|PS VITA (PlayStation Vita) (Photo credit: 아우크소(Auxo.co.kr))|
So what makes a PS Vita so special?
Every piece of the Vita has something to do with interaction: you not only have dual sticks, shoulder buttons, a D-Pad, the familiar four-button layout and Start/Select/Home, you also have really smooth gyroscopic and accelerometric sensors that let you tip, tilt, and roll the unit to play some games. The generous front screen is also a touch-screen with slick responsiveness that makes my smartphone jealous. The back has touch sensors that aren't just for fingertips--Uncharted: Golden Abyss has a jaw-dropping interactive moment where you hold the back of the PS Vita up to the light to 'read' a faded piece of parchment. Last, there are digital cameras on both the front and back for taking pictures and video. All of this can be saved to a memory stick, but the downside is that Sony has changed formats on us again: old Memory sticks are NOT compatible with the Vita. The newer storage system is proprietary to the PS Vita.
The screen is bigger than the PSP and about the same size as the top screen of the super-sized Nintendo 3DS XL. While it is as sensitive to direct sunlight as your average laptop, it does boast a bright screen in just about any other lighting condition. Just like the PSP and PS3, there is a menu bar that lets you customize all sorts of settings including brightness and power-saving modes. Touching the front screen is very smooth, with complicated gestures easily translated by games.
In addition to gameplay, the PS Vita offers the same kinds of multimedia features as the PSP: music and video streaming, including Netflix (which works very well over Wi-Fi). There is a feature called "Near" that will tell you what friends near to you might be playing, or let you look for a new friend nearby with the same game interests. GPS is also built in as part of the unit and you can use it to navigate if you wish. I haven't really used this or the 'LiveArea' that lets you share your gaming details with other people, or the IM feature that lets you message people. I've been more inclined to use my PlayStation Network / PlayStation Store account to pull down games, including my PSP and PSOne favorites, and play them on a larger, brighter screen.
One of the neat things about the interface is the 'peel off' way it's organized: the home screen has round 'bubble' icons that you can tap to access an application. Each application has a base page that organizes the basic things you might do, such as 'read the manual', 'check for updates', or the most-often-used, 'launch the game' and its corner sticks up like a curled piece of paper. If you're in-game and press the home button, the game is suspended and you're dropped back to this screen. Closing the home screen is as simple as using your finger to peel that corner down, like turning the page of a book: the application is closed and you are back at the 'bubble' icon home screen. The PS Vita has a built-in browser, and mostly I use it for accessing features off the base page, such as 'Help' or 'Support'.
The way accessories are designed now follows the 'USB cable' design: your PS Vita will have a charger plug, a tiny power box it plugs into, and from there a USB cable leads from the charger to the PS Vita. The connector on the Vita is also proprietary, and that means that whether you're using an AC adapter, a car charger, or just connecting to a computer, you can't do it without that proprietary connector-to-USB cable.
If there's a drawback to the PS Vita, it's that the high price sticker reminds us that this isn't a kids' console. The unit is large and unwieldy. It feels fragile and because it's expensive one of the first things you'll want to do is pick up a good protective case for it. You won't be able to stick it in the average pocket and you'll definitely not want to leave expensive hardware like this lying around or it'll grow legs. If you have the money though you won't be disappointed in this hi-tech handheld: it is top-drawer gaming technology at its best.