Sony PlayStation Vita (Wi-Fi)
Price Range: $199.88 - $417.92
CNET Editors' Rating: 4.0 / 5
The good: The PlayStation Vita delivers amazing visuals on its 5-inch OLED touch screen that look almost as good as PS3 graphics. The system's game lineup has matured into an indie haven, though AAA titles are scarce. The Vita allows for downloading of some games (including all first-party titles) over the PlayStation Network. The Vita's operating system is smartly designed, easy to use, and ultraresponsive. The unit feels great to hold and has excellent standby battery life. A lot of PSN titles can be purchased on PS3 and Vita for one price.
The bad: The Vita uses proprietary media and connections across the board, and even requires the purchase of a separate memory card to play most games and use most apps, which results in a hidden cost. Battery life could be better, and there's no way it can be replaced by the user. There's also no video out. Also, some antipiracy implementations are a bit cumbersome to deal with (for example, mounting the Vita to a PC/Mac for file transfer). It's also unclear how much storage the Vita has onboard, and it'll cost you more money for larger Vita Memory Cards.
The bottom line: Overall, the PlayStation Vita is the most advanced portable gaming system ever made. While the price is deceiving because of a hidden cost, gamers are getting an impressively complete package. Now priced at $200, the Vita makes a compelling case as the ultimate indie portable console.
Design, Features & Performance (out of 10)
Editors' note (September 11, 2013): Effectively immediately, Sony has cut the price of the Wi-Fi Vita from $249 to $199.
The company has also just announced the Vita 2000, a successor to the original Vita that offers a lighter and thinner form factor and 1GB of internal storage. It will go on sale in Japan on October 10 and will be available in six colors. We'll have more when US release plans get announced.
Originally referred to as the NGP or Next Generation Portable, the Sony PlayStation Vita is the follow-up to the PlayStation Portable (or PSP) that was introduced back in March 2005. The Vita was officially named and priced at Sony's E3 2011 press conference.
At the time of the announcement, it seemed that Nintendo's 3DS was already in trouble, with its disappointing launch lineup, an audience divided over 3D, and a short battery life atypical of Nintendo handhelds. All this plus a matching $250 price point gave Sony all of the momentum going in to the next-generation battle of portable consoles.
While Sony had teased the Vita's release for the 2011 holiday season, only Japan got to see the Vita for sale before the new year. Subsequently, the Vita missed the highly lucrative US holiday shopping season, getting bumped to February 22, 2012.
I imported a Japanese Vita in December and have had weeks of hands-on time with the device, including playing most of Uncharted: Golden Abyss. The Vita is easily the most impressive portable gaming device that I've ever handled. Its brilliant touch screen is as responsive as an iPad's, and the onboard operating system is smart, logically laid out, and easy to use.
Priced at $200 for the Wi-Fi version, there still remains some hidden costs in owning a Vita (which I'll cover below). But perhaps the Vita's biggest challenge is proving itself as a worthy device, important enough to convince the casual gamer that he or she needs to carry around not just a smartphone, but a portable console as well. How this generation of handheld devices shapes up will say a lot about where portable gaming is headed, and Sony has made what I think is a very impressive effort right out of the gate. While the Vita suffered a dearth of AAA titles soon after its original release, the platform has evolved into a haven for indie PSN games.
Design, specs, and other features
First available in two versions, the PlayStation Vita retails for $200 (Wi-Fi only) and $300 (Wi-Fi/3G, though it's becoming increasingly harder to find this model). At a quick glance, it could be confused with the PSP, but upon further inspection you'll find it's wider, taller, and just a few millimeters thicker and few ounces heavier than the PSP-3000. Most noticeable of all, though, has got to be its dazzling 5-inch (960x544-pixel) OLED touch screen, which is nearly an entire inch bigger (diagonally) than the PSP-3000's screen.
