Originally released in February 2012, the PlayStation Vita is Sony’s successor to their extremely successful PSP, but it has struggled over the last two years to come anywhere close to the heights of the predecessor. Whilst we saw some great titles added to the library in 2013 and some extremely competetive pricing deals, the system has still failed to capture the imagination and audience that you would thought. In a bid to refresh the system and ultimately to drive down the component costs of the unit, Sony have now announced a new design, the PS Vita Slim.
This “slim” version of the Vita has been known about since September 2013, where it was announced ahead of the October Japanese launch but it has taken until now to get my hands on one. Following the lackluster announcement for the UK release – where the system was announced to be coming in black only with an RRP of £180 – I took to the internet to import one for considerably less, and in a colour scheme which was different to the original.
There has been much furore over this redesign among the Vita community with the most obvious headline being the removal of the OLED display, which is instead replaced with a LCD screen. This really has proved a contentious issue, but is this system isn’t really aimed at those with the system already, it’s to try to appeal to a different audience. It is ultimately still a PlayStation Vita at heart, but there still are some changes inside. They include a switch to a Micro-USB charging port, extended battery life, 1GB of internal storage and a tweak to the overall design with a redesigned rear touch pad, more rounded edges and a reduction in weight and thickness by 15% and 20% respectively as well as cosmetic tweaks here and there.
Weight, Design and Battery
I’ll discuss the screen shortly, because the first thing that you’ll notice with the new Vita isn’t the visuals. It’s the weight, or lack thereof. This weight reduction translates to a drop to 219g from 26og and whilst it may not seem much, picking up the original afterwards is certainly noticeable. It really feels much more comfortable when holding, especially for long periods of play. And it’s not just the weight that has improved, the form factor is certainly more impressive with marginally more curved edges sitting much more comfortably within your palms. The Start, Select and PS buttons have all been redesigned with a rounded, more pronounced appearance which are now actually usuable at the first attempt and the system notifications have been removed from the button and relocated on the top of the unit. I also found the shoulder buttons more comfortable to use and have not found them to “click” or stick so much during games. The finger grips on the rear, as well as the touch pad have had an overhaul with less room afforded to the rear touch. This makes accidental presses far less common, whilst still being useful in the few games that make the best use of it, Tearaway being the most prominent. All of this prolonged comfort whilst playing is accompanied by an extension in the life of the battery performance, with Sony estimating that the system will give you between 4-6 compared with 3-5 hours for the 1000 model. I managed marginally over 5 hours play from my initial charge with a combination of updating firmware, playing with brightness settings, PSN and internet browsing (and downloading) and some serious TxK and Tearaway game time. My first actual charge resulted in 6 and a half hours, comprised of Tearaway, WRC 4 and Killzone Mercenary, which is easily the most visually demanding title that there is to play.
Display and Memory
So, that screen then. For all of the things that I have been reading about the difference between the OLED and LCD screens I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised. It’s true that the colours are nowhere near as distinctive on the new screen, but the display really isn’t as bad in reality as has been portrayed. I’m not going to proclaim to be an expert in mobile screen technology, I can only call it as I see it. That OLED is far superior in every single way, it has has more definition, more vibrant colours and a much sharper image but the LCD screen on the new model is an ample replacement. LCD technology uses less power than OLED does (hence the longer battery life) and seems to provide a more cleaner reproduction of the visuals, if perhaps a little bright even on the same setting as the OLED. The screen did not appear to seem to ghost, but it is worth noting that I have seen videos which do show this to be prevalent. I’ve just not experienced it myself. The display is otherwise exactly the same size, 5 inches and 16:9, 960×544 qHD 220 pixels per inch masterpiece that it was before. The screen surround has also changed with the tweaks, the front fascia is not now flush with the screen with a noticeable separation on the design, wheras its all appears to be one with the original.
