A couple of years ago, Sony released a portable gaming system called the PlayStation Vita (read our review). This portable gaming console promised to bring gameplay experiences that rivaled those offered by the home console, and for the most part, it delivered. Where it didn’t bring the goods, however, was in sales, as the Vita was certainly not an overwhelming success. That being said, Sony is trucking on, having now released a major hardware revision that lowers the price while reducing the depth and weight of the console. It also makes a huge change to the screen, and it’s one that many perceive as a negative. Is this Vita Slim (also known as the Vita 2000) better than the original? Is it a reason to jump headfirst into Sony’s handheld platform if you’ve held off this long? Keep reading this review to find out!
Best of all, we have a $200 PlayStation Vita Slim Limited Edition Borderlands 2 bundle to give away, which also includes an 8GB memory card, so it has everything you need to start your Vita experience off right! Read through the review to find out how to win!
Introducing The PlayStation Vita Slim
The Slim version of the Vita is essentially the same console as the original as far as the way it plays games, but it does have some very key hardware differences that change things up. The first, and most obvious, is the size. It’s 20 percent thinner and 15 perceont lighter than the original. The next change comes to the screen, which is a more affordable LCD instead of the OLED that was installed on the original Vita. We’ll dig deeper into what these changes mean for you, the gamer, a little later in the review, but they are definitely important to know right away.
The Vita exists in the portable gaming space, one dominated by Nintendo with its 3DS. When the first Vita came out, Nintendo had a price edge, but now the 3DS XL (read our review) actually retails for $200, which is exactly the same as the new Vita Slim. However, the Slim actually comes with a copy of Borderlands 2, which actually makes it a slightly better value than the 3DS. Of course, Nintendo also offers the regular 3DS and the 2DS (read our review) at $169 and $129 respectively. It’s really going to come down to the kinds of gameplay experiences you’re looking for, and we’ll get into just what you can expect from the Vita Slim in that regard soon.
Upon opening the box, a few things that became apparent right away. The first thing you’ll notice, provided you’ve actually used the original Vita, is the size difference. While the Vita 2000 is only 20 percent thinner and 15 percent lighter, you can actually really feel the difference. It doesn’t sound like much purely from the numbers, which is why it surprised me how much I noticed the change. It’s a welcomed improvement, though going back to my original Vita feels quite heavy now by comparison.
The other thing I noticed right away was the change to the charger port. The first Vita used its own charger port, and the Vita Slim has switched to a microUSB cable, which will make it easier to find a charger for your console while you are out and about. It’s a relatively subtle difference in the grand scheme of things, but it’s definitely a nice convenience, and it’s a smart move on Sony’s part for making this switch.
Overall, I was initially very happy with the Vita Slim. You can immediately see that it maintains the core of what made the original Vita such a good console, but of course, the original had some problems as well. Did the Slim fix those? Did it introduce some new issues?
Before we look at how the device plays games, let’s take a closer look at the design of the console itself, as that’s where many of the big changes between this and the previous Vita have come into play. The one we mentioned before is the size and weight, and this is a big change. Hardcore gamers tend to play games for a long time, and the reduction in weight can keep your hands feeling fresh and pain-free. Sure, it’s only 15 percent lighter, but it ends up making a huge difference in your gameplay sessions. The depth changes, however, are far less noticeable while actually playing games, but if you’re carrying your Vita around in your pocket, the fact that it’s a little bit thinner makes it easier to transport.
Another design change that I love about this Vita Slim is a slight reduction to the size of the rear touch panel. This allows for a slightly larger grip area, which makes holding the device more comfortable. However, it’s not perfect, and as someone with long fingers, I still feel like I have to work them into a weird position to make sure I don’t tap the rear touch panel by mistake. It was a major problem I had with the original Vita; even with the smaller rear panel, it persists on the 2000. That being said, it’s only a problem for games that utilizes the rear touch panel, so it’s not an issue that applies all the time.
A small design change that helps improve the experience comes to the Start, Select, and PS button. On the original device, they were pretty much flush to the console, but on the Vita Slim, they stick out a bit. This makes it easier to press them, and they offer a little more feel, so you can actually tell that you have successfully pressed them right away. The old buttons weren’t necessarily bad, but the new ones are most certainly better.