Even though it weighs in at 9.2 ounces (9.8 ounces for the 3G model), the Vita is still a considerably lightweight device. Its screen is flanked by two analog thumb sticks; above those are the classic PlayStation buttons on the right and a D-pad on the left. Both the buttons and D-pad are smaller than the ones on the PSP. That said, I didn't find that they negatively affect gameplay. If anything, they're more responsive. There are also left and right shoulder buttons, a PlayStation button, and Start and Select buttons. The latter two are quite tiny, tucked away at the bottom-right corner and aren't always very easy to hit, though they aren't used too often. A power toggle is easily accessible on the top-left brim of the unit, while two volume buttons rest on the right side. In between that you've got a Vita game card slot and a proprietary port of some sort that I haven't had any use for yet.
Under the hood the Vita boasts a four-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor and a four-core SGX543MP4+ GPU (graphics chip). Sure, that's not the sexiest-sounding jargon, but it results in the best portable gaming graphics I've ever seen anywhere.
Other Vita features include two 640x480-pixel VGA cameras (rear- and front-facing), a rear touch panel, Sixaxis motion sensing, Bluetooth, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi , and GPS (only in the 3G version).
Along the bottom of the unit is a headphone jack, microphone sensor, and proprietary USB connection/charging port.
The Vita feels great to hold and is among the more ergonomically satisfying handhelds out there. I occasionally have to stretch my thumbs to hit the center area on the screen, but it's nothing unfamiliar to someone who's typed on an iPad or smartphone.
I was a little surprised that the Vita lacks any kind of video output, unlike the PSP-2000 and 3000. I think video-out remains an important feature -- I use it with my iPad 2 whenever I travel.
The Vita's games operate off of proprietary Sony flash media that most resemble SD cards. There is no support for the PSP's UMD disc, but the Vita is backward compatible with PSP games that are available via the PlayStation Store.
Anything downloaded and installed on the Vita must be done with the use of a Vita Memory Card, as the Vita has an undisclosed -- but seemingly small -- amount of onboard storage. Vita Memory Cards are even smaller than the game cards themselves, mostly resembling Sony M2 and microSD cards. Vita Memory Cards have become a particularly controversial subject with the Vita, as it's also required to play almost all Vita games and media apps. Even more disheartening is the fact that a Vita Memory Card isn't included in the box.
For the first time since its 2011 release Sony has finally lowered the price on its memory cards for the Vita. They still don't line up with the reasonable flash storage prices you'd see with other platforms, but it's a step in the right direction: 16GB and 32GB cards have dropped $20, and it's tough to recommend a capacity below 16GB.
Nevertheless, Sony continues to play the proprietary game with the Vita, forcing customers to shell out more cash on accessories from the get-go. That aside, these tactics are nothing new, and we've seen it from plenty of other companies, such as Apple. When I asked Sony PlayStation Director of Hardware Marketing John Koller about the card at CES 2012, he cited that piracy was one of the major contributing factors in making it a proprietary format. It's no secret that the PSP suffered from widespread piracy and a determined hacking scene, though a lot of that resulted in homebrew applications and emulation software. Any way you slice it, it's a hidden cost that gets passed on to the consumer.
The Vita's operating system is fantastic. It's very easy to use and navigate through because it just makes sense. The best way to describe its behavior is a cross between WebOS and Android. The OS borrows the "card" multitasking concept found in WebOS by allowing apps and games to be frozen or paused, then flicked away to close. It's also extremely responsive and quick, similar to the experience of using iOS. Animations are smooth, and there are plenty of visual indicators to help you learn your way around.
The OS allows for a decent amount of customization, too. You can change background colors, move apps around, and create or delete pages. The first time you play a game on the Vita, it installs an icon to launch the game. It stays there even when the game card isn't inserted into the system.
Preinstalled in the Vita's OS are a series of apps, and users have the option to sign up for a PlayStation Network account (you can also use an existing one) and download social ones like Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, and Skype. Netflix and other streaming platforms are available, too. In addition to the self-explanatory items, (Friends, Group Messaging, and Trophies) there a few other items. Here they are with short descriptions:
Party: Players can create a party, chat, and play games with friends over the PlayStation Network.
PS Store: See the Online section below for more on the PlayStation Store.
Near: Near is the Vita's response to the 3DS' Street Pass technology. Near allows players to connect and monitor their friends' gaming activities as well -- taking geographical location into consideration. I don't know too many people with Vitas just yet, so I'll update this section once it's released to the public.
