E3 2011: PlayStation Vita First Take

Formally unveiled at the company's E3 2011 press conference, the PlayStation Vita aims to provide the most comprehensive portable gaming experience around. We've had some time with Vita, so here's a preview of what gamers can expect before the end of 2011.

Sarah Tew

Formally unveiled at the company's E3 2011 press conference, the PlayStation Vita aims to provide the most comprehensive portable gaming experience around. We've had some time with Vita, so here's a preview of what gamers can expect before the end of 2011.

Overview
Available in two models, the PS Vita will go for $250 or $300, a Wi-Fi-only and Wi-Fi/3G version, respectively.

Armed with a dazzling 5-inch OLED capacitive touch screen, the Vita also allows players to interact with games through a rear touch panel. Under the hood the Vita packs an ARM Cortex-A9 core (4 core) CPU and a SGX543MP4+ GPU.

Its 16:9 screen sports a 960x544-pixel resolution, which is flanked by a front-facing camera that can take 640x480-pixel photos. An identical lens is placed on the back to bring "augmented reality to a new level." Like the 3DS, iPad, and iPod Touch, the Vita will make use of motion control. This is accomplished via a three-axis gyroscope and three-axis accelerometer.

Vita games will ship on a Vita Card, but the device can also make use of a memory card slot, multiuse port (USB, etc.), and accessory port. The PS Vita will accept Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections and the 3G model can connect to AT&T's 3G network.

Like the PSP, the Vita is also a portable media player supporting various audio (MP3, AAC, WAV), video (MP4/H.264), and photo (JPEG, TIFF, BMP, GIF, PNG) file types.

The battery on the Vita remains a bit of a mystery, but we've heard it'll roughly net 4-5 hours of use.

Hands-on
We were shocked at how little the Vita weighs. We were expecting much more of a heavy, bulky feel--like we first experienced with the original PSP back in 2005. Instead, the Vita is lightweight and fits very comfortably in your hands.

The rear touch panel is smooth and can sense multiple touch gestures and contact points at once.

The buttons on the face of the Vita are tight and responsive. Its D-pad is a departure from the PSP's. It doesn't feature four separate pieces. Instead it is a multidirectional dial that doesn't seem to allow for the precision the PSP's D-pad does, but we'll conduct more testing to rule one way or another.

We cannot stress how graphically impressive the Vita is. At times it seems on par with PlayStation 3 quality, just on a smaller screen. It truly must be seen to be believed.

CNET editor Jeff Bakalar gets some hands-on time with Uncharted: Golden Abyss Sarah Tew/CNET

Related links
• Sony debuts PlayStation Vita, its next-gen handheld
• Hands-on with PlayStation Vita and its games
• E3 2011: Complete coverage

Comparisons to PSP
The PS Vita improves upon the original PSP's design by adding an additional right analog thumb stick. These sticks feel like conventional joysticks as opposed to the PSP's sliding nub or the 3DS' circle pad. Interestingly enough, it took some time to get used to when we first played with the Vita, as we weren't used to a portable system with two sticks.

Gone this time are UMD discs in favor of a Vita card slot we've yet to really see.

Comparisons to 3DS
With the Wi-Fi-only PS Vita going for the same price as a 3DS, it's certainly natural to make direct comparisons. The Vita cannot display 3D like the 3DS, but it does feature touch controls--in fact, it doubles the amount of touch with a rear touch panel as well. No stylus is needed here, as both capacitive screens respond to fingers. The 3DS' resistive touch screen can work with fingers, too, but a stylus is usually the preferred input device.

Both systems will feature an online marketplace, and each device allows for local and over-the-Net play. We're not completely sure about Vita's backward compatibility, but the 3DS does work with DS and DSi titles.

Comparisons to iPod Touch and iPad
With the PS Vita representing Sony's first attempt at incorporating touch into gaming, we think it's fair to compare it with the iPod Touch and iPad. The main difference here is that the Vita will combine front and rear touch inputs with a full array of buttons, allowing players to interact with games without blocking their onscreen view.

We'll have much more on the PlayStation Vita as it nears release. And of course, keep it here with CNET for our full review later this year.

 

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