Sony is no stranger to the handheld gaming market as they have been offering such devices since 2004 with the PlayStation Portable. Whether or not the PSP was successful is certainly debatable, but Sony decided to move onto a more powerful handheld gaming device that featured some improved controls, display and games that looked as good as some PlayStation 3 titles. We’re of course talking about the PlayStation Vita, which was released back in 2012. After two years of being on the market, Sony finally decided to offer a new version of the Vita, called the PlayStation Vita Slim.
The PlayStation Vita Slim offers a number of improvements over the original PlayStation Vita that includes a much thinner frame, an LCD screen instead of an OLED one, and improved battery life to help players game for hours on end. Sony has also been building the PlayStation Vita as the perfect companion for its next-generation console, the PlayStation 4. With that said, is the PlayStation Vita Slim the handheld gaming device you should purchase, or is the original PlayStation Vita actually a better buy with its OLED screen? There’s only one way to find out and that’s through our review.
Industrial Design (excellent)
The design of the PS Vita Slim is one of the biggest changes Sony made to the design of the original PS Vita. One of the first things you’ll notice is its 5” LCD touchscreen display, which is a rather large change compared to the original Vita’s 5” OLED screen. I’ll get into the differences between both displays further down in this review, so we’ll keep our focus on the overall design. When you pick up the Vita Slim, that’s where all of Sony’s hard work slimming down the handheld is really appreciated. The front of the Vita Slim has larger speaker holes located at the sides of the device, a circular PlayStation, Select and Start buttons and a more prominent front-facing camera. The Vita Slim’s directional pad, analog sticks and face buttons are pretty much unchanged, or the changes are so slight that I can’t even notice them.
The rear of the PlayStation Vita Slim continues to feature a touchpad, although its design has been tweaked. The two areas where your fingers land on when you’re holding the Vita have been enlarged, which we have a feeling is to help with accidental touching of the touchpad. These landing spots for your fingers have a more felt material to them, which helps keep your grip on the handheld. The touchpad itself no longer features small symbols of different PlayStation buttons, replacing those with small dots that look similar to the texture of the DualShock 4 controller and a PlayStation logo located at its center. Using the rear touchpad doesn’t feel any different than it does on the original Vita.
The sides of the Vita Slim offer some additional changes to the design of the original Vita, one of which we’re extremely pleased to see is the inclusion of a microUSB port at its bottom, which replaces Sony’s proprietary Vita connector. We can’t tell you how much of a relief it is to not have to lug around a specific cable in order to charge the Vita. Now, we can use one of the many microUSB cables lying around. The bottom also includes the Slim’s 3.5mm headphone jack and a port to install one of its proprietary memory cards.
The top of the Slim has also been changed as it no longer has a silver strip that surrounds the complete outer portion of the Vita. Instead, the surrounding area is completely black and the buttons have been made slightly smaller and raised up, allowing easy access to them at a moment’s notice. The middle of this area only includes a port where users can place their physical Vita games into. For some reason, Sony has decided to do away with an additional proprietary port that was found next to this area with no mention what it was for or why they removed it from the Vita Slim. There are also two LED indicators located next to the Slim’s power button, which is used to inform the user of the Vita’s status.
How does it feel?
I’ve been using my Vita ever since it was first released back in 2012 and I can tell you the Vita Slim feels much lighter and more comfortable in my hands. The Slim feels exceptionally lighter than the original Vita and its slimness is always very noticeable as my hands feel like they melt around the handheld. I always felt like I couldn’t get completely comfortable with the Vita due to its weight, larger rear touchpad and thickness, but the Vita Slim feels very comfortable when it’s in use. Its lightness is also appreciated as it saves me precious weight in my bag whenever I travel.
Controllers (largely unchanged)
The controls of the original Vita have, for the most part, been unchanged for the Vita Slim. The directional pad, analog sticks and face buttons all feel the same as the previous Vita. The one area most will notice a difference between the two is the fact the Vita Slim has more grip to it thanks to the change in its overall texture. The Slim is certainly less slippery than the original Vita, which helps in those of us with butter fingers fumbling it less.
The only buttons that look like they received an upgrade are the Slim’s L and R shoulder buttons. They feel slightly slimmer and closer to the Slim, which helps them feel more secure when pressing them as the original Vita’s shoulder buttons felt wobbly.
Another area we mentioned changed in the Slim is its rear touch panel, which now has larger areas where your hands can land on. This makes it more difficult to accidentally press the rear touch pad, although at the same time, there have been moments where I feel like I’m reaching with my hands in order to issue a command using the panel.