Photos: The Vita's photo app works fast and takes photos from either the front- or rear-facing cameras. Here you can view all of your images as well as screenshots. The Vita can take a screenshot any time by pressing the PlayStation and Start button together. Also new to the Photo app is the ability to record video. Overall quality of the camera isn't great, and it's nowhere near smartphone resolution or crispness, but it's noticeably better than what the 3DS can do. Of course, though, the Vita can't shoot 3D photos like the 3DS can.
Browser: The Vita's Internet browser looks a bit like the PSP's, but performs much faster. It's a similar experience to what smartphone browsing is like, but it doesn't support HTML5 or Flash. Those shortcomings aside, typing URLs on the screen is certainly a welcome change of pace compared with manual entry on the PSP.
Music: A standard music player is installed on the Vita, which allows for background playback.
Videos: Video playback looks great on the Vita. In terms of compatibility, it supports the MPEG-4/H.264 format. While that has become somewhat of an industry standard, the Vita lacks the comprehensive movie file support that the PS3 so proudly boasts. If you're stuck with an incompatible format and you want it to play on the Vita, try using the free encoder HandBrake (Windows | Mac) to convert your file into an MP4.
Content Manager: This app acts as a means to manage all the media (music, photos, and videos) that's stored on the Vita's Memory Card. It can also be used to back up game saves and entire game files. A one-time installation on PC or Mac allows your computer to talk to the Vita and swap files. While it might be a bit cumbersome to set up initially, the Vita software works well and is very easy to use as long as you respect the content directory paths that you assign when setting up the Content Manager Assistant software. It seems like one too many steps, but again, Sony is clearly making this as unattractive to piracy as possible. This also means that you cannot mount the Vita as a USB mass storage device.
Maps: Maps is a Google Maps app that provides a lot of the functionality from the smartphone and Web-based platforms. GPS locates your location, from which you can search addresses, businesses, and directions.
Remote Play: Remote Play allows a Vita to connect to a PS3 over a home network. While Remote Play initially seemed promising, I've yet to see it really impress. It has a lot of potential, but almost every desirable feature seems to be blocked. Very few games will even work with the service; I've only seen Killzone 3 work over Remote Play, and you can't watch any Blu-rays or DVDs, either. That said, I was able to play videos stored on my NAS through the PS3's DLNA client.
Sony claims that the Vita's battery life should net around 3 to 5 hours of gameplay on a single charge. I've been getting just over 4.5 on a regular basis. This number increases when just watching video or listening to music in addition to using other features.
The big improvement I've noticed over the PSP is standby time. The Vita lasts a very long time in standby mode -- I'm talking over a week in my testing. This would have been unheard of in the days of the PSP.
Finally, the battery is internal and not user-replaceable. Again, this decision was probably made to combat piracy, as some of the original PSP's vulnerability was unlocked because of its replaceable battery.
Games and performance
Sony describes the Vita as the "best lineup in PlayStation history," and I'd be lying if I said I disagree. Clocking in at a whopping 25 total launch games (this includes PSN-only titles), there really is something for everyone.
Great graphics is where the Vita shines, and most of the launch titles look absolutely fantastic. It's the closest thing I've seen to a PlayStation 3 in your hands.
I love the ability to be able to pause a game state by hitting the PlayStation button. It freezes your game, which then allows you to use other applications. I should also note that like PSP games, Vita titles require a bit of loading time.
So what about those dual analog thumb sticks? I can't deny that they are definitely needed -- Nintendo's introduction of the Circle Pad Pro for the 3DS is living proof. That said, their tiny demeanor doesn't allow for much range of motion. I like that they pivot as opposed to slide, but what this has translated to seems to be an increase in their overall sensitivity as they relate to onscreen action. For example, using them to control aiming in Uncharted definitely takes a fair amount of practice to get right. Even then, I still find myself totally missing targets on a regular basis. It's a much different experience compared with what I'm used to on a DualShock controller.
