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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: February 22, 2012 @ 10:41 am

    The PlayStation Vita: tempted?

    Ciara O'Brien

    Sony’s latest handheld games device, the PlayStation Vita, went on sale today in Ireland, just over two months after it debuted in Japan.

    Here’s what you need to know.

    The basics:

    It looks a bit like a PSP, but don’t be fooled. This has more bells and whistles than the PSP could ever hope for. Touch panels, six axis motion control, social networking, wifi and 3G; the Vita has it all.

    It’s powered by a quad-core ARM chip, with quad-core graphics.

    It comes with a five-inch touch OLED screen that supports multi-touch. Graphics-wise, the PS Vita comes close to what you’d expect on a PS3. Considering the size difference, that’s impressive enough in itself.

    The options:

    Sony has decided that the Vita will come in two versions: the cheaper, wifi only version, and the 3G and wifi-enabled device. There’s a hefty 50€ in the difference.

    It doesn’t matter about storage; the Vita uses removable memory cards. More about that later.

    The games:

    The vita will offer games two ways : through digital download, like the PSP Go,  and physical distribution. But say goodbye to UMDs. The new Vita takes games cards rather than use the old style discs.

    The launch line-up is decent enough – first party titles include Uncharted: Golden Abyss, ModNation Racers and Little Deviants. There’s good support from third party publishers: Fifa Football is available on the Vita, as is Ubisoft’s Michael Jackson: The  Experience, Rayman Origins and Lumines Electronic Symphony. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

    Why do I want it?

    You may have a smartphone with a whole raft of games, but Sony is confident that gamers will still want the Vita. They may have a point. smartphones are communications devices that double as a games device. The Vita is a games device that has some communications features built in.

    Plus battery life can be an issue. Play too many games on your average smartphone and you’re left without a phone until you can get to a power outlet. On a particularly heavy session, I’ve managed to burn through smartphone batteries in less than five hours. That’s less than a transatlantic flight, for example, and a lot of spare time to kill once it’s done.

    That said, the Vita has a battery life of three to five hours for gaming. Still, if you do manage to kill it, at least you’ll have your smartphone to keep you entertained for the rest of the journey.

    Smart phones weren’t really designed with gaming in mind. Sometimes you need physical buttons to push. While the Vita has all manner of touch sensitive panels and gyroscopic controls, it still has the trusty buttons there too. Dual analogue sticks, the Playstation buttons and a D pad, plus shoulder buttons give you the full line-up of controls.

    The built in camera won’t replace your cameraphone any time soon, let alone your regular camera. It’s only VGA quality, but that’s because it’s intended for augmented reality games, such as part of Little Deviants rather than snapping on the go.

    But the screen – the five inch OLED touch sensitive screen – is possibly one of the best things about the Vita. It’s sharp, it’s bright, and the graphics look amazing.

    What else does it do?

    The Vita has a built in browser so you can go online – no flash, although it supports HTML5. There are also apps for Facebook, Twitter and the like, so you can keep in touch with your friends. Sony has also built in a chat app so you can message friends even while they are playing games, and it has an app called Near that will find friends and PS Vita players nearby who you can challenge.

    You can use the Vita as a PS3 controller too, through Remote Play, and play music and videos on the device.

    The bad points?

    Sony has gone a bit mad with the proprietary stuff. Not only does the Vita have proprietary ports and chargers, but it also needs (wait for it) a special memory card. That memory card is pretty much essential for some of the bigger games, but the Vita will only accept a special Vita memory card. Forget about using some of the stash you’ve built up, in other words.

    Oh and the battery isn’t removable either, so no way you can get around that five-hour life with a simple swap over. Sony hasn’t built in video output either, so you can’t connect the device to your TV and play in widescreen.

    So will you be buying a Vita? And if so, what persuaded you?

    • petee says:

      very tempted, was wondering who is doing the best deal?

    • I’m having a look around at the moment – Gamestop are doing some decent bundle deals. The 3G version of the console seems to be going for about a tenner less on their site, and they’re doing a bundle with Uncharted (definitely worth having) and 16gb card for €380 for 3G and €330 for wifi only. Xtravision and Smyths appear to be sticking to the recommended prices.

    • Captain Z says:

      I ordered mine from Gamestop.ie – got the WiFi Vita, 16gb Memory Card, and Uncharted Golden Abyss. Not sure if they are sending me the pre-order etcras pack tho, that had earphones, screen wipes, money off downloadable content etc. It’s in the post now….

    • Captain Z says:

      Sorry it cost me €319 incl postage.

    • petee says:

      i’m going to take a tour of henry st this afternoon and see who is offering the best deal

    • Markgdub says:

      The bad points are pain in the a*se bad enough for me to not buy one.

    • John O'Driscoll says:

      Nope. I don’t have that much time or life left to me. And anyway for personal/professional reasons I try not to use anything with an ARM for recreational purposes.
      Er…that sounds wrong but anyway. It’s got to have Intel inside. That’s just my own preference ‘cos I know how good Intel’s silicon is. OK I’ll shut up now.