Introduction and design
Sony’s making a bold play with the PS Vita Slim. The dedicated handheld market is one that’s vanishing, yet Sony is willing to bet its latest portable on it. And with a £180 RRP (around US$290, AU$330), the PS Vita Slim is asking for more than than its rivals.
But if you’re out for a solid handheld and have the cash to splash, the good news is that you’ll be getting a superb handheld console.
Thinner, lighter, but just as powerful as its forebear – the Slim does a lot right.
Sony has made some subtle changes, both internally and externally, but they’re mostly welcome improvements. The design tweaks make for a more portable, comfortable system, although it does come at the expense of the OLED screen which has now been replaced with an LCD.
The Vita Slim will be available in the UK on February 7, and we’d bet our bottom dollar that it will be coming to the US soon, and likely Australia too.
But while the Slim arrived in Japan with an array of vibrant colour options, Brits will only be getting their hands on the black, Wi-Fi-only model for the time being.
On the face, the differences in the PS Vita Slim are subtle. Put it next to the Vita original however, and you’ll begin to appreciate the changes that Sony has made.
The console is around 20% slimmer (about 3mm) than the original, bringing it down to 15mm. It’s also 42g lighter, which is the most immediately noticeable thing when you pick the Vita Slim up.
Those might not sound like dramatic changes but they’ll be pleasing for hands familiar with the original model, which was a tad on the bulky side.
One of the most significant changes with the Slim is the screen. While Sony is keeping the display at 5 inches with the same 960 x 544 resolution, it’s switching the OLED panel for an LCD – a sacrifice it had to make for that slimmer body.
That sounds like bad news but with the pixel density sticking at 220ppi, the difference isn’t as drastic as you might expect. The picture is still sharp and it’s certainly not something that will bother anyone picking this up as their first Vita handheld.
However, for those of you with the current Vita, the colours on the Slim’s display are noticeably less vibrant, while viewing angles are reduced as a result of the step-down.
Put the two side by side and I did notice that the colours looked a little more washed out on the Slim compared to the highly-vivid tones on the Vita original.
The screen also now has a seam around it, which breaks the consistency of the original’s design. On the plus side, the LCD means a longer battery and a cheaper price than the launch price of the Vita original.
On the top of the Vita Slim, Sony has moved the game slot to the centre and put in two LEDs – one for power, one for Bluetooth – on the left.
Flip the Slim on its head and you’ll also notice that the charging port has also been changed. Sony has switched the charger port for a micro USB port, which should be only good news. If you have an Android phone then the chances are that you own a Vita Slim charger already. The headphone socket and memory card slot also sit on the underside.
In fact, the only thing completely missing from the Vita in its second iteration is that slightly-mysterious accessory port which sat on the top. As Sony never actually released anything for this, it clearly decided that it made more sense to cut it completely. All these things considered, the Vita Slim definitely has a tidier look to it.
As for the controls, very little has changed here. The analogue sticks sit in the same place and at the same size, while the D-pad and shoulder buttons are also identical. Sony has, however, made the Home, Start and Select buttons round and much easier to press on the Slim.
The back touch panel is also still present, although it’s a tad smaller than the previous time we saw it given the overall size reductions of the handheld.
But despite its slimmer form, you still won’t be able to slip the Vita into your pocket easily as you would some of its rivals (iPhone, 3DS), so you’ll likely want to invest in a carry case of some sort.
Not only for that, but because the Vita has a nasty habit of picking up scratches and fingerprints. Don’t say we didn’t warn you – buy protection on day one.
PS Vita battery and features
You’d expect that switching out the OLED panel for an LCD display would give the Vita Slim a bit more of a battery boost, and Sony told us that we could expect to get somewhere between four and six hours of gameplay from a single charge. That’s the potential for two hours more than the original.
From my time using the handheld I found that to be quite accurate. Flitting between less demanding titles such as Spelunky and more power-intensive games like Gravity Rush gave me just under six hours in total before a charge was required. However using services such as PS4 Remote Play obviously cut that time down.
Chugging along inside is the identical quad-core ARM Cortex A9 processor and 512MB of RAM found in its older version, so you can rest assured that the small battery enhancement is not due to Sony turning down the power dial.
However the Vita Slim does come with 1GB of flash storage built in, something that the previous model lacked. Given the extortionate prices of Sony’s Vita memory cards, that inbuilt storage is welcome for game save files although it won’t be enough to store any big downloads.
In terms of software, it’s the same deal. The UI is identical and you’ll only need to slot in your old memory card to find all your saved games and data just as you left them.
You’ll want to log in with your PSN account to use the PS Store and other social features, but other than that it’s a pretty smooth, straightforward experience.
So then come the games. Current Vita owners will be familiar with the marketplace of games available right now – it’s not massive, and still struggles to square up to the 3DS.
However Sony’s digital marketplace is growing, and there are now a large number of older PS1 and PSP games that can be downloaded. Not only that, but with PlayStation Now just around the corner, the Vita will soon be able to stream PS3 titles as well.
It’s for this reason that Sony is heavily targeting the PS Vita at PS4 users right now, selling its handheld as an essential accessory to the main console.
You’ll have PS4 Remote Play out of the box, and syncing the Vita and console together is easy. Once it’s up and running you can play your PS4 games on the Vita screen via your Wi-Fi. Want to know the full ins and outs of Remote Play? We explain more in our PS4 review.
The PS Vita Slim is everything we hoped it would be. Our fears about the step down in screen were overly pessimistic: there is a noticeable difference, yes, but with the size and resolution still the same, the reduction in quality is not enough to be a huge bugbear.
But all that said, Sony’s still trying to sell an expensive dedicated handheld console to a generation of mobile gamers. It’s for that reason that we’d expect retailers to start dropping below the RRP in the not-too-distant future.
The PS Vita doesn’t do a lot wrong. It’s thinner, lighter, and therefore more comfortable to hold. And at the same time, it’s every bit as powerful as its original model. The 1GB of inbuilt storage is a great bonus, though you won’t get an awful lot of mileage out of it.
The Vita Slim really is just too expensive, and not just for the handheld itself. The games and memory cards are also going to be hard on your wallet, which is worth bearing in mind before paying out for the console. The Vita experience does not come cheap.
The step down to LCD will probably niggle at some owners of the current Vita. The colours are a little less vivid than they were. Not hugely so, but worth bearing in mind if you’re a real videophile.
The PS Vita Slim makes some welcome improvements on the original without much sacrifice. The main sticking point is the price, though we expect to see most retailers drop below Sony’s RRP. Without that, the Vita Slim is still a great handheld especially worth a look at if you’re buying a PS4, but doesn’t warrant an upgrade for owners of the existing Vita.