Editors' note (June 10, 2014): Sony has announced that the Vita TV will be released in the US, UK, and Europe in the fall under a new name: the PlayStation TV. See CNET's hands-on first take for additional details.
Sony announced two new Vita-branded products at a press conference in Japan on September 9, the Vita 2000 and Vita TV. While a Vita redesign seemed inevitable, the Vita TV is mostly a surprise, though it does provide insight into how Sony will approach its campaign to invade your home when the PlayStation 4 launches November 15.
While there's yet to have been an announcement of a US launch, the Vita TV is set to launch in Japan on November 14 for what converts to roughly $95.
So what exactly is a Vita TV? Judging from the videos and press releases, it seems like a Vita micro console that's designed for your TV. It'll play Vita games right from the box and can extend the PlayStation 4 experience to another TV in the home (that's also connected to the same network). It can also locally broadcast PS4 games and stream video content. Think of it as a Roku-esque box with a slot for Vita games and memory cards.
Odds are it won't be as versatile as a Roku, but we don't have the specifics on which services will ultimately be available. If the Vita TV simply streams the PS4 interface, then it's logical to assume that it will let you broadcast anything the PS4 can do as well. Whether there will be any kind of special multitasking functionality (for instance the PS4 being used by two people at once) remains to be seen.
It's easy to draw a connection between the Vita TV and Apple TV, but as with Apple's box, it'll make more sense to own either if you're already invested in that company's content ecosystem.
The Vita TV is also really tiny. Measuring 6.5x10.5cm, it's dwarfed by a DualShock 3 when set side by side. Vita TV will let you play Vita games right off it using a DualShock 3 controller and a DualShock 4 controller when streaming PS4 games (though this functionality looks like it'll be unlocked at a later date).
It appears as if anything your Vita can play (PSP, PS One, and other PSN games) can also be played on a TV with the Vita TV box.
The Vita TV has a similar chipset to the Vita and has a Vita game slot, memory card slot, USB port, HDMI out, and Ethernet connections around back. There's also 1GB of internal storage onboard, which should come in handy for game saves, but not so much for storing actual games, as they tend to take up much more space.
We'll update this First Take when we have more information about US pricing and release dates.