Decisions, decisions, decisions. Saying it three times won't make things any easier, but that's where we come in. Sony's latest iteration of the PlayStation Vita handheld, which we're going to call the Vita Slim from now on (as seems to be the fashion), is coming to the UK, having previously only been available in Asia. It's up for pre-order right now and will launch a week from today -- so, do you want one? The choice is ultimately yours, of course, and it's a delicate one, but if the pressure is too much to bear, then head past the break where we explore how the Slim stacks up against the Vita of old, and whether it's really worth the extra £50 (or roughly $80, in US terms) for a console that delivers essentially the same experience.
Now, we're not here to tell you that the PS Vita is an essential purchase -- whichever version you're looking at. If you're unfamiliar with the handheld, or perhaps the PlayStation brand as a whole, then it's really a matter of how you like to game on the go. Are you more Killzone than Brain Training, more Need for Speed than Mario Kart, or maybe you're happy killing commute time with a bit of Angry Birds and don't need another device at all? If you're going in blind, then it's probably best to start with a quick browse of the Vita's game catalog, and check out our full reviews of the original and Slim models to get acquainted.
The Vita, in general, is serious and well-built hardware. Dual thumbsticks, a 5-inch touchscreen display, another touch panel on the rear, stereo speakers and two cameras facing forward and back. Most importantly, it delivers the best graphics of any handheld, verging on last-gen console territory.
As the Vita Slim isn't a sequel, you'll find everything mentioned across both iterations, so what's the hook? As you've probably guessed, the Vita Slim is everything the Vita is, but in a smaller package: 20 percent thinner and 15 percent lighter, to be exact. At 15mm thick and weighing 219g, it's still not pocket-sized by any means, but the nip and tuck's welcome nonetheless, alongside a few other minor revisions that make it more comfortable to hold.
(Note: The white model in the comparison shot above is available in Japan only. The UK Slim model is black.)
This is one of the main draws of the Vita Slim -- it's just that bit more portable. Beyond aesthetic changes, there's a far more important improvement to battery life. Instead of three to five hours of game time on the original Vita, you're looking at around eight hours with the Slim. Forgetting price difference, it's hard to recommend the old Vita on that stat alone. If a portable console can't manage a decent-length plane ride without needing a recharge, then we should revisit the definition of portable.
How did Sony achieve this with less space to work with? Well, that's the one drawback of the Vita Slim. It's dropped the OLED display of the OG Vita for an LCD panel, which is where much of the power savings come from. There's no getting around it: The OLED panel is better. Color representation and viewing angles trump those of the LCD screen, but unless you're a huge videophile, you'll likely appreciate the extra battery life way more. The screen may've been downgraded, but that's not to say it's of poor quality.
The Vita Slim is different in two other respects: It's equipped with WiFi only, whereas the older model has a 3G option, and it has 1GB of internal storage where the other has none. We can't imagine the lack of 3G is a dealbreaker for anyone, which is probably why Sony couldn't be bothered with a cellular variant. A gig of storage might not sound like much; it won't go a long way, and you can pick up a 4GB Vita-specific memory card (thanks, Sony) for under a tenner. Getting 1GB free, though, is just one less thing to think about when you tear it from the box and wanna dive right in. In a pure hardware match-up, we'd have to put our money on the Vita Slim, but how much money are we talking about exactly?
A number of sites have now opened up pre-orders for the Vita Slim, and although it's more expensive than the older model, it's still a significant savings over the WiFi-only OG model that launched in 2012 for £230. Yes, it's still way more expensive in the UK than in its home country of Japan, but you're British and should be used to paying more for everything, so suck it up. A couple of retailers -- Amazon, Game, Simply Games and ShopTo, for example -- have stuck to Sony's RRP of £180 for the console alone. (There are other sites asking as much as £200, but let's ignore those.) The latter two retailers are also plugging bundles that add just a fiver to the price of the handheld alone. ShopTo has the greatest selection, bundling the Vita Slim with a number of single, high-profile titles, or download vouchers and memory cards. The best deal seems to be the Slim with 10-game download voucher plus a 16GB memory card, which you'll need to store those voucher titles on anyway. Sure, most are old, but there are a few gems such as Wipeout, and that 16GB card is worth around the price of Vita game itself.
Currently, ShopTo also appears to have the best deal on the original Vita, with the WiFi and 3G model priced at only £130. This appears to be a transient deal, however, and most other retailers have the same model on offer for £140 to £150. At this point, we wouldn't entertain the thought of getting an OG Vita bundle, as their prices haven't reacted to the Slim's impending arrival. Game is selling the same £185 Slim bundle we listed above with the old Vita for £155, but even this deal should see a reduction when the Slim's launch has had a chance to impact retailer pricing.
We're sure OG Vita bundles will be revised in due course, but for early Slim adopters, those with a refreshed interest in the Vita or those thinking about upgrading, this is how things stand at the moment. Some PS fans will no doubt jump at the Slim due to the "shiny factor" (it's new; gotta have it), but unless you can trade in or sell your current Vita for a fair price, we wouldn't bother upgrading. Definitely not before the price of the Slim comes down, anyway. If you're sure now is the time to get Vita'd up, then ShopTo's £130 offer for the original model is certainly tempting. If you can stretch to £185 though, go for one of the Slim bundles with a 16GB memory card thrown in. Any console is an investment, however late you are to the party, and due solely to the portability improvements the Slim boasts, we'd call it the smarter one.