During my testing with the launch games, I found that some titles (aside from those where touch is a central mechanic like in Little Deviants) give you the option to bypass touch controls. It seems the jury is still out on whether all games should offer that option, but I think touch-screen controls occasionally break the flow of gameplay. Needless to say, touch control was a must-have feature from the start, so we'll have to see how its evolution plays out on the new platform. What I do love, though, is the rear touch panel and how it prevents any visual impairment while still using touch controls. Using the panel feels natural and from what I've seen so far, I enjoy it more than using the front screen for touch.
Just like the DualShock controller, the Vita uses motion control as well. It's another game mechanic that I'm not totally sold on, but it does appear in a sizable chunk of launch games. Love it or hate it, it's still a better experience compared with the 3DS', simply because moving that system around almost always breaks up the 3D effect.
The inclusion of two cameras allows the Vita to enter the world of augmented reality (AR). The technology superimposes game elements into the environment around you by looking through Vita's screen. Nintendo wowed us with a collection of AR games included with the system; the games force the player to move around a general area (in most cases a table top). Bundled in with the Vita are six AR cards that work with a free game available in the PlayStation Store. The AR experience on the Vita is much smoother (in terms of frame rate) and arguably better implemented than what I've seen on the 3DS. Still, the technology does feel a bit gimmicky, but Vita developers seem to be using it more than 3DS game makers.
I also wanted to point out how well I think the Vita's onboard speakers perform. Now you'll probably want to opt for headphones for most gaming situations (it improves battery life and is general common courtesy), but it's definitely worth noting their clear and crisp sound and performance.
I've had plenty of hands-on time with around a dozen games, but here are a few words on some titles I've spent a considerable amount of time with:
Uncharted: Golden Abyss: Easily the one absolutely must-have game at launch, Golden Abyss is Uncharted in your pocket. Touch controls feel gimmicky, but there's the option to bypass them completely. Here's where I also really began to struggle with the analog thumb sticks, but after weeks of play, I'm much better than where I was when I started the game.
EA Sports FIFA Soccer: The Vita's 5-inch screen shines here the most out of any launch game. The level of detail is amazing, as you can see a huge chunk of the field at any given time. Here I really dislike the touch controls, though, including the rear panel. Accidentally hitting the panel is too easy to do, so I turned those controls off.
Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3: While I found this chaotic fighting game a lot of fun, it's limited in terms of modes when played offline. Even though there's a "touch mode," this one's best experienced with buttons only.
Wipeout 2048: Another great example of the sheer processing power the Vita packs in, Wipeout 2048 is a fast, dazzling racer that displays lightning-quick visuals. The pace to the racing is great, though it can spiral into anarchy at any given moment. Wipeout is a classic PlayStation franchise, and 2048 continues the legacy.
Touch My Katamari: I was very excited to see a Katamari game hit the Vita at launch. While it's an odd concept (you roll over items to make your Katamari ball bigger), it's extremely accessible, and the Vita's rear touch panel works great to stretch your Katamari. Pick up Touch My Katamari if you're interested in a game that you can pick up and play in short spurts.
Most games will range in price from $30 to $50 (and for less when downloaded off the PlayStation Store). PSN-only games start at $10 and up.
Online experience and PlayStation Store
The preinstalled portable mini version of the PSN Store is actually a breeze to use. I downloaded Super Stardust Delta fairly quickly, and the Vita performed this in the background. The store interface is tailored for touch controls and is split up into two main categories, Game and Video. Similar to its PS3 counterpart, the store allows for movie rentals and purchases, and full Vita game, PSP, Mini, and demo downloads. Judging by the initial pricing, purchasing full Vita games from the Store will net you a small discount. PlayStation Plus membership has also launched for the Vita and with it games like Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Gravity Rush and Wipeout 2048 can be downloaded for free.
The 3DS and the rest of the portable gaming landscape
Over the last couple of years the Vita and 3DS have taken separate paths although they appear to have overlapped in a few areas. Indie gaming has erupted on both platforms, allowing for the purchasing of inexpensive and entertaining titles. Their small size also makes it easy to carry dozens of games on the go.
