Review: PlayStation Vita
An overpriced successor to the PSP.
Excellent hardware; Front and rear multi-touch capability; SixAxis motion sensing; Very ergonomic; Dual analogue sticks; Support for augmented reality gaming; Tight PSN integration.
Uber expensive; Proprietary memory card; Poor battery life; Inaccessible battery; Sadistic media transfer implementation; Inept browser and social networking integration; Screen prone to scratches.
MRP: Rs 20,000 (Wi-Fi); Rs 25,000 (3G)
It takes less than five minutes to realise that the PlayStation Vita (PS Vita) is everything that the PSP should have been, and more. Like its elder sibling, the PS Vita packs in a total of 8 processing cores comprising of 4 CPU and 4 GPU cores. For all intents and purposes, this is essentially a PS3 duct-taped to a 5" OLED screen.
The video review for the PlayStation Vita.
Bye, Bye RSI
Sony's latest handheld device is monstrous in proportions. Squeezing the handheld into your trousers is a tough task, if not entirely impossible. Its sheer heft, on the other hand, makes it the most ergonomic portable console I have used. This is a gizmo that warrants carrying around a bag. The PS Vita may look sturdy, but it doesn't include Gorilla Glass despite costing quarter of a lakh. It's little wonder then that the review sample suffered many deep scratches in less than a week. Thankfully, the build quality is impressive, with high-quality plastic used all around.
While the PS Vita's silhouette may resemble that of the first gen (fat) PSP, the latter's aluminium chassis has been replaced with tough plastic. Elementary physics dictates that reduced weight equals minimal potential energy, which in turn translates in to better survivability against gravity. That still isn't an indicator of a trouble-free ownership experience, because only long-term usage will tell if the PS Vita's analogue sticks and buttons will last longer than their failure-prone equivalents on the PSP.
Armed To The Teeth
Sony has included a comprehensive array of control options with a multi-touch display, SixAxis motion sensing capability, and its greatest strength - a pair of proper ball-and-socket articulated dual-analogue sticks. A multi-touch trackpad at the rear lets you use touch input in conjunction with regular tactile controls. Top that off with a microphone and a pair of front\rear cameras capable of 120 fps, and that's good enough for an augmented reality (AR) gaming.
A lacklustre launch title line-up notwithstanding, the PS Vita makes for an excellent portable gaming console - all thanks to its ability to run PS3-grade games with the full functionality of a dual-shock 3 controller, in addition to touch controls. This is bolstered further with comprehensive online multiplayer gaming tightly integrated with the PlayStation Network. The actual implementation of the touchscreen and AR components is purely perfunctory in the launch titles. However, once the developers get accustomed to the new platform, expect great things from this puppy.
Is It A Console Or A Tablet?
Sony has leveraged the PS Vita's touchscreen interface, camera, microphone, and 3G/Wi-Fi capability for full fledged social networking and communication features spanning popular applications such as (Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare) and other web-enabled services such as Skype.
Unfortunately, none of that works well enough. Web surfing is quite horrible thanks to a lack of portrait orientation and a very limited framebuffer that causes annoying delays while the page sections are redrawn. The social networking aspect is quite sketchy as well, since Sony had pulled down the Facebook application following user complaints. The resurrected Facebook app isn't much of an improvement either. Rest assured, this won't be replacing your tablet anytime soon.
Chinks In The Armour
Sony is back to its annoying ways with the PS Vita. The UMD may be gone, but Sony has introduced a new proprietary flash medium dubbed as the PS Vita Card. If that wasn't enough, the console doesn't ship with any inbuilt memory, which forces you to buy yet another proprietary memory card dedicated for media storage and game saves. That's another Rs 1500 (4 GB) or Rs 3800 (16 GB) that you have to spend. There's absolutely no reason to introduce a new memory format when Sony already has the Memory Stick format in several different form factors. Well, no reason apart from bullying kids out of their lunch money if they want to save their DLCs, multimedia, and save game files.
Unlike PSP's USB mass storage mode, the PS Vita forces you to install a Content Manager Assistant for transferring files between the PC and the portable console. However, unlike iTunes, Zune, and other debilitating PC suites enforced upon by corporations obsessed with total control over the user, Sony's Content Manager Assistant does absolutely nothing. Well nothing apart from preventing you playing open source media formats (which constitute 99% of my video collection, by the way).
All transfers have to be initiated and controlled from the painfully tedious interface of the PS Vita. This has to be the worst media transfer protocol I have ever used in my life. Then again, this won't be an issue, because unlike your Android devices, the PS Vita fails to recognise most of the common video and audio formats.
The user interface is touch optimised alright, but it can't shake a stick at its predecessor's elegant XMB UI. The gaudy colour scheme, daft bubble icons, and the horrid peel-over animation effects make you wonder if you're using a Chinese imitation of an Android tablet instead of a state-of-the-art Japanese console. However, unlike an Android tablet, the PS Vita handles its menus and animations without a hint of stutter or lag. Check out the videos in the hands on feature to get a proper idea of how the LiveArea works out.
Average Display, Below Average Battery Life
The OLED screen is vibrant enough, but the black levels are unsatisfactory and there's a noticeable colour shift evident when viewed from an angle. That's the least of its problems as high reflectivity and poor brightness levels make it nigh impossible to use outdoors. This is rather silly, since this is a portable console meant to be used on the move.
Battery life is a shade under three hours for serious gaming, which is quite inadequate. USB charging takes forever, so you have no choice but to lug around the unwieldy charger and its tangle of wires, which fully recharges the battery in less than two hours. My biggest gripe with the device is its inaccessible battery. I have had the PS Vita freeze on me several times, and with no hard reset feature, I couldn't resume normal functionality until the battery was drained out completely. Come think of it, its measly three-hour battery life seems to be a blessing in disguise now.
At Rs 20,000 for the Wi-Fi and 25,000 for the 3G version, the PS Vita sells at an average 40% premium over its price in America. It's okay for smartphone and tablet makers to charge a premium for their products, because they don't see another rupee from you once the device is sold. Consoles manufacturers, on the other hand, make most of their profits from licensing and high software cost. That's why the hardware is expected to be cheap. There's absolutely no reason for the PS Vita to carry a premium of almost Rs 10,000 over the PS3, especially since the launch titles cost just as much as AAA PS3 games.
As a console it definitely has a lot of potential; however, at this price, I expect better all round performance as a web-integrated touchscreen device. I say, if you are going to charge tablet money for a portable console, you better make sure that aspect works just as advertised. If Sony India had succeeded in pricing the PS Vita closer to its $250 US price tag, it would have received my recommendation right away. Given the circumstances, it's better to ask your NRI uncle to get one for you.
Design And Build Quality: 3.5/5
Value For Money: 2/5
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
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