Well Sony’s latest generation of portable gaming devices has finally made it to our shores. The delay mostly due to the manufacturing losses in Japan post the 2011 Tsunami. However Sony has bounced back and come February 22nd/23rd they unleash the PS Vita upon the rest of the world.
Sony’s PS Vita is what they describe as an NGP, or Next Generation Portable, which promised a range of gaming experiences that real gamers would want in a portable gaming platform. Previously Sony introduced the popular PSP and PSPgo in 2007 and 2009 respectively laying a solid foundation for their Portal Gaming platform. With all those lessons learnt the PS Vita comes to the market as veteran in this space, packing features that truly deliver a spectacular portable device.
Vita at a Glance
When you unbox the Vita you notice that they have returned to a similar form factor as the original PSP. This proven form factor seems to fit well with gamers, allowing easy handling of the device and controllers at the same time. By popular demand they have included two analog controllers, which was a major complaint on the early platform designs. In fact the whole button and controller layout feels much like a Playstation SixAxis controller, and does pack much of the SixAxis features.
Center to the unit is a 5″ OLED screen, packing a 960 x 544 screen with 16 million colors. The display is very nice. Games like Uncharted : Golden Abyss look stunning, even levelling the criticisms of the most hardened PS critics. To add the screen is fully touch, increasing the number of in game options and interactions greatly.
A surprising feature that was announced a while ago was the capacitive touch pad on the back of the unit. While still an interface to be fully exploited it adds a new dimension to the gaming platform allowing gamers to interact with their fingertips which often sit idly at the back of the unit.
And of course there is the patented Playstation Action Buttons, SixAxis controller and Left and RIght shoulder buttons. But in addition there is a 3 axis electronic compass, which provides Vita’s location services for its Social Gaming expereinces.
Under The Hood
Of course Sony have delivered a platform that appears to be generously over powered. Packing a 4 Core Cortex A9 Arm Chip there certainly does not appear to be any noticeable processing issues. The memory on board is a paltry 512mb with an additional 128mb of VRAM, which while sounds a bit light seems totally adequate for the many demonstration titles we have played. The beauty of the PS Vita gaming experience is via the Vita Cards, a SD type memory card that holds each game. These cards reportedly can hold up to 32GB of Solid State Storage which both allows for quick game loading and the promise of media rich titles (lets face it 32GB is a stack load of space for a game)
There are two models available on launch day. Both are equally the same device in terms of specs with the only difference between the two being the inclusion of a 3G mobile data service (HSDPA / HSUPA, GPRS / EDGE / 3G). On launch Vodafone New Zealand and Australia (link) will be providing 3G cards with the PS Vita 3G Models. Upon first activation owners will be able to redeem a code for Wipeout 2048 for free (data charges still apply) . We are not sure if this unit will work with the Telecom XT network at this stage, however have asked the question and will update the review once we have that.
Both models come with 802.11b/g/n wireless and Bluetooth 2.1 as well as a forward and rear facing camera. Now the cameras are note hugely powerful and are probably more suitable for the social interaction side of the platform than high quality photography. They do a surprising 120fps at QVGA resolution (320×240), however the general resolution for both video and photos is VGA (640 x 480).
Sony have departed a little bit on the interface side, opting not to use the XrossMediaBar that is available on many of Sony’s other platforms (gaming and entertainment). Instead they use a new design called LiveArea. This is fairly easy to get your head around so its not awful. This device links into the Playstation Network, makes use of the Playstation Shop and adds social functions such as Party and Near (a social mapping application). On a side note Near actually works in New Zealand! It seems plenty of Japanese sounding players are on the network pre launch on the North Shore.
Games are typically delivered either via the PS Vita cards, from local gaming shops, or downloadable from the store. The device will be backwardly compatible with PSP, Playstation Mini, Playstation Suite and PSOne Classics.
Sony promise that Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and even Skype will be available at a later date.
With the PS Vita already available in Japan the device has had some real world experience. With that experience comes the inevitable patches, and improvements. So when the product comes to the rest of the world the system software will be up to version 1.6. This version adds support for Google Maps, which appears to be implemented into a number of other features.
The PS Vita is a stunning addition to the Portable Gaming space. It delivers an unsurpassed portable gaming experience in a familiar form factor. Its light, powerful and very feature rich – And promises to scale to deliver many years of functionality. This is a solid and sturdy piece of hardware you would not be worried bout handing over to your over excited kids. For me i think this sets a new benchmark for Portable gaming and entertainment devices.
Stay tuned to www.gameguide.co.nz as we tear apart (metaphorically) the PS Vita and its launch title games to reveal just how this platform performs in the real world.
Launch Date is set for 23rd February in New Zealand. Prices are $449.95 for the Wifi Model, $549.95 for the Wifi/3G Model.