Feature Article

PlayStation Vita Slim Review

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

The original PlayStation Vita is a remarkable gaming handheld. It's powerful, with an amazing 5-inch OLED display, and features a wide range of inputs, including two analog sticks and a pair of touchscreens. As great as it is, Sony thinks it could be better, and it's beginning to rapidly phase out the original Vita in favor of a slimmer model with a few notable improvements. Apart from being refined in a number of ways, the new Vita Slim is also more consumer friendly than the barebones Vita of old; for the time being, every new Vita Slim is bundled with a free memory card (8GB) and a free voucher for Borderlands 2 and its 6 DLC packs. With the Slim redesign, the Vita has never been sleeker, or a better value, but its stunning OLED screen has been replaced by a standard LCD panel, and it's possible that people with an eye for detail may find the downgrade too noticeable to overlook.

Though the original Vita is a strong piece of hardware, it has its share of issues that needed to be addressed. The battery life is great in standby mode, but during gameplay, it typically taps out around the four-hour mark. The lackluster battery performance was compounded by the system's proprietary charging port. It negates the viability of common USB cables and requires a USB port with a data connection in order to accept a charge; common USB cables and wall chargers won't cut it.

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Thankfully, Sony replaced the Vita's proprietary USB port with the now-common micro-USB standard. You no longer need a special Vita-only cable, you don't need to rely on finicky port restrictions, and common USB wall chargers are now your Vita's best friend. Plus, the battery in the new Vita is reported to last at least an hour longer than the old model, despite having the same capacity.

While it's good to see that the Vita's new screen doesn't hamper its battery life, it does have a negative impact on the overall Vita experience. Sure, LCD panels are cheaper to produce, which allows Sony to shave a few dollars off of the Vita price tag, but with a persistent backlight, colors look washed out on the LCD panel. If you've used the original Vita in any capacity, you know how impressive the OLED display can be, and the moment you look at the new model in action, you instantly recognize that it fails to produce images that are as crisp or vibrant as those of the original. If you've never used the old model, the shift in screen technology won't stand out as much, but you still won't find the display on the new Vita particularly impressive.

...you still won't find the display on the new Vita particularly impressive.

Still, you can find improvements in other areas that make the new Vita an attractive proposition. The new USB port is one, but if you look around, you find that the buttons have also been improved--in particular the start, select, and PlayStation home buttons. These three buttons were previously ovoid and sat flush with the surface, making them unusually difficult to press. Now, they are represented like any other button: they're circular and raised up, making them far easier to use, especially when you're trying to take screenshots by pressing the start and home buttons at the same time.

The new Vita also comes with 1GB of built-in memory, which means that you don't need to have a memory card in order to link a PSN account and play games, but oddly, you can't use the internal storage and the included 8GB memory card at the same time.

Vita Slim (front) and the original Vita (rear)
Vita Slim (front) and the original Vita (rear)

Finally, the new Vita is 20 percent slimmer and 15 percent lighter than the old model. The original Vita was comfortable as is, but the Vita Slim is even more welcoming now that it's less bulky, and because it incorporates softer materials throughout the chassis.

There's no getting around the fact that the new Vita has an inferior screen compared to its predecessor, but it's easy to appreciate the reduction in size, weight, and price. Plus, the changes made to the USB port and the buttons make it a much friendlier system to use overall. Even though they won't look as good, the same games that worked on the old Vita work on the new model, so at the end of the day, the new Vita is worth considering for all of its advantages if you aren't bothered by the new screen.

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doc-brown

Peter Brown

Peter is Managing Editor at GameSpot, and when he's not covering the latest games, he's desperately trying to recapture his youth by playing the classics that made him happy as a kid.
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