E3 2011: Sony PlayStation Vita: Inside and Out

Get all the details behind the PlayStation Vita, Sony's upcoming handheld console.

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At E3 2011, Sony's Next Generation Portable (NGP) finally got a name: Vita. Sony revealed a number of other important details. However, the handheld still has no official release date outside of a holiday 2011 release window. A Wi-Fi-only version will cost $249, and a Wi-Fi/3G model will retail for $299. US-based 3G service will be provided by AT&T, but Sony didn't reveal any pricing for the data plans or whether they would be contractual or monthly. European pricing for the console will be €249(Wi-Fi) and €299 (Wi-Fi/3G), while Japanese pricing will be ¥24,980 (Wi-Fi) and ¥29,980 (Wi-Fi/3G).

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The Hardware Specifications

The Vita moves the bar forward in just about every single aspect for a gaming handheld: graphics, communications, and controls. The GPU and CPU are state of the art for the handheld and mobile industry; it will be the first handheld console ever to feature 3G cellular communications. Much to the delight of gamers, the Vita will also have two analog sticks in addition to a slew of secondary controls that include a multi-touch capacitive touch screen and a multi-touch rear touchpad. The Vita will also feature motion controls and GPS functionality. Games will ship on small flash memory-based cards, effectively pushing Sony's UMD format out of the picture. The Vita will be able to play PSP games from the PlayStation Store.

Front Side Rotated Shoulders Angled Underside Left Side

The basic hardware stats for the handheld remain unchanged since they were revealed back in January. Previously unannounced stats for the Vita pertain to the cameras, which didn't have any specific resolutions attached to them, and a full port list. Both cameras appear to be capable of recording video at 120 frames per second at a resolution of 320x240, and 60 frames per second at 640x480. The maximum resolution for both pictures and video appears to be 640x480.

Based on ARM's publicly provided Cortex A9 CPU specs, the chip can be configured in single, dual, and quad-core varieties. Based on its spec sheets, the dual-core variant comes in two flavors, optimized for either power or performance. The power-optimized chip lowers the clock speed to 800MHz, which results in 4,000 DMIPS (Dhrystone millions of instructions per second) of computational power and .5W of power consumption. The performance-optimized version bumps the speed up to 2GHz, and the computational power jumps to 10,000 DMIPS with 1.9W of power consumption. Assuming a linear scaling of performance, the ARM Cortex A9 with four cores could perform anywhere between 8,000 and 20,000 DMIPS. By comparison, the iPad, which is based off of the 1GHz Cortex A8, has roughly 2,000 DMIPS of computational power.

Imagination Technologies makes the PowerVR SGX543MP4+. However, we can only find information on the PowerVR SGX543MP. The normal nomenclature model for the PowerVR SGX543MP contains additional numbers following the MP that indicate the number of cores onboard. Imagine Technologies can configure the GPU to have 1, 2, 4, 8, and 16 cores. Sony opted to use the SGX543MP4+, which indicates that the chip has four cores. We have no details on what the "+" indicates.

Imagine Technologies states:
"At 200MHz core frequency an SGX543MP4 (four cores) will deliver 133 million polygons per second and fill rates in excess of 4Gpixels/sec. Higher frequencies or a larger number of cores each deliver more performance. At 400MHz core frequency an SGX543MP8 (eight cores) will deliver 532 million polygons per second and fill rates in excess of 16Gpixels/sec."

Assuming the chip hasn't been highly modified from the PowerVR SGX543MP4, a 200MHz PowerVR SGX543MP4+ could live up to the PlayStation 3's 4.4Gpixel/s fill rate spec. We also have to add that raw fill rate numbers rarely translate into real-world performance.

ARM Cortex-A9 core (4 core)


Approx. 182.0 x 18.6 x 83.5mm (width x height x depth) (tentative, excludes largest projection)

Touch screen 5 inches (16:9), 960 x 544, Approx. 16 million colors, OLED, Multi-touch screen (capacitive type)

Rear touch pad:
Multi-touch pad (capacitive type)

Front camera, Rear camera
Frame rate : 120fps@320x240(QVGA), 60fps@640x480(VGA)
Resolution : Up to 640x480(VGA)

Built-in stereo speakers, Built-in microphone

Sixaxis motion-sensing system (three-axis gyroscope, three-axis accelerometer), Three-axis electronic compass

Built-in GPS, Wi-Fi location service support

PS button, Power button, D-pad, Action buttons (Triangle, Circle, Cross, Square), Shoulder buttons (Right/Left), Right stick, Left stick, START button, SELECT button, Volume buttons

Wireless communications:
Mobile network connectivity (3G), IEEE 802.11b/g/n (n = 1x1)(Wi-Fi) (Infrastructure mode/Ad hoc mode), Bluetooth 2.1+EDR (A2DP/AVRCP/HSP)

PlayStation Vita card slot, Memory card slot, SIM card slot (3G/Wi-Fi model only), Multi-use port (for USB data communication, DC IN, Audio [Stereo Out / Mono In], Serial data communication), Headset jack (Stereo mini jack) (for Audio [Stereo Out / Mono In]), Accessory port

Supported formats:
Music -MP3 MPEG-1/2 Audio Layer 3, MP4 (MPEG-4 AAC), WAVE (Linear PCM)
Videos -MPEG-4 Simple Profile (AAC), H.264/MPEG-4 AVC Hi/Main/Baseline Profile (AAC)
Photos -JPEG (Exif 2.2.1), TIFF, BMP, GIF, PNG

The PlayStation Vita's Operating System and Built-in Software

The Vita will sport a brand new user interface that replaces the old XMB. Welcome Park, a tutorial program, will help users figure out and experience all the new software that comes on the Vita. Elsewhere, new networking features called LiveArea and Near will allow NGP users to download games, view an "Activity" log with accomplishments from others playing the same game, and let them find out what nearby friends are playing or what they were playing recently. Additionally, Near will also let users gift virtual game items. Party will let users chat via voice and text during games and outside of them.

Front Side Profile Left Side Profile Right Top Profile Bottom Profile

At E3 2011, Sony demonstrated that the Vita will have robust interactivity with the PlayStation 3. While demonstrating a game called Ruin, the presenters showed off its cross-platform capabilities. During the demo, the presenters started a gaming session on the Vita and then picked up right where they left off on the PlayStation 3 moments later. The PlayStation Network's cloud save abilities help make this feature a reality.

With ModNation Racers, demonstrators showed how the Vita will have access to all the user-generated content that's been made on the PlayStation 3. Similarly, an upcoming version of Little Big Planet will be able to do the same.


Sony hasn't announced a launch lineup for the Vita yet, but it has revealed a number of titles that are currently in development.

Announced Titles in Development
Call of Duty
Dungeon Defenders
Dynasty Warriors
Everybody's Golf
F1 2011
Gravity Daze
Hot Shots Golf
Hustle Kings
Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7
Little Big Planet
Little Deviants
ModNation Racers
Reality Fighters
Sound Shapes
Street Fighter X Tekken
Super Stardust Delta
Silent Hill: Book of Memories
Metal Gear Solid
WipEout 2048
Uncharted: Golden Abyss

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