Handheld gaming: What to expect from Sony’s long-awaited Vita

George Treviranus, Lead designer

Sony has finally released its long anticipated PlayStation Vita (Vee-ta), oftentimes called a “Next Generation Portable” since its announcement a few years ago. Despite its promising features and the wonderful outlook for the future of handheld video games, sales have been lacking, most likely due to its high price point at $250 for the most basic model. Here are some things to keep in mind about Sony’s new play-thing.


Upon first glance the Vita is extremely simplistic in design. It is flat, shiny and has a giant screen which makes this beast look like a powerhouse. Getting hands on with the system, it starts to become even clearer. The front-side multi-touch capacitive screen is hypersensitive and packs an intense resolution of 220 pixels per inch.

The front screen is organic light-emitting diode, or OLED, allowing greater color depth and brightness. An interesting addition (which only certain games have been able to utilize since the Vita’s release) that Sony tacked on is the backside touch screen. Games such as “Uncharted: Golden Abyss” can utilize this feature, and with the addition of a second analog stick, gameplay is even smoother.

The Vita packs excellent graphics with a four-core processor and 512 MB of RAM, coming close to its sister console, PlayStation 3 in performance.

The Vita also uses new proprietary game cartridges, as well as memory cards. Memory cards are on the expensive side, which can exacerbate difficult financial problems after already purchasing the expensive handheld. These babies can be $20 upward.

One other small issue that creeps up is the unfortunate placement of the system’s speakers, which fit right under your thumbs—beside the analog sticks and just below the buttons and d-pad—as you’re using the device. Volume control is on the top of the system, which can sometimes be a pain to access given the fact the buttons aren’t exactly easy to push. Despite these issues, the overall smooth and shiny interface is spectacular, especially for a first iteration.


Sony has completely changed the look and use of its portable software since its last handheld, the PSP, and instead goes for more of an iPhone operating system approach.  You utilize small applications — such as for settings, playing games when you insert a cartridge, and accessing the PlayStation Network — and everything is operated through the Vita’s touch screen.

Navigation is decent and it is quick to switch from one app to another. A nice feature Sony has added is the ability to hold the Home button, which pops up a screen giving quick access to screen brightness adjustment and other settings. This is especially useful if you have the brightness up high during the day, but need it lower at night.

A new feature you now have is the option to have multiple wallpapers for each screen of applications, as well as a start screen wallpaper, giving you more customization options past simply moving apps around from screen to screen. The handheld also features a front- and rear-camera as well as GPS.


Overall functionality is wonderful. The PlayStation Vita is a huge step up from its predecessor in nearly every way, and has a bright future ahead of it. While it has some drawbacks, the handheld shines far ahead of its Nintendo rival, the 3DS, in terms of potential. Some may find the size of the Vita to be a bit on the big side, and while it won’t fit in your pocket, it is still very light given its size and is not a burden to carry from place to place.

If you get the bare minimum set with just a game and a memory card, you’re still running at least $300, so some may want to wait for the heavy price point to come down by the time the holidays roll around, especially if you’re looking to get the 3G model.