Sony has something of a problem on its hands when it comes to the screen. A 5-inch OLED panel is going to suck battery juice like a kid who's got into the secret Sunny Delight stash. That's not ideal for a portable device. Battery life could be preserved by dimming the display, but that'll make for an inferior gaming experience. It'll be interesting to see how Sony tackles the problem.
Have a stroke
On the back of the Vita, there's a touch-sensitive area that's the same size as the display on the front. It'll work much like a laptop
trackpad. The idea is that you poke and stroke it with your fingers while you're playing games.
We think there's potential in this idea -- we can't wait to try it for ourselves, and see what kind of cool ideas game developers come up with. We imagine some kind of cursor that indicates where you're poking will appear on the main display, or else it might be tricky to keep track of what your fingers are doing.
We reckon this touch-sensitive area is the most exciting aspect of the Vita. Sticking to the established template but increasing the power of your console is all well and good, but we prefer to see some innovation. We can't wait to see how this aspect of the new handheld pans out.
Vita will also pack front and rear cameras. Along with a slew of internal sensors, that means the console is equipped with everything needed to deliver augmented-reality kicks.
Sony's also announced a pre-installed app called 'Party' that adds chat capability, so you can bellow victoriously at the 11-year-olds you're taking apart. Another app called 'Near' lets users see which Vita games people in their vicinity have been playing, and rewards you with virtual game-related items when you check-in at geographic locations. It sounds slightly more sophisticated than Nintendo's StreetPass 3DS tech, but will it be any fun?
As well as Wi-Fi connectivity, Vita will support 3G, so you could potentially download content and browse the Internet even when you've strayed from a Wi-Fi hotspot. How you'll pay for your mobile-data usage is unclear, though. It may turn out that you'll have to pay for a 3G SIM card or cough up a monthly fee. Sony could make 3G usage free, like Amazon has with the Kindle
, but we'd be surprised.
Hopefully, you'll be able to play online games over 3G, and rack up some kills while on the bus, rather than be restricted to Web browsing or using the Vita's social-networking features. We'll have to wait and see.
Vita will offer access to a version of the PlayStation Suite
online games store for Android. The Suite will let you download classic PlayStation titles and access the PlayStation Network, from where you can download tonnes of other game-related stuff. But, when it comes to newer games, the Vita will stick with physical media.
Mercifully, Sony has decided to give its Universal Media Disc
format the Old Yellertreatment, instead opting to house its games on cards that you can slot into the console itself. They're the same size and shape as SD cards, but we'd be very surprised if they turn out to be actual SD cards -- Sony traditionally prefers to use its own proprietary formats.
Inside, the Vita packs some rather tasty hardware. A quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor powers this handheld monster, as well as an SGX543MP4+ graphics unit. That's some pretty potent voodoo -- we just hope it's not been outclassed by the time the Vita finally makes it to market. Our fingers are also crossed that the powerful hardware doesn't drain the console's battery too rapidly.
We fully expect the Sony PlayStation Vita to be a beast of a machine when it comes to performance. A couple of good ideas, like 3G connectivity and the touch-sensitive area on the back, could transform the Vita into something really special. Our only concern is that, by Christmas, the tech world may have moved on, and the Vita will no longer seem so enticing. Stay tuned for more information.