PlayStation Vita full review - Page 2

Not the only fruit

In many senses we are openly comparing Apples and Oranges here, because both devices clearly offer markedly different features and have a different aims. Sure the PlayStation Vita has analogue thumbsticks, and the iPad doesn’t. Would the iPad be better with thumbsticks? Of course not, that’d be silly (not that it’s stopping Nintendo, mind). And anyway the iPad does all kinds of things: email, photo editing, movie making, and so on.

The PS Vita (as with the 3DS) is primarily a games machine with some networking features bundled in; the iPad is a new class of device (that performs some of the key tasks of desktop computers, including gaming, in a better and simpler format). But let's compare and contrast anyway:

On the one hand we have the iPad with its gorgeous 9-inch multi-touch display, up to 64GB storage and 10 hour battery life.

On the other we have a Vita with a smaller five-inch screen but with an extremely good resolution (960x544 pixels, 220 ppi) with OLED technology. The screens on both devices are pretty special, although the iPad’s is obviously larger. 

Both come in WiFi and WiFi+3GS. The iPad has excellent web browsing, email, and apps like Google Maps and FaceBook; the PS Vita has less-excellent web browsing and Google Maps and FaceBook, and no email (not that you’re really missing out). Honestly, don’t buy a PS Vita if you want to surf the web and don’t complain that it’s bad at it.

Sony does have a couple of nice web-enabled functions though The first is the PSN Store, which is a joy to use even if it’s a lot emptier at the moment than the App Store; the second is online gaming that works not just well between PlayStation Vita users over WiFi and network, but also between PlayStation Vita and PS3 gamers; there's also a new service called Cross Play which enables you to play compatible games on your PS3, and then pick up where you left off on the PlayStation Vita version, and jump back and forth between the two.

Technically the PS Vita has a slight technical edge in performance over the iPad 2, which is almost certainly going to be wiped-out in a few weeks time when the iPad 2S/3 is launched. The PS Vita has a battery life of between 3-5 hours, which seems anachronistic now that we’re getting used to devices lasting all day.

Also, can somebody please slap Sony for including a propriety cable with the PlayStation Vita. Yes, we know the iPad has a propriety cable in the form of the Dock Connector, but you know what: it’s the same USB cable that has shipped with almost every Apple iPod, iPhone, and iPad ever made. There are millions of them in existence. Sony, on the other hand, has just shipped the PlayStation Vita, Sony Tablet, and Xperia Play phone in as many months and each one has its own different connection. Until it learns to standardize its devices over a number of years it should be forced (at gunpoint if necessary) to use USB cables for charging and transfer.

iPad 2 vs PlayStation Vita technical specifications

 

iPad 2

PlayStation Vita

Display

9.7in LCD, 1024 x 768 (132 ppi); 4:3 ratio.

5in OLED, 960x554 pixels (220 ppi); 16:4 ratio

CPU

Apple A5 (2 Core)

ARM Cortex A9 (4 Core)

Storage

16, 32, 64GB

16, 32 GB (cards sold separately)

Input

Multi-touch; accelerometer, electronic compass

Dual analogue sticks, D-Pad, push buttons, shoulder buttons, touch screen, touch sensitive rear surface, accelerometer, electronic compass

Battery Life

10 hours

3-5 hours

Cameras

Front (0.3-megapixel); Rear (0.7-megapixel)

Front and rear (both 0.3-megapixel)

Price

£399 (16GB, WiFi); £479 (32GB, WiFi); £559 (64GB, WiFi); £499 (16GB WiFi + 3G); £579 (32GB WiFi + 3G); £659 (64GB, WiFi + 3G)

£209 (WiFi); £259 (WiFi + 3G); 8GB Memory Card (£27); 16GB Memory Card (£37.68)

Dimensions

185.7 x 241.2 x 8.8mm; 601g (WiFi); 613g (WiFi + 3G)

182 x 83.5 x 18.6mm (260g)

GPS

Yes (WiFi + 3G only)

Yes

The issue of price is another area that rears its head. There’s the fact that the PlayStation Vita starts at a reasonable £209 (Sony must be taking a huge hit on each one sold), although you have to purchase a Sony-branded memory card separately (£27 for 8GB, £37.68 for 16GB). All of which is markedly less than the £400 that the iPad sells for (although also markedly more than a 8GB iPod touch which goes for £169).

Then there’s the matter of the games. For better or worse most games on the iPad only sell for either 69p or £1.49 (one or two dollars in America) and the upper limit–and it has to be a good game to warrant this sort of price – is £5.99 (or ten bucks in the USA). On the PlayStation Vita, however, we can currently see FIFA Soccer (with its 73% Metacritic rating) available for download for the tidy sum of £44.99.

Good luck with that Sony.

There are other examples too like the deeply average Asphalt Injection (57% Metacritic rating) trying to sell itself for £19.99 on the PSN Store, whereas the equally bland (but at least not to the tune of £20) Asphalt 6 Adrenaline HD is available on the App Store for 69p.

Good luck with that as well.

This may just be the market ‘trying it on’ with a new platform. As time goes on we may see many of the indie developers seeding Apps developed for the iPhone or iPad to the PS Minis section of the PSN store for the same one-or-two dollar strategy.

If Sony manages to get indie developers on board, then customers faced with being able to buy Real Racing 2 for the iPad or Vita at £2.99, with the ability to play with physical controls, then they may well opt for the Vita version.

And if those budget apps sit side-by-side with the occasional big release (like a new Metal Gear Solid) trying to squeeze £20 or so out of your pocket then that may not be a bad thing.

Maybe there’s comfortably room for both in the market. Sony has shifted a healthy 1.2 million PlayStation Vita’s in the first five days, whereas Apple has comfortably shifted over 40 million iPads.

Apple is expected to increasingly take a huge chunk of the gaming market (a market Apple has shown little interest in to the point of being disparaging about it). We have also heard lots of personal anecdotes about the PlayStation Vita, along the lines of “nah, I’ve got an iPad”.

It’s clear that Sony is taking a big gamble on the PlayStation Vita, and we hope it pays off.  Not that we’d recommend buying a PlayStation Vita instead of an iPad, that’d be plain silly. We can’t envision a sane world in which the PS Vita makes any serious dent in the iPad’s dominance as the portable device of choice.

But as a standalone portable gaming device it has a lot to offer to a traditional gamer. Its physical controls make portable gaming a lot more fun and opens up the type of regular console experience.  And it really is a nice device: well built, nicely thought out, good feature set, and so on. Its future does depend on developer support for new games, however, and that looks shaky to say the least.

The PlayStation Vita is Sony’s swansong, it’s The Last Of The Steam Powered Trains (as The Kinks famously put it). It’s powerful, sleek, fast, complicated, and custom-built for a single purpose, which it excels at. At least it will until it runs out of coal.

Specs

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