But where the Vita can't catch up to the 3DS is first-party support and a steady stream of AAA titles. Only a handful of titles can be labeled as "must-own" on the Vita and only in the last year has things really begun to pick up steam on the indie side of things. Games like Spelunky and Guacamelee! make the Vita worth owning, but don't expect to get the PS3 experience of blockbuster games on the platform. Only recently has Killzone: Mercenary made its way to the handheld, which is the shooter diamond in what's otherwise a gigantic rough.
Should you buy a PlayStation Vita? If you're a fan of indie games it's almost a no-brainer. There are plenty of titles that launch simultaneously on PS3 and Vita, and one purchase allows play on both platforms. Sure, the cost of getting started is probably more than you thought, but the Vita's fantastic launch lineup, laundry-list of features, cool apps, silky smooth OS, and promising future definitely make a great case for owning one. Will Sony restyle the Vita at some point? Almost certainly (they did). But in terms of a first effort, the Vita is a complete package. Where a lull in AAA games has evolved, the Vita makes up for with an impressive amount of indie titles.
Of course with the impending release of the Vita 2000, we'd have to recommend -- at the very least -- waiting to see what it performs like. We're anticipating a $200 price point as well, but there's enough differences that'll require a new full review. Keep it here for our review of the Vita 2000!
|Product Description||Sony PlayStation Vita - Handheld game console|
|Name||Sony PlayStation Vita (PS Vita) 1000 series|
|Type||Handheld game console|
|Dimensions (WxDxH)||7.2 in x 3.3 in x 0.7 in|
|Processor||Data path width=, ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore|
|Display||OLED display, OLED display - 5 in - Color|
|Connectivity Features||Bluetooth 2.1 EDR, 802.11b/g/n|
|Battery||1 - Rechargeable - Lithium ion|
|Included Game Console Accessories||AC power adapter|
Average User Rating: 4.0 / 5
User Rating Breakdown
5 Star: 27
4 Star: 11
3 Star: 1
2 Star: 1
1 Star: 3
Best handheld ever.
Rating: 5 / 5
on February 13, 2012
4 out of 4 users found this review helpful
Pros: The screen, the graphics, the OS, the PSN integration....pretty much everything. I've had a bug once or twice, but given that it's still early, I'm sure all glitches will be fixed through firmware updates.
Best gaming experience on the go.
Cons: It's not cheap. Specially with the price of the yen :/
Summary: By far the best portable gaming device ever conceived....I played today a 3DS after 2 months of using my vita....and sorry, but it is a completely different experience. The Vita is so ridiculously comfortable to use!, the joysticks are just a great addition....
I think the price is fair too....for all those people ******** about it, it is like saying that a Ferrari is crap because you can't afford it....plus, it's 250 people...it's great value.
Sony back into the game again?!?
Rating: 5 / 5
on February 13, 2012
4 out of 4 users found this review helpful
Pros: visuals, and these are the first batch of games!
the whole system is amazing.
Cons: price of games.....have an ipad and the best games are sometimes max $10!! dont know how sony will compete.
also, have to use sony products all the time: hidden cost
Summary: worth it if u like buying gadgets!!
but the competition is just too much from apple in that the games are much cheaper. but i know a few friends would like to play games old school ; with joysticks!!
Knows target audience. hardcore gamers. Sleek/solid.
Rating: 4 / 5
on February 17, 2012
3 out of 4 users found this review helpful
Pros: Amazing launch titles. Light but solid feeling, really the right weight for what it does. You feel like you are playing a mobile PS3 from everything to performance/processing power to the controls/design. Great form/feature/performance balance.
Cons: Battery life is disappointing. The overall OS is pretty confusing/big learning curve/lots of clutter. Many hidden costs for memory. Screen seems a lower resolution than what many users will be used to. Overly complex connectivity issues.
