I am a huge gamer. Whenever time permits, I love to sit around and play some video games. Generally, most of my gaming takes place in front of my television or computer, but recently, I decided I wanted to get into some more portable gaming. I have an iPhone, which is great for games, but does not offer the same feel as a dedicated portable gaming system. Still, I spent a good amount of time playing games on my iPhone, and it made me realize that I should strive for more.
I cannot be alone in my desire for a better portable gaming experience. Of course, not everyone lives a lifestyle that is conducive to gaming on the go, but if you do, a good portable gaming system can be the best thing in the world. If you have a long commute, a job with plenty of downtime or do not have a big television for playing the latest console games, a quality handheld system might just be exactly what the doctor ordered.
Well today, we’ll be taking a look at the PlayStation Vita (specifically the 3G/Wi-Fi model), Sony’s latest entry into the portable gaming space. How will it hold up? Read the review to find out. Plus, we’ll be giving away a brand new, identical PlayStation Vita. Join the giveaway to be in the running to win it.
Introducing the PlayStation Vita
Sony’s PlayStation Vita 3G/Wi-Fi model retails at $300. It took a long time, but Sony finally decided that they had enough of the PlayStation Portable, and that they were ready to step their portable gaming level up a couple of notches. Here are some of the important features of the PlayStation Vita:
- Five inch touch screen
- Rear touch panel
- Dual joysticks
- Front and rear camera
- Motion sensing
- Built in GPS
- 3G connectivity (with data plan)
As you can see, the PlayStation Vita is packed with features. It has every input device and control method you could ever want. This offers game developers the flexibility to create almost any kind of game their heart desires, which could lead to some fantastic games for gamers.
Of course, the asking price is much higher than their closest competitor, the Nintendo 3DS. The 3DS comes in at $169, but it does not offer 3G connectivity and lacks the graphical power of the PlayStation Vita. One could argue that the iPhone is a direct competitor to the Vita, but comparing the price is not necessarily fair. In order to get the iPhone at a reasonable price, you are locked into a contract.
Sony offers the PlayStation Vita in a model without 3G connectivity, and that comes in at $249, which while reasonable, is still much more expensive than the competition.
Upon arrival, I could not wait to tear into my PlayStation Vita and get to playing. The Vita comes with everything you need to start having fun right out of the box. It includes the charger/USB cable, the system, an 8GB memory card and all the documentation to help you figure how to use your shiny new gaming system.
My system needed to be plugged in before I could use it, and I assume that would be the case for most Vitas out of the box.
Once you turn on the PlayStation Vita, it will guide you through an easy set-up process where you can choose to purchase a data plan through AT&T so you can enjoy the 3G capability of the device. You will also be asked to create or log in with a PlayStation Network account so you can create a friends list and keep track of your trophies. It should not take much more than ten minutes to complete the entire set-up process.
The PlayStation Vita’s Design
The first thing I noticed about the design of the PlayStation Vita is that it is pretty big. While most tech companies are trying to make their devices smaller, Sony went the opposite way. I commend them for this decision, because without all of the face buttons, joysticks and extra large screen, the PlayStation Vita would not be as awesome for games as it is. However, if you want a small, pocket-sized system, the PlayStation Vita might not be right for you.
The screen on the PlayStation Vita is gorgeous. It is bright, vibrant and an absolute joy to play games on. We will get to the graphics of games later, but suffice to say, the beautiful five-inch screen on the PlayStation Vita helps substantially with making the games look as good as possible.
Overall, the PlayStation Vita is a fine looking video game machine. It only comes in black, which is standard for most Sony gaming products. That is fine though, because the high gloss paint job looks great, and compliments the overall look of the console very well.
The PlayStation Vita’s User Interface
Navigating the PlayStation Vita is simple, and enjoyable. Everything is touch screen based when moving around the in the menus. If you want to launch a game, you simply tap the big icon for the game and you will be ready to go.
Once in a game, the interface will vary. Some games have you navigating with the touch screen to select options and others will have you controlling everything with the joysticks and buttons.
Overall, I like the interface; it is easy to navigate, allows you to customize the location of the icons and feels familiar for anyone who has used a touch screen device before.
