The Next Generation Portable is here. Hello Vita!
The PlayStation Vita has finally seen its North American launch (sorta). Even though the official launch date is February 22nd, Sony released a First Edition Bundle just yesterday, and already, the PS Vita has climbed to the number one spot on our gaming console charts. Here are a few good reasons why you might want one.
A few Nintendo loyalists have been trashing the Vita, claiming it’s simply a poor attempt at coping the Nintendo DS (referring mostly to the new touch-interface). What they forget to mention is the fact that the Vita some killer graphics capabilities.
The Vita actually utilizes components that will be used in smartphones that aren’t even out yet. It features a quad-core CPU as well as a quad-core SGX545MP4+ GPU (essentially a faster 4-core version of Apple’s dual-core A5 processor found in the iPad 2). This thing is truly capable of PS3 and Xbox 360 level graphics, which means you’ll be getting a lot of the same PS3 games rather than watered down portable versions the DS and PSP have. Games like Uncharted: Golden Abyss have already proved this.
The PS Vita comes in two flavors: a 3G cellular data version for $299 (plus monthly data plan), and a WiFi-only version for $249. Both are a spectacularly good deal.
Sure, the Nintendo 3DS and DSi XL are available for around $160, but the Vita isn’t really competing with the DS; it’s competing with smartphones. The smartphone gaming market is on the verge of rapid expansion, but they have a few huge speed bumps to get over:
- Pricing. You can buy a new smartphone for about the same price as the PS Vita, except you’ll be locking yourself into a 2-year agreement. If you ever break or lose your phone, or want to buy a new one, it’ll cost you upwards of $500. The PS Vita is subsidized by game licensing, so its price will only go down from here on out.
- Performance. We’ll be seeing quad-core phones before the end of the year, but the PS Vita has already achieved that performance today.
- Controls. With the exception of the Xperia Play, smartphones are pretty much only offer touch screeninputs. Serious gaming is basically impossible. Thankfully, the Vita has dual joysticks, a D-pad, left/right bumpers, and of course a handful of buttons.
- Games. The PS Vita is a gaming device, so there’s no question that it will soon have a massive game library with hundreds of great titles. Smartphone app stores are still hazy on the gaming department while they wait to see if smartphones can make suitable gaming devices.
Overall, the PS Vita has been very well designed. Its 5-inch 960×544 qHD OLED display looks great and still keeps it small enough that it will fit in your pocket, though it’s probably a bit too bulky to carry it everywhere you go. With the exception of transitioning from the joysticks to the touch screen (and visa-versa), the controls are very well thought out.
The gaming experience really is unmatched in the portable realm; however, full-sized games also mean full-sized load times. Starting up a game like Uncharted can take a few minutes. Fortunately, the sleep function makes pausing and resuming gameplay almost instantaneous. The Vita also makes for an excellent media device, with lots of options for storage and most popular media formats. That big beautiful screen does take a heavy toll on battery life, though. Expect about 5 hours of gaming on a single charge – enough for a long car trip, but bring a charger for a long flight.