The Average Gamer

Thoughts on the PS Vita

I attended the PS Vita Rooms event in London the other week. This open day allowed plenty of time to try out the various games and also getting used to the new hardware. That got me thinking about the viability of yet another piece of portable hardware. In this day and age it seems we’re loaded with more and more electrical devices. An average person tends to carry around at least a phone, laptop and occasionally a tablet as well. The Vita is a fantastic piece of kit but it’s another piece of portable hardware in a world where we carry too much as it is.

The PS Vita hardware is not really unique and doesn’t really look that great on paper compared to the newer tablets that are being released. The new Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime, for example, has a much higher hardware specification and can be used for far more than the Vita. Sure the Vita has some nice tricks for being handheld – the back pressure pad is a pretty neat idea and does work well – but things fall down when you look at the actual hardware.

The Vita has a quad core ARM A9 CPU backed up with 512mb ram, however tablets like the Asus Transformer have the Nvidia Tegra 3 CPU and 1Gb ram. Then the really big difference is in terms of GPUs. Inside the Vita is a PowerVR SGX543 MP4, being a 4-core GPU. However, the Tegra 3 is actually a 12-core GeForce GPU. Great. A bunch of numbers but what does it really mean? Well, both are quite capable of producing stunning graphics moving at very high speeds and I really don’t think the Vita can compete on this playing field.

Sony definitely have an ace up their sleeve and that’s the gaming titles waiting to be released. The initial line-up includes the usual suspects: Uncharted, WipEout, Killzone but then there are the new games. Probably the most interesting launch title on the day for me was Escape Plan. This is a simple platform game that plays like Angry Birds for the thinking man. The game is designed around a simple idea of escorting two people (Lil and Laarg) out of the current level. To accomplish this the game uses all the special features of the PS Vita, especially the rear touch panel. I actually found it a great way to learn all the Vita features and get used to them before playing any of the other games Sony had to display.

Still, Sony face two more potential problems besides carrying another device, one being the battery that’s used. It’s not swappable, and only does up to around 5 hours of playtime. That’s fine if you are going to be using it on the Tube but not if you are stuck on a 10+ hour flight around the world. There’s supposed to be a battery pack coming but then that’s yet another large device to attach onto the Vita. An interchangeable battery would have been a lot easier. I guess it’s a sign of the times that the consumer is used to having to charge everything daily.

The next issue is Sony creating yet another custom format for their hardware. You would think after Minidisc, then UMD that Sony would realize that it’s perhaps better to stick with industry-accepted standards. Sure Sony did make Blu-ray, but it’s only a great success due to the heavy acceptance of the PS3. Will the new PS Vita memory card format be used by any other device? Highly unlikely and the price is insane. You will need one, and they start at $29.99 which will probably be translated via the magical cross-Atlantic pricing scheme to £29.99. We’re also unlikely to have any third party manufacturers until a while after launch so Sony have got your wallet there.

Sega re-invented themselves by leaving the console world and are now concentrating on their fantastic selection of game titles. I’m not suggesting that Sony do the same, however it might make more sense if they consolidated and did not try compete in a dead-end business. Having taken over Ericsson completely now, Sony could continue making phones like the Xperia Play.

To me, this makes more sense since it’s a multiuse piece of hardware that you’ll have on you at all times. The next great thing about focusing this way would be the portability of the games themselves. Why limit your target market to just those with a PS Vita, when potentially you could target all ARM v9 based devices running Android? Sure there might be compatibility issues, but a lot of the portable hardware available these days is running almost identical chips internally, with just a cosmetic change on the OS to separate itself from the competitors’ products.

Given the list of titles coming out, and the price point of £225 I still believe the Vita will sell well. With everything said and done it’s not clear who the target audience is, and I think it will mainly be the hardcore gaming crowd. Now I will be buying one, but more because I really liked the original PSP rather than any thoughts about longevity or even really carrying it around with me.

What about you? Planning on getting a Vita when it’s out in Europe during February?

3 Comments

  1. Forvercloud3000

    7th Dec, 2011 at 10:01 pm

    While all of these complaints are fairly valid to an extent, I feel they are leaving important information out when looking at the bigger picture…
    1. Hardware Specs- The PSVita’s hardware is remarkable for what it is meant for. You have to remember it is still a gaming handheld first? Meaning it only needs to be better then previous entries(PSP,DS,Gameboy,etc) to be seen as superior. Yes, Sony is putting in a lot of gadgetry that makes it relateable to smartphones and tablets. The fact that it is touching on similar specs than these hardware and in many respects better can only be a good thing though. Yes, Tablets are technically stronger, as will future smartphones but for what the Vita is (a gaming handheld) and for what it can do (internet,gaming,social media,apps) and for the PRICE (a LOT less than smart devices and tabs) it is a miracle device.

