When we first saw the PS Vita at E3, it all seemed like a futuristic system that we would never actually own. With only a month before the PSV’s North American release, we got our hands on one of Hong Kong’s 3G models and tried it out. Aside from its technical superiority, the PSV is filled with smart design decisions that make it the premiere portable device for gamers to anticipate.
There are several things that players will notice about the system once they hold it in their hands: it’s wide yet slender, features a large 5-inch screen that is incredibly lightweight, and a wildly different interface. While the sleek nature of the system is appealing, I couldn’t help but feel paranoid about putting it into my pocket. With such a large screen, the system felt like it was bound to snap and was just plain uncomfortable in my pocket.
During gameplay, however, the system was a marvel to hold. The PSV’s dual analog sticks and overall sizable buttons felt welcoming, asthough a portable was finally large enough for my gigantic hands. The system’s portability was ultimately sacrificed for a more engaging gaming experience. It’sa trade-off that I won’t mind, as long as I had something other than my jeans’ pocket in which to store the PSV. Conveniently, games include useful links to the game’s website, company’s website, or PSN store for easy access. The multitouch capacitive touchscreen is duly sensitive and precise, making it leaps and bounds above the 3DS’s outdated resistive touchscreen and giving it many more possibilities instead.
Some browsing through the system’s applications quickly showed some notable improvements over other systems’ similar counterparts. The Playstation Store itself is pretty easy to browse, featuring categories on the left ranging from the games and add-ons to movie downloads. Fans of digital content will be excited to find that retail games are also available as digital downloads. Near, the PSV’s attempt to connect nearby gamers, shows different users on a map including their PSN usernames, recent games, and trophies. This feature most mirrors the original Nintendo DS’s PictoChat that allowed users to chat with others nearby; however, Near works on a much larger scale, allowing users to see others several kilometers away as well. Security concerns may arise, but since the unit was in Chinese, we were not able to test out different settings.
In order to receive internet signal, the 3G model includes a slot for a SIM card. Curious to see if any SIM card would work, we inserted a T-Mobile SIM card with data on it and, to our amazement, it was able to receive data. However, it was only able to receive 2G speeds, telling us that the system is on the same band as the AT&T; network. While the SIM card was in the slot, the PSV gave notifications on any text messages that arrived. Unfortunately, the system was incapable of replying to text messages or receiving calls. Perhaps hackers may work on a mod for this in the future, but at least existing AT&T; customers who wish to have data anywhere can use the system’s data capabilities, given that they are willing to miss some calls. Keep in mind that the model we tested was from Hong Kong and unlocked – a feature that may not hold true for the North American release.
With only a month to go before its North American release, the system is looking better and better. There are some design decisions already that some may question, but the trade offs are definitely worth it. We look forward to its release and will be waiting by the door for its arrival come February 22.