- Game library Even though the PlayStation Vita just launched, there are a lot of game titles available for it.
- Graphics The OLED screen is the best-looking screen I've seen on any portable gaming system.
- Battery life I haven't had adequate time to test battery life yet.
- Portability (size / weight) The PlayStation Vita is big. While it's only a little bigger than the original PSP, in today's iPhone 4S era, the Vita seems humongous by comparison.
- Durability The unit seems solidly built. The controls seem sturdy, The touchscreen seems normal. The slot covers have rubber hinges, so they may break with repeated use.
The first thing you notice when you take it out of the box, is that the Vita is huge. The unit looks monstrous. I compared it to the original PSP, and it's not much bigger, but in today's slate smartphone era, the Vita looks huge.
The second thing you notice after you turn it on is that it has a bright, crisp display. The OLED screen is gorgeous, and the press photos you were drooling over just don't do it justice.
The layout of the controls is about what you'd expect. The dual analog joysticks feel better than the analog control pad on the earlier models. The buttons feel clickier than the ones on my PSP, but that could be because the Vita is new and my PSP has been through a lot.
I only see one possible flaw in the hardware design: the slot covers. The covers for the SIM card, the Vita game cards, and memory cards all have a plastic or rubber hinge. I guess only time will tell if they break with repeated use.
The new memory card has a surprisingly small form factor. It's about the size of my thumbnail. It's small enough that I wouldn't want to be switching between cards for fear of losing one of them. I sort of wish that they'd have one memory format and stick with it. However, I have seen some videos on YouTube, and the loading times for PSP games seem to be significantly faster. I suspect that has more to do with the memory bus speed than the Vita's faster CPU, so perhaps getting an I/O boost is worth upgrading to a new format.
I also wish that they'd stick to one format for the USB connection to a PC or PlayStation 3. The Vita has yet another cable - it's not a standard mini or micro USB port. It also uses a different cable than the PSPgo. I heard reports saying that the cable could be plugged in upside down, and that the PSP wouldn't charge that way. The cable is keyed, so I don't see how someone could plug it in backwards without jamming it in. I guess a kid might do that, but I can't picture anyone responsible accidentally plugging the cable in backwards. (I'll eat my words and edit my review if I run out of battery because I didn't plug in my Vita correctly the night before. :-)
In the box, there is just the Vita and a charger. No headphones or case are included. The headphones that came with other PSPs weren't that great (and the cable was too short, as I recall) so I don't really miss them. I am going to buy a hard case, though. I don't want to worry about scratching the touchscreen or breaking a joystick when I jump up and down on my suitcase to close it. :-)
The GUI and the touchscreen on the Vita work really well. Apps and games appear like little bubbles on app screens. You can organize games and swipe up and down to go between the app screens. I currently have 7 app screens. I don't know what the maximum number of screens is.
When you open an app or a game, it goes to a LiveArea screen. These screens have things like links to the store for DLC, a list of notifications for the particular game, and other things like that. When you pause a game, you exit to this screen. You still can have only one game paused at a time, though. it's seems pretty responsive, and it looks quick enough to jump out of a game, change some settings, and get back into the game without too much hassle. When you are done with one of the applications, you peel off the upper righthand corner of the LiveArea (kinda like a sticker) and the app closes.
My first gripe is that the WiFi setup wasn't great. Because I am trying to support a wide range of hardware, I use WPA Personal with TKIP. It's not the best encryption, but it's supported by my home computers, Nintendo DSes, iPads, and a host of other devices. My PlayStation 3, my PSPgo, and my non-Sony products do not have any problems connecting to my home WiFi connection, but I was unable to set up my Vita to connect to the same WiFi. When I used the WiFi setup screen, it didn't like the length of the password and wouldn't let me enter it to connect to WiFi. I connected to other WiFi hotspots that use other encryption types, but I can't connect at home. I seem to remember there was a patch to the PSP or the PSPgo to support other WiFi encryption types, so maybe it'll be supported in the future. I didn't feel like troubleshooting it much further, since I wanted to play games instead. (EDIT: I tried again a few days later, and I actually got a different settings screen. Instead of wanting a hexadecimal code, this time the settings dialog would accept a password. It worked fine on my home WiFi after that, without changing encryption types on the WiFi router.)
Since I had the 3G version, and since I couldn't connect to my home WiFi, I tried to activate the AT&T 3G. Registering was an exercise in frustration, to say the least. It uses a 3G connection to register on AT&T's web site. I couldn't figure out how to tell if the web page was encrypted on the Vita, but I held my breath and went ahead and entered my credit card information anyway.
Entering in information using the Vita web browser leaves much to be desired. The touchscreen is a lot easier than previous PSP or PS3 input methods using a joystick, but it's still not great. The virtual keyboard takes up too much of the screen to be able to tell what exactly you are entering. It also is hard to tell if the return key will move you to the next input field or submit the incomplete form and force you to start over. The default 1-minute power savings setting also turned off the Vita while I was still trying to input information (or find my credit card) and then I'd have to start the whole process over again. I don't know if it's AT&T's fault for a bad web page design, or Sony's for not giving enough information on how to make a Vita-compatible site, but it was a time-consuming and frustrating experience. Only after reading the fine print did I figure out that I wouldn't be getting my "free game" until 30 days after I activated the 3G service. I wanted to play Super Stardust Delta this week. :-( To top it off, AT&T e-mailed me my password to make sure I had it. That's really great. With the debacle Sony had last year, you'd think AT&T would better protect my password, right after I registered with a credit card on their web site.
Getting content onto the Vita wasn't too bad. I wanted to download games ahead of time, so that when I received my Vita, I could copy the games from my PS3 and start playing right away. Before I had the Vita in hand, though, I couldn't figure out a way to buy and download the games on the PS3. They weren't anywhere on the store. I thought that since the First Edition bundle had already shipped, the PlayStation Store would already have Vita games. I ended up connecting my Vita to WiFi at work and downloading a couple of games directly onto the Vita. By the time I got home from work, the Vita games in the store.
I tried to copy my PSP games from my PS3 to my Vita, but they weren't showing up in the Content Manager app. I'm not sure if it's because of one of the PS3 firmware updates, because the games were organized into folders, or what, but I ended up having to re-download all my PSP games so I could copy them onto the Vita. The Sony web site states that the Vita will support hundreds of PSP games. Games that aren't on that list still seem to work. Patchwork Heroes, Beats, Echochrome, and Numblast all work when I copied them from my PS3 to my Vita. Even the PSP version of LittleBigPlanet worked on the Vita. The PSP version of ModNation Racers did not, though. It doesn't even show up in the app so I can copy it to the Vita. (The conspiracy theorist in me thinks that it's because ModNation Racers: Road Trip has already been released, but the Vita version of LIttleBigPlanet has not. If so, does that mean that I won't be able to copy LittleBigPlanet PSP to my Vita when the new game comes out? I hope not. It is possible, though.) PSP demos do not appear to work, though.
I've only played with the Vita for an hour and a half - a little Escape Plan and one game of Lumines. I'll post more about the battery life and the general usability after I play with it more over the weekend.
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