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post #1 of 3 Old 02-23-12, 12:15 PM Thread Starter
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Playstation Vita 3G/Wifi - Hardware Review

Sony Playstation Vita (3G/Wifi ) Ė Hardware Review
Release Date: 2/22/12
Price: $299.99 (or Wifi only $249.99)


There is no doubt that this is one technically impressive piece of hardware. With the quad-core ARM9 CPU and dedicated graphics processor, 512MB of RAM and 128MB of VRAM, it singlehandedly out-classes any other handheld on the market today. In addition to the impressive processing power, they added the front and back capacitative touch panels to enhance game play. But, the single most important addition, directly to a handheld console, is the 2nd analog stick. Handheld gaming needed the dual-analog setup in order to bridge the gap between console and handheld gaming. This is especially the case for those who are interested in playing first-person shooters, but it is not just a benefit to just those games. The implementation isnít a perfect replication of the console dual-analog setup, however it is close. The main difference is the size of the analog sticks on the Vita is relatively small. Initial glance, one might think this hinders the overall feel, but in real world use so far it has proved to be a non issue.

While the external body is, by and large, made of plastic the device in-hand does not feel cheap. I really think Sony did a fantastic job at making this look like The Next-Gen Playstation Portable. The design is sleeker from front to back and from top to bottom. Upon initial glance it looks like a PSP, but it is far from it. On top of that, the larger size of the PS Vita compared to all the multiple iterations of the PSP gives better handheld experience.

Not everything, hardware-wise, makes complete sense to me. The inclusion of front-facing and rear-facing cameras seems like a necessity, these days, since every portable electronic seems to have one; but, I donít think cameras need to be included because every portable electronic seems to have one. I will not be pulling out my Vita to randomly take pictures because it has a camera. The only real function I see these necessary for are the AR, Alternate Reality, based games. But, then again, I see this as a seemingly is a gimmicky feature as it is.

Another perplexing hardware decision by Sony Ė a lack of included physical memory. You have to buy Sonyís proprietary memory storage that looks similar to micro SD cards. Those memory cards come in the following storage sizes Ė 4GB, 8GB, 16GB, and 32GB. Unfortunately, this adds to the overall cost of the system, since nearly all of the games require this memory to create save their data. Also, game cartridges are on different style storage cards, which resemble SD Cards. Sony did this in order to combat piracy issues, which plagued the PSP; understandably so, but more confusion and possibly frustration for the typical end-user. Why couldnít they have left a tiny amount of storage space available on the game cards themselves for saving data for those specific games?

Back to the physicality of the Vita, one drawback to the physical design Iíve experienced has to do with games that mainly use the rear touch panel. Holding the device has not been quite as easy of a task when playing these games, i.e. Escape Plan. If the device is not held correctly, accidental touches occur and, in the case of Escape Plan, affect your overall gameplay. Maybe this is more me just not being used to it yet, but I still havenít found a completely comfortable way to hold the device while playing these types of games. This is not a problem for all other games that donít require the rear touch panel to be used constantly.

That brings me directly into the touch panels and how they factor into this device. It seems like every handheld/mobile device has a touch screen so it only made sense that the PS Vita has one too. Though, not every device out there performs the same nor do they all perform as they should. From my experience with the Vita thus far, the performance of the touch panels has been fantastic. The OS implementation, especially, has exceeded my expectation with the touch control. I worried when I first heard that the OS navigation would be solely touch based, however after using it, it feels completely natural.

As far as the OS itself, it has a medium-sized learning curve. Situated and organized in ĎAppí form, Sony went as far as to make everything its own little application. Honestly, this is good and bad. The good, there is no confusion as to where you need to go in order to change a setting or see trophies, or view your friends. On top of that, you can multitask applications, like the trophies, settings, a single game in order to make transitioning between them a little bit quicker. The bad Ė I really wish they implemented all the social aspects, friends and chatting, into one single application. Also, notifications are their own individual application, which seems a little out of place. Notification systems have been seamlessly implemented into OS for a long time now, I am not quite sure Sony decided to separate it into its own application. I do like the implementation for opening and closing software and applications. The dedicated page for each app does have small buttons and icons for software updates, manuals, activity and starting/continuing the application. I also like the peeling away feature to close an application. Itís quick and painless. If you donít want an application open in the background anymore, you simply peel it away.

One thing I hope they improve for this device is the unlock sequence. I donít have a problem with the unlock sequence directly; itís just how long it takes to do it. For example, when you press the power button, it takes a couple seconds before the screen actually turns on and you can peel away the lock screen. Upon the initial power press, or PS button press, the only indication that you get that acknowledges the device is doing something is that the PS button light turns blue. But, like I said, for that 2-3 seconds, you simply have to wait through. It theoretically should be immediate from button press to screen on.