Summary: Amazing system for what it does (a PS3 in your pocket). The launch titles are so strong (smart to have an early launch with its strongest titles on Feb 15th to generate buzz and credibility and then a main launch on Feb 22...great way to hit the ground running). I can still see some of that traditional Sony "lifestyle" insular proprietary rubbish that costs more and is not terribly realistic for most users... I feel the system has delivered on so many levels that if it had just gotten rid of the typical Sony crap, it would have really been absolutely perfect, but instead it is absolutely fantastic. I think with all that said this has the potential for being Sony's comeback/flagship system, a remarkable new niche they have carved out for themselves. They were smart NOT to compete with the iPad and casual touch screen gamers and instead are working to taking the cash cow gamer target audience to the next level, rather than abandoning them for a larger but more fickle market. I am hoping they really dive into it full force because I believe consumers will bite.
Updated on Feb 18, 2012
Great little machine with minimal launch flaws...
Rating: 4 / 5
on December 20, 2011
3 out of 4 users found this review helpful
Pros: - OLED screen comparable to SGS2 (which means great!)
- Feels comfortable in hand
- Touch screen very responsive
- Thumbsticks feel sturdy and precise
- Amazing graphics!
- Battery life good for "realistic" on-the-go gaming
Cons: - PSone games "currently" not compatible
- My US PSN PSP games not showing up either (Maybe because it's not out in US? IDK)
- Remote play look like it's still coded for PSP (grainy look, can't play PS3 games), so no real Vita specific compatibility
Summary: All in all, a very good start for the life of the Vita. I would have wanted full backwards compatibility from the start but such is the life of an early adopter. I am very sure that Sony will address the issues I stated in my cons list before the end of 2012 Q1, so I'll change my score to 5 stars then.
Surprisingly awesome - finally a true handheld console
Rating: 4.5 / 5
on March 2, 2012
2 out of 2 users found this review helpful
Pros: Great screen, dual sticks and multiple control schemes, surprisingly slick OS, and a great game lineup (including backwards compatibility)
Cons: Back touchscreen can be awkward; many launch games illogically shovel in touch controls; middling battery life; 3G functionality is limited
Summary: I picked up a 3G model last week, and have been having a great time with it. This is what the PSP should've been; with the control set you can finally replicate PS2/3 games without sacrificing features and functionality.
I was expecting all of this, simply by virtue of the dual sticks. What surprised me was the OS; it is surprisingly good. It's very fast and the touch sensitivity is top notch, rivaling Apple's products. While it's very game-focused and limited, it's fast, responsive and multi-tasks without a hitch. The XMB was no slouch, the new OS and interface is fast and responsive, and well laid out for a touch interface.
The slick OS translates into very responsive games, and the PS Vita is all about precision control. The thumbsticks are smaller than a Dualshock, but once you get used to it they're just as accurate. Throw in touch and motion controls on top of that, and you have a level of control that is superior to a console. Combine the thumbsticks with the motion control to aim in Uncharted, and you'll be headshotting every villain that comes your way.
That said, there is a lot of touch/motion gimmickry in the launch games. Uncharted replaces standard controls with motion controls too many times, and throws in a number of mini-games that are essentially just reminders of the tech. Look, rub charcoal on this engraving and be reminded of the touch screen! Balance Drake on a log and experience the gyroscope! And so on. That said, the games still control well, and once the devs get over the novelty I think we'll see some innovative touch/motion controls implemented.
On the downside, where the back touch screen is active, it can be hard to hold the Vita without accidentally touching. It just takes some getting used to. The battery is pretty much as advertised, and a little on the low side. That is enough for me, but if you use it on long trips you'll need to charge it.
One of the great things, which isn't mentioned much, is the backward compatibility with many PSP games and PS Minis. There are a lot of great PSP games you can play on the Vita, with slightly improved graphics, so if you haven't experienced those yet you have a large library to look at. The Minis are smartphone style minigames with similar pricing. Between all of that, there are a lot of games to play at all price points. You can pretty much get a game anywhere from a few bucks to $50, so if you have money, Sony has something to sell you.
My one piece of advice to prospective buyers is to buy the wifi version. The 3G version has GPS and 3G, but they're not used for much. Maybe this will change later, but you can't play online with 3G; it's basically for accessing PSN, leaderboards, and the social apps (Facebook, Twitter, etc.). If you've got a smartphone, you won't miss it. So unless you're dying to compete on leaderboards or if you don't have a smartphone, use that $50 to buy a game or something.
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