The biggest change to the new Vita is the screen. The Slim has an LCD screen, while the original had an OLED. Sony clearly made this move to cut costs, and those savings are reflected in the price of the device itself, but unfortunately, picture quality does suffer a bit. You’ll definitely see the difference in the colors. Everything looks much more vibrant on the original’s OLED display, while colors appear a little more washed out on the Slim. It’s more evident when you look at the two consoles side-by-side, but if you’ve only seen the Vita Slim, it still looks beautiful, and you’re saving some money, so it’s hard to complain. It’s a slight downgrade, but it’s not one that’s a deal breaker, as the Vita Slim still outputs fantastic visuals.
One other design issue I have with the Vita is the placement of the joysticks. While having dual joysticks is fantastic for playing games like first-person shooters, they are close the far edge of the console. On traditional game controllers, the joysticks are placed further in the center of the device, allowing you to play with your thumbs extended. With the Vita, you have to pull your thumbs in tight, causing your hands to form a claw-like position. When I first got my original Vita, this cause hand cramps. I’ve grown used to it over time, but if you’re new the world of Vita, it’s definitely something to look out for.
Overall, I am happy with the design of the Vita Slim, both on its own and as an upgrade to the original. Sure, the screen is not as good in comparison, but everything else is an improvement. It still has the standard control options with a d-pad, two joysticks, four face buttons, and two shoulder buttons, so you’re able to get the experience you expect from a home console. For the most part, it delivers as far as being a well-designed portable gaming console with just a few small flaws.
With any gaming device, you’re going to want to know just what’s hiding under the hood, and in the case of the Vita Slim, what’s on the outside is also just as important. So without further delay, let’s take a look at the specs of the PlayStation Vita Slim:
- Screen: Five inch LCD with a 960 X 240 resolution
- Processor: 2GHz Quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore processor, Quad-core PowerVR SGX543MP4+ graphics
- RAM: 512 MB
- Storage Capacity: 1GB of built-in storage. However, it can only be used when no memory card is inserted
- Battery: 2210 mAh (same size as original Vita, however rated to last about an hour longer)
All in all, the gameplay specs didn’t change from the first Vita, and that’s because the games need to be compatible. However, you will notice the slightly improved battery life. Considering the original Vita could only last for about four hours, that extra hour is a welcomed change, especially if you plan on using this console on a plane or anywhere else a power outlet might not be readily available.
Playing Games On It
As far as portable gaming goes for players who are seeking a home console-like experience, the Vita Slim is in a league all its own. Phones can’t compete, nor can Nintendo’s 3DS. It all comes down to the dual joysticks, which opens up a world of options. Sadly, the Vita didn’t take off in the way Sony hoped, and as such, the game library didn’t grow in the same way as the 3DS’ did. However, the number of games has grown vastly over the last couple of years, and that’s in large part thanks to Cross-Buy, a feature that lets game developers sell a game on the home and portable consoles for one price. It’s great value, and one that has made the Vita a far more appealing choice, as you can start playing a game at home and pick it up where you left off on the go.
As for full retail releases, the Vita is something of a ghost town. Sure, some games have come out, but if you’re thinking of buying this to go out and play traditional AAA releases, you’re going to be somewhat disappointed.
The launch of the PS4 (read our review) has also helped the Vita a great deal, as you can stream games over your local network from the console to the Vita. Unfortunately, I don’t own a PS4 to test the feature, but reports indicate that it works well, as long as you have a very strong local WiFi connection.
Game library aside, the Vita delivers a fantastic gameplay experience. The design flaws I mentioned earlier show through here, but I still feel that it rivals the 3DS in terms of gameplay quality. The controls feel good, there’s all the buttons you need to play games, and it just works. Personally, I am not a fan of the rear touch pad, but thankfully, many games don’t use it all, which makes me quite happy.
If you’re after a console that’s a purebred gaming device, the Vita has you covered. It’s right up there with the 3DS in quality. Choosing between the two is really going to come to which system has the games you want to play.
In the end, I love the Vita Slim. Some changes made the system quite a bit better. It didn’t fix all of the problems present in the original Vita, but it addressed most of them. Sure, the screen is not as good, but it’s really not that significant. Add in the improved library of games, the ability to stream PS4 games to the Vita, and Cross-Buy games; now is the perfect time to jump in and snag a Vita Slim.
MakeUseOf recommends: Buy it if you don’t already have a Vita. There’s no reason to upgrade if you’ve already purchased the first one.
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