Playing Games with the PlayStation Vita
Primarily, the PlayStation Vita is a portable gaming system, so playing games on it is the single most important thing. Allow me to say, playing games on the PlayStation Vita is the best experience I have ever had playing a portable system. The graphics are incredible, the controls work great and it is an all around great piece of hardware for gaming.
The first thing you will notice when you launch a game is how incredible the graphics look. We are still dealing with the first generation of games for the system, and the fact that they look this good makes me excited for what future games will bring to the table. Sometimes I found it hard to believe that these visuals were coming from a portable console.
The controls are awesome on the PlayStation Vita. The most important addition to the console is the second joystick. This allows you to play games like Uncharted and other shooters the same way you would play them on a home console. The touch screen and rear touch panel are great, but for me, that second joystick is what got me the most excited.
Speaking of controls, holding the system and playing games is actually very comfortable. In the week I have owned the PlayStation Vita, I have had some pretty long (4+ hours) gaming sessions and I never once had any hand cramps, which were common place for me on my Nintendo 3DS.
Without question, the PlayStation Vita is the best portable gaming system I have ever owned; it is as simple as that.
Apps and Other Features of the PlayStation Vita
The PlayStation Vita is not necessarily just a portable gaming system. It actually has many features you would expect to see from a tablet. There is a full web browser implemented in the system as well as all kinds of apps. Using the browser feels similar to using an iPad or any other tablet. You pinch to zoom, slide around the screen to navigate a web page and type with an on-screen keyboard. For users who do not own a tablet already, the Vita can serve as one for them.
There is not a ton of apps on the PlayStation Store right now, but there are some good ones. There is an app for Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Skype, Foursquare and some other nifty ones. I assume as time goes on more developers will start making apps, and the options will expand. As it stands, the crucial social apps are there, and for some users, this is all they will need.
Speaking of the PlayStation store, you can actually use this to buy all of your games. That’s right; you will never actually need to head to your local video game retailer. You can also download demos of hot new games and buy original PSP games that are backwards compatible.
The PlayStation Vita has navigation built in as well. If you do not have a smart phone, and need a device to help you get from point A to point B, the PlayStation Vita is a good option. I will admit, it is not the best navigation service out there, but if it is your only option, it is certainly competent.
The PlayStation Vita also includes a cool feature called “Near.” This allows you to see what other Vita users in your area are playing. It is a really cool feature to meet some other gamers.
Living With the PlayStation Vita
My initial impression of the PlayStation Vita was strong, but how does it stack up to everyday use? The first question I had was how the battery life would be. After all, this is a super powerful device with insane graphics, and that must put a lot of strain on the battery.
Officially, PlayStation Vita is rated at approximately 3 to 5 hours of gaming, 5 hours of video playback, and 9 hours of music playback. Recharging the battery from 0 percent should take approximately 2.5 hours. I would say these numbers are accurate. I found that I lasted about 4 hours of straight gaming before it started alerting me about low battery. This is not the best battery life, but it is to be expected when you consider how powerful the device is.
My biggest problem with portable gaming systems is never using them as much as I think I will. I can honestly say I do not see that being a problem with the Vita. I have already put a solid 20-25 hours of gaming on the system, and I have only had it for a week.
The difference between this and other systems is that there are “real games.” What I mean is that there are more than quick pick up and play games. I can really sink my teeth into some games on the PlayStation Vita. Games like Uncharted, Unit 13, Rayman, Marvel Vs Capcom and Ninja Gaiden can keep my interest for longer than most portable games.
It is not the easiest device to carry around, but it is still more portable than most tablets. Personally, I am willing to take the tradeoff of the device being a little bigger in exchange for the quality of gaming it delivers.
Should You Buy It
To put it simply, the Vita is the best portable video game system I have ever owned, and I have owned them all. I have owned a PSP, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Gear, Nintendo DS and a Nintendo 3DS. The PlayStation Vita triumphs over all of them.
So should you go out and drop $300 dollars on a PlayStation Vita (assuming you are not the lucky winner)? Really, it depends on your lifestyle. If you cannot see yourself ever playing games outside of your home, then you might be better off saving your money. However, if a portable gaming system fits in with your way of life, then 100 percent yes, you should buy the PlayStation Vita.
How do I win the PlayStation Vita?
It’s simple, just follow the instructions.
Step 1: Fill in the giveaway form
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This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, June 1st. The winners will be selected at random and informed via email.
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