We first had a go on the PlayStation Vita back at this year’s CES 2012 and later at the Gadgetshow Live 2012. However it was hard to judge what the handheld console was like under the hustle and bustle of the shows, so we finally decided it was time to get hold of a review sample.
In terms of the look and feel it certainly has a PSP look to proceedings, but to hold - while it's not that heavy - it may not suite those blessed with smaller digits because it’s on the wider side to accommodate the 5" OLED screen and wealth of buttons (though it does feel well balanced and includes some indent pads at the back to aid grip).
In total you have two analogue sticks at the front - which are pretty dinky - and a standalone d-pad. The reach from the left analogue stick to the d-pad (or PS Button) was a short hop thankfully and vice versa the reach from the right analogue stick to the X, square, triangle and circle buttons was good (but then again we have large hands so it would be).
Directly below the above you have your select and start buttons which are similar to the PS3. At the top edge of the device are two covers, one that houses a card slot that looks similar to an SD card slot (though it's not the same) and the other that houses an accessory port. To the sides of these ports are your volume controls and two large bumper buttons - which again are in place to emulate the style of the PS3 controller.
To the base of the device you have a 3.5mm headphone port which is joined by another cover housing Sony’s propriety memory card slot and the USB port connector.
The inclusion of the memory card slot is frustrating because to us it limits the potential of the console and adds to the initial cost. For example a 16GB card is priced at £34 from Amazon. It would have been far easier to have it's own internal storage and then we could expand it from there.
Also the USB cable that comes with the device is not able to charge the Vita once it’s plugged into your computer. There is an option under the settings that allows you to enable USB charging, but the results are misleading.
Though we have heard reports from other sites that it does charge when plugged into the computer, but it does not indicate this on the screen.
Anyways back to the design for a moment, at the back of the Vita you have the all-new new multi-touch pad. This works alongside the screens multi-touch display and it feels pretty responsive to the touch. You can use the multi-touch pad to manipulate games (though not all games support the back multi-touch controls), you can also use the app “Welcome Park” to get to grips with the latter before you start using the control system in-game. This is especially useful for those who are not used to touch-sensitive controls.
The Interface sports a similar feel to the PS3, but this time it incorporates touch-sensitive controls that are similar to tablets and smartphones. For example you can tap icons to open the game/app's front-screen menu, swipe to close screens (swiping is smooth incidentally) or browse between options. You can even long press the screen to add extra rows, move icons to different positions or change your background picture. The latter can be images from your Vita’s gallery.
The PS button is also used to manipulate the interface, so you can press it once to go back a screen or you can hold it down to bring up a menu to control your music or disable the microphone (the device has a mic and front-facing camera for video chats) and adjust the backlight.
Another addition is the notification icon at the top corner of the screen; this can be tapped to reveal trophy info, any updates that have been installed, or news.
As well as the core interface controls you will also find that most of the apps or games have a start-screen. This allows you to pick from a number of options before you launch the app/game. For example these can include checking for updates, accessing an in-game store or finding instructions on how to use/play the title.
The above can be quite useful, but for those who simply want to get straight into the action you may find it a little tiring after a while.
However we would say that the interface is not too bad and becomes more intuitive the longer you use it.