Sony PlayStation Vita handheld games console

Sony PlayStation Vita review: a big, beautiful gaming machine

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Sony PlayStation Vita

Pros

  • Light and durable design with excellent controls
  • Big, beautiful OLED screen.
  • Rear touchpad works well, permits unique gameplay

Cons

  • Overpriced proprietary memory cards.
  • Onboard 0.3 megapixel cameras are terrible
  • Middling battery life

Bottom Line

When it comes to pure performance, the PlayStation Vita is the best dedicated handheld gaming console you can buy.

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Terrible Cameras

Sony PlayStation Vita review Color/contrast shot taken with the Vita's rear-facing 0.3 MP VGA camera.

The PlayStation Vita has a pair of front and rear-facing 0.3 MP VGA cameras, and they’re both terrible. During testing the Vita regularly captured photos that appeared blurry and dim with poor contrast between light and dark areas. The Vita 1.6 firmware update added a video recording feature to the Camera app, but the quality of video captured using the Vita’s cameras is equitably poor. These cameras work well enough for playing the occasional augmented-reality game, but for snapping photographs suitable for sharing you’re better off using a dedicated camera, or your smartphone.

Sony PlayStation Vita review Color/contrast shot taken with the Vita's off-center front-facing 0.3 MP VGA camera. Gross.

Fantastic Performance

The PlayStation Vita packs a quad-core PowerVR Series 5XT SGX543MP4+ GPU that’s similar (though superior) to the dual-core SGX543MP2 GPU which powers the Apple iPhone 4S and iPad 2. The Vita’s GPU does a fantastic job of rendering movies and games without a hitch; during testing we played several graphically-demanding Vita games (including Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Lumines: Electronic Symphony, Super StarDust Delta and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3) and they all looked fantastic, with nary a dropped frame or graphical glitch to speak of.

The Vita also boasts respectable battery life, and during testing we were able to eke out just under five hours of fun playing games, watching movies and listening to music at maximum brightness and maximum volume before our Vita review unit ran out of juice. Thankfully it only takes about an hour and a half to completely charge the battery via the AC adapter.

While our Vita review unit included a 3G radio, we were unable to assess the performance of the AT&T 3G on Vita units at the time of review without a compatible 3G SIM card. Once we have thoroughly tested the 3G functionality of the Vita we will update the review accordingly.

All told, the PlayStation Vita is an excellent handheld gaming console that’s worth paying for if you demand more from your mobile gaming experience than smartphone or tablet games can provide. You’ll have to make some sacrifices in order to play with this kind of power, but if you’re willing to accommodate the Vita’s size and Sony’s draconian memory card pricing scheme, you’ll be rewarded with one of the most powerful handheld gaming devices ever made.

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