Display (very good)
The Vita Slim features a 5-inch LCD screen that displays content at a 960 X 554 resolution, which those of you who have never owned a PS Vita previously probably won’t make this as big a deal as everyone who is upgrading to the Vita Slim will. Yes – the colors aren’t as vibrant and blacks aren’t as deep and dark. After playing on the Vita Slim for weeks now, I can tell you the more I play on it, the less of an impact the change in screen technology makes on me. You’ll still be met with impressive graphics and visuals, depending on the game. During my time with the Vita Slim, I played a lot of Borderlands 2, and I can tell you I was always extremely impressed with how well the game looked each time I fired it up.
There are a number of reasons why Sony decided to go for an LCD display rather than an OLED one, one of which was to help improve the battery life of the Vita Slim. It’s a change I certainly appreciate as what’s the point of being able to play a handheld device with a really great screen when its charge only lasts a couple of hours of play?
Battery Life (big improvement!)
The original Vita featured a 2210 mAh battery, which is exactly the same size of the battery in the Vita Slim. Even though the Vita Slim has the same battery as the original Vita, I was able to squeeze around 7 hours of game time with the Vita Slim, even though Sony promises 6 hours of battery life. This is a huge improvement over the original Vita’s promised 4 hours of gameplay.
As for the Vita Slim’s standby time, we were able to leave the handheld lying around for five days without having to recharge it. This is also an improvement as the original Vita would normally last 2 or 3 days on a single charge. For those who tend to forget to recharge your devices on a regular basis, we’re sure this is one result you’ll appreciate.
Internal & External Memory Cards
The original PS Vita had on-board memory, but it didn’t allow for users to be able to save content onto it. Sony has improved the internal storage of the Vita Slim by packing 1GB of internal memory into it, finally allowing owners of the handheld to save content onto the Vita directly without needing to purchase a memory card.
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to fit much on only 1GB of storage, so Vita Slim owners will eventually have to bite the bullet and purchase a memory card. Even more unfortunate is Sony continues to only allow a proprietary memory card to be used for the Vita, which as you’d expect, can be expensive. With the change in using microUSB for the Vita Slim’s charging and data port, we were hoping Sony would also allow us to use microSD cards as well considering how widely used they are in numerous mobile devices. Seeing how the company didn’t budge on changing what kind of memory card is used for the PlayStation Portable through its life cycle, we have a feeling they’ll continue that very tradition with the Vita.
Cameras (forget them)
Both cameras on the PS Vita Slim can take photos with a 640 X 480 resolution, which is low quality considering how many megapixels our mobile devices offer these days. We didn’t like the camera offering in the original Vita, and we still don’t like it in the Vita Slim as Sony didn’t improve them in any way. You’ll come across a few Vita titles that may use either the front- or rear-facing cameras, and the experience will most likely be one you’ll enjoy. But as far as actually being able to use the Vita’s cameras to take photos, we recommend you just use your cellphone like most people would.
The PlayStation 4’s Ultimate Companion
With the release of the PlayStation 4, Sony made sure they had everything ready for the Vita to become the next-gen console’s ultimate companion. The company released the PS4 Link app for the Vita, which allows owners of both devices to use the Vita to play their PlayStation 4 games on, as an additional controller or as a second-screen device. Now that the Slim Vita is available, I can’t help but think it’s an even better companion to the PlayStation 4 as it’s much easier to carry around than the original Vita, has an improved battery life and uses microUSB to recharge.
Seeing how the Vita Slim is only available with Wi-Fi included, you won’t be able to enjoy your PlayStation 4 wherever you go. Instead, you’ll need to rely on a fast Wi-Fi connection in order to access your PS4, although considering most people are able to tether with their mobile phones, it isn’t exactly impossible to play on your console from the comfort of a hot beach or while you’re suffering through a long car ride.
Conclusion (the next logical step for the Vita’s future)
The PlayStation Vita may not have made as big a splash as Sony would have liked when the dedicated gaming handheld was released back in 2012, but we certainly think they have a hit with the Vita Slim. It’s lightweight and slim body make it much easier to handle while its improved battery life and use of microUSB for charging will ensure you’ll be able to game while you’re on the go at any time.
Even though the display on the Vita Slim received a downgrade, it isn’t to a point where the device is completely unusable. Most people won’t even notice a difference, let alone own an original Vita they can compare the Vita Slim to. If you’re worried about the Slim’s display so much, then we urge you to see it for yourself to see it shouldn’t be considered a deal breaker considering how much Sony got right with its update to the original Vita. And if you own a PlayStation 4, then you should also consider picking up a Vita considering how well both devices interact with each other. The remote play feature is something that easily should have PS4 owners picking up a Vita immediately.