portable gaming arena, especially when you consider the quality of the product.
In terms of design, PSP owners will be familiar with the PS Vitaís overall form factor. Its size advantage is quite noticeable in all dimensions, however. The Vita measures in at 7.2 inches wide by 3.3 inches tall by 0.7 inches deep and weighs just over nine ounces. The Vitaís plastic build helps with the inevitable bumps and bruises that often plague portable devices, but it maintains a look of high quality. The mostly black chassis is nicely accented with silver accents to give it a sleek, modern appearance.
As you would expect, most of your attention will be guided towards the large 5-inch OLED display. Like the front panel, the display is glossy, so expect plenty of fingerprints as well as glare if you plan on playing in bright environments. You should definitely keep a cloth handy to wipe of the smudges that will accumulate rather quickly. Beyond that, the display is responsive and works well during gaming and navigating the interface. The graphics are nothing but superb. Colors are bright and characters are crisp. You will be hard pressed to find a more impressive display on any portable device, and that includes the renowned iPhone 4S with its retina technology. The displayís size is also ample enough to make gaming on the go look good, even for those lack great eyesight.
The responsive display is matched by the PS Vitaís responsive controls. To the left of the display are the D-pad, an analog stick, and the PS button. To the right are the X, square, triangle, and circle buttons, another analog stick, and the Start and Select buttons. The Vita also features shoulder buttons on the left and right, volume controls, a small card slot for Vita games, a headphone jack, USB port for charging, and a power control. All of the gaming controls are spaced adequately for easy use. If you are used to a regular PS3 control, you shouldnít have much trouble transitioning over to the Vitaís system, as itís similar, just smaller.
Beyond the Vitaís visible controls, the device also employs accelerometers and an integrated gyroscope to enable motion-based gaming. This is a plus for those who want a more immersive gaming experience, but some may find tilting the Vita and using other gestures as a bit difficult to get a handle on. Luckily, these are just extra options, so you can stick to using traditional controls if you wish.
Inside, the Vita packs a nice punch thanks to a quad-core ARM Cortex A9 processor and a quad-core SGX543MP4+ GPU. The two combine for excellent performance and graphics not only with respect to gaming, but everything else as well. It may sound farfetched, but you could call the Vita a mini PlayStation 3 that fits into the palm of your hands. Itís just that good. Gaming performance is amped up thanks to solid speakers that provide plenty of volume, but if you want the best audio, your best bet is to carry along headphones.
As mentioned, the Vita offers plenty of functionality besides gaming. You get Bluetooth, 802.11n Wi-Fi, and 3G users get the added luxury of integrated GPS. A pair of VGA cameras on the front and rear adds some fun to the equation and work well with Skype, Twitter, and augmented reality games. The picture quality is not the best, but the cameras are still nice to have.
Sony also equipped the Vita with various apps that perform a wide variety of functions. Content Manager allows you to copy content to and from your computer or PS3. The Browser app lets you surf the Web. PS Store is where you can purchase new content, see demos, and more. If you want to communicate with others, thereís the Group Messaging app, as well as Party. Google Maps is part of the package for 3G users, and so is Near, an app that uses GPS to show you Vita users nearby. These are just some of the apps you can look forward to with the Vita.
All of the PS Vitaís functionality is great, but games are obviously its strong point. At launch, Vitaís gaming lineup is quite impressive and gives gamers of all genres something to look forward to. A sampling of the titles includes EA Sports FIFA Soccer, Uncharted: Golden Abyss, ModNation Racers: Road Trip, and more. Downloadable games can be had in addition to the titles available on the Vitaís proprietary card format.
So, is the PS Vita for you? If you can afford it and want an ultimate gaming experience on the go, then donít hesitate to pick one up. The Vita offers solid design, performance, functionality, and an impressive gaming lineup that should satisfy true gaming fans.
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