That is one of the few quirks that Iíve experienced in this little time that Iíve owned the handheld. As far as real bugs, one that I frequently run into is disconnecting from downloads. If you begin a download, the download will continue if the system automatically times out and puts itself to sleep; however, if you put it to sleep manually, then the download will stop. Another bug is switching from wifi to 3G sometimes isnít quite automatic. The visual cue is automatic, going from the Wifi signal to the 3G icon in the top left, however there have been occasions that 3G will not connect properly until I disable the wifi. It doesnít happen every time; however it is an issue that comes up sometimes. Sony has confirmed these two issues, plus a couple of others that Iíve not experienced, and will address in the next firmware update.

For an initial launch for a new game system, these bugs are not too bad, IMO. I know Japanís release had a couple of bigger issues like the rear touch panel stopping functioning; forcing users to power down the device completely. But, aside from those issues I pointed out, I am fairly impressed with the software. It works better than I thought it would and once I passed the initial learning curve, it all feels smooth and natural.

One big thing that I withheld from mentioning in my review until now merits the phrase, ďI saved the best for last,Ē is the elegant 5Ē OLED screen at a resolution of 960x544. This thing is absolutely beautiful, plain and simple. Samsung supplied the panels for the Vita and it is every bit as beautiful as its slightly smaller counterparts in the Galaxy SII phones. The PS Vita screen is vibrant and the contrast is impeccable. Best thing about OLED technology is the contrast capability. They produce a bright picture and also retain proper, inky black levels. Colors leap off the screen and provide an experience that boasts to the rest of the world of its next-gen handheld status. Even at the lowest brightness setting, it is still very vibrant and beautiful to look at.

The screen is not absolutely perfect, though. There are limitations to OLED, as is the case with every other kind of technology. For OLED, color gradations are not all quite as seamless as they ought to be. On occasion, noticeable color stepping can be seen. Not quite sure if this is fixable through software or if it is a hardware limitation, but Iíve noticed this on the Samsung Galaxy SII phones as well. Also, mura, a term for uniformity issues, is present on all these current OLED screens when producing the color black. It looks like darker blobs of varying sizes on the screen. Fortunately, this issue only really can be seen on near-complete black backgrounds, like some loading screens and only if you are in completely darkened room. This issue varies greatly from panel to panel; some people have very little blobs and some have a decent amount. For me, I have a tiny bit and even if I am looking for it, it is barely noticeable. My Samsung Galaxy SII had this issue and was a lot more noticeable.

Al l of this is well and good, but what is a good piece of hardware if there is no software to utilize it? Well, one of the biggest problems of launching a new game system is having the games to back it up; people purchasing the newest consoles often times have very little software to show off their system. Does the Playstation Vita suffer the same fate? Thankfully not, in fact, the launch lineup for the Vita is different than launches previous for any prior system. Earlier adopters are treated with well 20 titles that are worthwhile titles to check out. Iím not even including titles that are seemingly throwaway titles. Itís unusual for there to be 20+ titles total, but we have that many good ones to choose from. Whatís more, buyers also have the option of buying physical media via traditional means or they can digitally download those same games on the Playstation Network. Sony also did a smart thing by providing a discount to those who decide to purchase titles digitally; usually, these amounts to about 10% off of the retail price plus you donít have to pay sales tax. Though, any price saved through the digital medium will likely be nullified by the fact that you have to buy Sonyís proprietary memory storage, which is higher priced than they really ought to be.

All in all, I think this is one of the best handheld gaming consoles to date, even with its flaws. Sony took big steps in the right direction with the Playstation Vita. The implementation of all the hardware (except maybe for the cameras) is phenomenally done. Unfortunately, you will end up spending more than the price tag initially suggests, with the additionally required memory card. In my opinion, the price point after is said and done does reflect the quality of the system that you are getting. It is not a cheap toy, nor do I think it should be priced as such (some will argue otherwise). Thereís a lot to really like about this device from a hardware standpoint, but whatís impressive is the game lineup right out of the gate. After you get one, you will actually have your choice from handful of games that are impressive enough to show this system off.

Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." - Groucho Marx
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post #2 of 3 Old 02-23-12, 05:02 PM
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Re: Playstation Vita 3G/Wifi - Hardware Review

Epic review Jon, have you tried the cross play feature?

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. -Ralph Waldo Emerson
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post #3 of 3 Old 02-23-12, 06:07 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Playstation Vita 3G/Wifi - Hardware Review

Nope, I haven't tried it because I don't have a PS3 anymore. Also, I heard that Cross-play doesn't work yet anyway. Either way, it definitely is a fantastic feature for those who do have PS3s and Vitas.

Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." - Groucho Marx
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