    2. Games- we can pretty much agree on this point. The games for Vita are looking exceptionally good and Sony is sporting a far better and more well rounded line up than 3DS currently has.

    3. Battery Life- Yes, the battery sux big time but you should really look at it in comparison to other portable devices. Smartphones? Technically can last for days if you use them JUST for calls and txt, but we both no thats not going to happen for the whole reason you buy one in the first place is for all those other dodads and gizmos. they last maybe 10hrs max on a good day. Tablets? Truely pathetic battery life. I use one at work for no more than 5 hrs a day, doing nothing but surfing the internet mostly. It needs to be charged due to fear of dying by the 3rd hr. 3DS? Very similar battery life to PSV but the fact of the matter is that PSV is vastly more powerful and will boast much bigger and advance apps and games. In short PSV’s battery life is right where it should be.

    4. Proprietary Memory- This does also suck but can we honestly blame Sony? They are simply trying to protect the PSVita’s future from what happened mid PSP life cycle, being destroyed by pirates. Its going to take far longer to crack this badboy due to no other tech using the same format currently. this means if anything, you will have to buy somekind of foreign attachment anyway to even access it(which inherently goes against what pirates want, paying for ANYTHING! And as far as pricing concerned, hell yea they are over priced…..but so are the current memory sticks that we buy today. We all know that with portability comes a hefty price and the PSVita’s mem sticks are actually priced EXACTLY like the current “name brand” sticks. When this topic comes up ppl always forget that, yea you can get cheaper sticks but they are not the name brand and they sometimes have weird issues. Just go look at their pricing on gamestop, virtually the same.

    In all the Vita is 250 minimum which is not bad at all, if you just want games from the store, 4gb will be find which is less than 30. This really isn’t that much of a shock. I don’t know if many realize but the PSP debuted at like 200 if i remember correctly and had like 50 for a 1GB stick. THAT was bad. Also, like I said before the Vita is capable of a lot of high tech things you would normally shell out 500+ for. And it will be able to do it better in many regards. Tablets for instance, useless if you ask me. What do most even do with it? Surf the internet and watch movies, mainly stream. It can barely do that properly. My job runs a program on it for business and it chugs constantly, god forbid if you tried to play a game on it. Handhelds and smartphones would do games far better. And we all know the Vita will assuredly have better games. Its a bit like the PC vs Consoles argument really. Yea, one has higher specs but you also have to upgrade constantly to stay competative or even relavent. With consoles its basic hardware where you know if you put in game “X” it will play with few issues.

    Personally, I plan on getting Vita + 16GB mem and tether it with phone.I think I will mostly buy my games via DD knowing they will always be a bit cheaper (rumoured as much as 40% cheaper). The Vita will be an excellent buy.

  2. friedricetheman

    16th Jan, 2012 at 4:37 am

    Playstation vita isn’t actually comparable to tablet pcs in real life. Tablet PC aren’t dedicated gaming devices hence their OS is quite bloated and power hungry, which translates into more RAM, and processing power utilized to run it efficiently when compared to the lean PSVita OS which needs minimal processing power and ram.

    So, in real life applications, a Tegra 3 tablet is no more powerful than a mid/low range PC and will have difficulty running even Diablo 3 at 60fps with maxed out graphics. PS Vita on the other hand will have absolutely no problems running Skyrim or Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3(with online multiplayer) at full resolutions as it is optimized first and foremost as a gaming machine (thus the OS will use minimum processing power and ram).

    Also, the GPU is not a straight forward 4 core graphic card. Notice the + at the end of the SGX543MP4+, as cited by numerous sources. This is a modified 4 core GPU jointly designed by Sony for optimization with their Vita platform.

    The Tegra 3 might look more powerful on paper but there are a lot of factors that must be taken into consideration before forming a conclusion. As we all know, all tablet pc (Tegra 3 included) does not run at maximum clock speed all the time. The clock speed automatically adjusts itself to the application used to conserve battery power. The PS Vita will always run at a certain clock speed all the time when gaming hence the battery life of 5 hours. Also, the Android OS runs a lot of apps in the background (eg. Adobe Reader etc.) and will get even more bloated as you download more stuff from the android market. Coupled that with the snazzy interactive GUI with animated weather icons, these little things will eat up precious processing power. The PS Vita on the other hand does not do true multitasking outside of voice chat in game during multiplayer. Opening one application will close another previously opened one.

    This being said, the PS Vita is built first and foremost as a gaming machine while the Tegra 3 is basically another tablet in an already saturated market.

  3. Hagar

    25th Feb, 2012 at 11:36 pm

    The most important gameplay issue here is not processing power but INPUT CONTROLS! My tablet has great power, a big screen, but can’t control a game to save its life! Tablets and phones are rubbish when it comes to control. The Vita willalways have a huge advantage in the most important aspect of gaming.