Sony released the PlayStation Vita back in late 2011 for Japan and February 2012 for the rest of the world. The successor to the ever-popular PSP it boasted “home console experience” and an array of hardware features on par with smartphones. Sony wanted to send the message that dedicated handheld gaming has not been killed off by mobile gaming.
Two years on, it is hasn’t been quite the runaway success that Sony had perhaps hoped. With stiff competition from Nintendo and mobile giants such as Apple, Sony have had to find a way of trimming down the PSVita to sell at a more consumer-friendly price. Back in late 2013, Sony announced the PSVita “2000“ series or “slim” as it’s come to be known (as many hardware redesigns usually do carry that moniker).
The Slim PSVita has done away with silver edge and incorporated a rounded matte plastic look along its edges. The plastic on the face of the unit is now has a very glossy finish, in the black variation it’s very reminiscent of the PSP, particularly that of the short-lived, digital-only PSP Go! Even the speaker holes are of similar design. On the subject of the speakers, they seem to be significantly louder on the slim than they were on the older model, which is good news for people who aren’t fans of headphones, although the I’d still recommend using them over the built-in speakers.
A nice improvement is the face buttons, in particular the PS, Start and Select buttons. On the previous model these buttons were small, oval and particularly annoying to use. The buttons were flush with the face so you had to push them with the tip of your finger and this wasn’t too comfortable to use, especially if you’re in the heat of a game and needed to pause. The new Slim Vita has rounded, larger of these buttons which stand out from the face of the Vita, making them much easier on the finger. The PS button is no longer illuminated, there are now two LEDs on the top of the unit. The game card slot has now been centred on the top of the console and the mysterious port has now gone. I guess Sony have no future plans on using it for whatever they originally intended.
The charging port has now changed from the proprietary plug to a stand micro-USB, which is good because the micro-USB is a more widely available cable, the PS4 uses it, a myriad of smartphones use it. Makes sense.
Sony have really trimmed off the fat of the PSVita and it sits much better in the hands. It’s much lighter and really makes it feel more portable, its new thinness allows it to slip even more comfortably into a pocket.
The Slim has been reduced 20% in size and 15% in weight and it really shows. Compared to the original PSVita model, it feels very thin and lightweight, it no longer bears the chunky, bulbous back the previous model had. The silver edge is now gone and replaced by rounded plastic which sits more comfortably in the palms of the hand. There’s no longer a somewhat uncomfortable edge around the face of the unit as the front now curves around into the sides rather than being a flat surface. The thinner form factor makes the screen appear larger, it actually isn’t, it’s the same size and resolution however the fact that there’s less “body” around the screen makes it seem larger.
Rear touch has been improved. The panel itself has been made smaller and the plastic “dead zones” that your fingers rest on have been made larger. This, for me, is a welcome improvement as I’d often find my fingers accidentally touching the panel during games that utilise it.
On a funny note, they’ve cheaped out on the AR Cards and they now come just printed on single sheet of paper rather than individual cards.
The Slim PSVita is shipped with an internal memory of 1GB, however it’s pretty redundant as the moment you put in a memory card of your own, you can no longer use the internal storage. The Vita allows you to transfer any data saved on the internal to the memory card you insert. This is fine but I find it annoying that a whole gigabyte of storage just goes to waste, sitting there, locked away whilst you use your propriety card. It would have been nice to have it as a bonus bit of storage to add on top of the infamously pricey memory cards.
As for battery, Sony claims it lasts an hour or so longer than previous models and some users have stated its lasted significantly longer than that. I guess it all boils down to how you use your console. Me, personally I always play on mid-to-lowest brightness and without any wireless turned on, so battery life has never really been a problem for me. I played several lengthy sessions over the first few days of buying the Slim and I’ve yet needed to charge it. This could however be accounted to it being a brand-new battery as well as being a more energy-efficient system.
Now the crux of the new PSVita: the screen. The old PSVita came with an OLED screen, a display that uses Organic Light-Emitting Diodes, which provide rich, vivid colours and deep blacks, however are particularly expensive to manufacture. I believe Sony opted to build the slim Vita with a LCD screen to keep costs low, passing the savings on to their customers, driving the price down at retail.
Now, that’s all well and good for us mere mortals but what about picture quality? Here’s a comparison of the two PSVita models with the Friend App selected. The OLED provides richer colours and whiter whites, whilst the LCD, which is not bad has a very slight “yellowish” tint to it when on lower brightness settings.
Whilst on lowest brightness the OLED still provides a rich colour. The LCD is darker on the lowest setting than the OLED but slightly brighter but not as vivid when on highest. I probably would never play a game on brightest setting, I never have. For me, I don’t mind the change in screen. Yes, there is a noticeable quality difference to the keen eye but if you hadn’t previously owned a PSVita and the slim is your first, chances are you won’t even notice. When it comes down to it, a marginal difference in colour won’t affect your games. The screen still looks good and personally I think Sony should have chosen LCD to begin with. People claim the “selling point” of the PSVita was its OLED display but I argue against this. The selling point is the games, whilst playing I’ve barely noticed a difference.
Overall I believe this model is what Sony should have released first, a slim, LCD-equipped handheld. I think they were being a bit overzealous with the inclusion of an OLED display. If you already own the original PSVita I’d say just keep with it but if you’re a new buyer this is no slouch, it’s like the first-generation iPad Mini: cut down hardware, cheaper price but runs all the same software, however the cuts made here aren’t in processor but in display. It’s still, for all intents and purposes a PlayStation Vita and will provide you with the same experience.