The top accessory port has been removed altogether and this version does not come with a 3G option. This new model does certainly look much “cheaper” than the predecessor, which has a more refined and higher quality look about the design, but that’s not to say this is poor. I was always worried about dropping my 1000. This is so comfortable I don’t even think I’m going to drop this, and despite having almost the same basic dimensions as the 1000 it seems significantly more portable somehow.
The system comes installed with 1GB of internal storage, and whilst this is useful for the selection of players that do not download from the store, it is ultimately useless for the majority that the device is aimed at. The bulk of the Vita’s titles are available on the store, which has an array of titles which are download only. I appreciate that this is a step forward in terms of design, but it simply isn’t enough and is rendered useless the moment you insert a card. Upon doing so, you are prompted to copy the stored data to your new card, losing you 1GB of storage on your expensively acquired proprietry memory and renders the much touted feature on the new Vita useless. I’d strongly suggest at least 8GB of internal storage which works in tandem with the cards for the PCH-3000 guys, but as it is this really wasn’t too useful for me. That said, those that only have light usage may find the size sufficient.
Importing and What’s Included
As mine is an import model, there are slight differences to make note of. Whilst you have a greater choice of colours available to you and can grab it at a far more pocket friendly price, the functions of the O and X are reversed. We generally use the X as the confirm command and O as the cancel, on a Japanese unit these roles are reversed but the control schemes within the games remain the same. The colour choices available to you on importing are Black, White and four dual variants (Black/Pink, Black/Khaki, White/Blue and White/Lime Green) and the system is region free and accepts any PSN ID to sign in with. It’s also compatible with PS Vita memory cards – regardless of region – which is handy to know if you wanted to grab a 64Gb too. In the box you get a Micro-USB cable which is now used to charge the Vita, and that connects to the standard charging block. If you are importing, you might want to just have a plug converter or just buy a Micro-USB charger as they are universally compatible. It does also include the six basic AR cards, but they are now on a single sheet of paper, as opposed to the higher quality examples previously packaged. But then again, how often are you going to use them? It’s worth pointing out for our EU readers that when importing from non-EU states you could be liable for import tax.
As an existing Vita owner I am very pleased with the new unit. The screen is probably the only real thing that I would miss on the 1000 but this does soon disappear when you get back to the games, and the display is something you would get used to. The weight balance, design improvements and extensions to the battery life are all sensible refinements that do improve the system considerably, and since my slim arrived all of my Vita gaming has been conducted on it.
I commend SCE UK on the decision to release it first in the west, it was very bold and really set a marker for other regions but it is not without criticism; the pricing is completely wrong for the system and is a big step backwards. When you are trying to appeal to a more casual crowd, more colour choice would have been a positive move. Hopefully more regions and colours will follow, otherwise people will just import their choice, for cheaper. SCEA have now announced the system will release in North America during “spring” but will also come bundled with Borderlands 2. That’s a positive move, but colour choice again remains to be seen. But should you buy this version of the Vita?
If you already own a Vita
If you do already have a Vita then for the vast majority I would say no – the system is not aimed at you. The improvement to the battery and the form factor are the only real benefits and the memory is essentially useless to the download heavy Vita gamer. The new charging port is convenient but not worth the outlay in my opinion, however comfortable it may be over the original. Trading in your existing unit will still require the exchange of a large cash sum, and with your only choice currently being the black model, I just don’t think that there is enough here at this time to justify the switch, however comfortable it may be.
If you do not own a Vita and are looking to buy one
I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the slim model. The improvements over the original unit are better in every way bar one – the screen. Just be aware that at the current RRP it’s more expensive than the original version, which seems to spectacularly miss the point. Hopefully we will see the retailers push on with some competetive deals that drive the unit down to comparable levels to the 1000 series – which has now discontinued production in the United Kingdom and I would expect that European and North American markets will soon follow suit. If you were entertaining the notion of purchasing a Vita and the OLED screen is preferable for you then it may be a good idea to get your skates on whilst you still can, and take advantage of some of the great deals available before it’s too late.