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Review: My first few hours with the PlayStation Vita

by Steven Williamson on 22 February 2012, 19:05 4.0

Tags: Sony Computers Entertainment Europe (NYSE:SNE)

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Looking good?

Check your AC adapter is plugged in correctly

The AC adapter cable that plugs into the port on the bottom of the Vita can be slotted in the wrong way by mistake, mainly because the power connector is a rectangular shape. Bear in mind that if inserted the wrong way around it doesn't charge. There's a tiny engraved PlayStation symbol on the connector to show which way it plugs in, but if you don't notice this straight away you may end up thinking it's not charging at all and you've got a broken unit on your hands.

Memory loss

On the base of Vita, there's a small slot with a flimsy plastic hinge which houses the proprietary flash memory card. My Vita arrived with a 16GB memory card, but capacities of up to 32GB will also be available. As there is no internal storage on Vita, these cards host your game-saves, personal data, patches and DLC, and are about the same size as a MicroSD card.

A word of warning, though: memory cards can fill up quite quickly. After downloading six games directly onto our machine, I have only 6GB of space remaining. Uncharted: Golden Abyss alone weighs in at 3,384MB if purchased direct from the PlayStation Store.

These cards aren't cheap either, with a 16GB version costing around Ā£40 and a necessary expense on top of the Vita unit. The good news is that games can be backed-up to a PS3 and/or PC. So, providing you're not too bothered about the inconvenience of transferring data back and forth - a task which can be done simply and very efficiently - then there's no need to buy new memory cards. Nevertheless, it's still time consuming having to transfer games to make space.

Digital downloads

Physical versions of most of Vita's games can be purchased in order to space on cards, but they cost a little more than if downloaded directly from the PlayStation Store. Six games took me 15 hours to download, so it's certainly not a quick process, but the convenience of digital downloads should outweigh the cons.

Back to Vita

On top of the unit, aside from the aforementioned bumpers, there's the power button and volume controls. There's also a slot where game cartridges can be inserted, as well as an accessory port. Both slots are tightly sealed, so much so that I, being ham-fisted, had to use a knife to prise them open; though sharp fingernails will probably do the trick.

Flipping it over - another pad

On the back of the unit, in the top centre, sits another 1.3 megapixel camera with the same specifications as the front-facing snapper. There are also two oval-shaped grip pads that are slightly indented and matte black in colour. They sit either side of the multi-touch pad, which is made of a glossy plastic material and decked out with PlayStation symbols. This panel, along with the touchscreen on the front of Vita, is what looks set to deliver a new type of gaming experience should developers make full use of it.

The only strange design decision that Sony has made with Vita is the two grips on the back of the unit. Unless you have the hands of a small child, fingertips naturally sit on the back centre of Vita, across the touch pad, and you don't end up actually touching the grips at all. I'm not entirely sure why they were included.

Hardware summary

Overall, Vita looks very slick and, like Stella, is reassuringly expensive. The lack of a video-out port, and the fact I now need to grow Freddie Krueger-sized nails to open the top slots, don't end up distracting from the fact that it's a great-looking device with an impressive screen and well-designed layout. Despite it being bigger than PSP (182mm x 18.6mm x 83.5mm), Vita is surprisingly light to hold. Using a crude measurement, it's about the same weight as a mug of coffee.