The New Vita Is An Improvement, Mostly

The New Vita Is An Improvement, Mostly

There's a new PlayStation Vita handheld out today. It's called the Vita Slim. While for the most part it's unchanged, it does improve on a number of small things compared with the original Vita, although there is the issue of that new screen...

The Vita is, generally speaking, a good portable gaming device. For more detailed thoughts on it, check out Stephen's review from 2012. Last week Sony sent us a Vita Slim to review, and I've been messing around with it since then. Given that I already play a lot of Vita games, a week has been enough to give me a pretty solid impression of how the new handheld stacks up with the old one.

If you've been paying close attention to the Slim, you've probably already read a bunch of impressions and reviews, given that the Vita Slim has been available in other territories than North America for a long time now. The new Slim costs $US200 and comes in a bundle with an 8GB memory card and a digital voucher for Borderlands 2, a well-liked 2012 shooter which that now been ported to the handheld system.

(In the photos below, the original Vita has the silver lining and is on top, and the Slim is below, with black plastic lining.)

The New Vita Is An Improvement, Mostly

Same Shape, Different Weight

From a distance, the Vita Slim looks more or less the same as the original Vita. It's black and oblong, with two thumbsticks, a directional pad, four face buttons, and two shoulder buttons. It's when you pick the thing up that you really notice the difference — it's much lighter than its predecessor. It feels more hollow and more like plastic, which does lend the device a certain feeling of cheapness when compared with its chunkier forebear.

The New Vita Is An Improvement, Mostly

That feeling of lightness initially put me off the Slim, but as I used it I came to prefer how it feels and how it sits in my hands. The Slim is indeed slimmer than the original Vita, and as a result my fingers curl around it in a more natural way. My fingers rarely slip onto the rear touchpad in the way they still do on the original Vita, and my thumbs feel a touch more comfortable during long periods of play.

Better Buttons, Same Thumbsticks

Here's where we get granular: While the two handhelds are very similar, some other small differences become apparent at when you get in close. For starters, the buttons on the Slim are generally better placed and easier to use than their counterparts on the original.

The New Vita Is An Improvement, Mostly

The Select and Start buttons, in particular, are much bigger and are circular, which makes it possible to hit Start without relying on the corner of your thumb to press the button. It's also much easier to grab screenshots using the PS Button + Start combo, since both buttons are so much easier to press.

The New Vita Is An Improvement, Mostly

Another couple small improvements worth noting: The charging cable is now a micro-USB connection, meaning that you can charge the Vita with more of a variety of cables. It's also just easier to use and plug in than the big, weird cable that plugs into the original Vita. The Slim also comes with 1GB of built-in memory, though that's really not enough room for very much software. Fortunately the system's launch bundle includes an 8GB memory card; it's the second-smallest one Sony makes, but still enough to download a couple big games and some smaller indies.

Wireless connectivity still isn't amazing, but it's essentially unchanged from the original Vita. I was bummed that the Bluetooth functionality hasn't been improved in the Slim — I use a bluetooth headset for gaming when I can, but while my headset has no problems with most devices, any time I pair it either Vita I get constant interruptions whenever I move the device around. That was true of the old Vita, and it's still true of the new one.

The Screen Is A Step Back

The Vita's gorgeous screen has always been one of its biggest selling points. And there's really no two ways about it: The LCD screen on the Vita Slim is noticeably less crisp and bright than the OLED on the original Vita. It's difficult to capture in a video, but immediately noticeable when you place the two systems side by side — the original Vita's screen has a distinctive pop to it, a way that the game's visuals seem to be right there at the top of the screen, rather than within it. The Slim's screen just looks like another handheld video game console screen.

That criticism comes with the usual disclaimer, however — if I weren't placing the two Vitas side by side, I doubt I'd notice. The new LCD screen can't compete with, say, the retina screens on an iPhone or iPad, but it's far from ugly. Pretty Vita games like Killzone Mercenary and Persona 4 Golden still look good. However, the fact remains that the screen on the new model is noticeably inferior to the screen on the older one.

It's Missing An Upgrade I Wanted

I am a dreamer; I'm a pie-in-the-sky guy who wants the impossible. But damn it, I want what I want! And because I love the idea of PS4 game streaming, I want the Vita to have four shoulder buttons, not two. The Vita's promise as a PS4-streaming handheld device is so cool… except that the lack of a second set of shoulder buttons makes most games a nuisance to play. I understand why Sony wouldn't want to create a hardware disparity between its two models, but I can't help but wish they'd thrown caution to the wind and done it anyway.

I could live with the lack of clickable thumbsticks (the touchscreen would work for those) if there could just be some little nubs behind the main shoulder buttons, something to approximate L1 and R1. There isn't, and the Vita Slim doesn't add any new buttons or any other hardware improvements to make PS4 remote play work any better. That's a shame, because I really want to use PS4 remote play, and I still mostly avoid it because I don't like how the Vita compensates for the missing buttons.

I Sure Am Playing A Lot Of Vita Games

An observation: I sure have been playing a lot of Vita games lately. My handheld gaming habits go through phases — for about six months last year I played almost exclusively on 3DS, and I've also gone through phases where I play everything on iOS devices. But right around when I ran out of gas on Bravely Default, I switched over to Danganronpa on Vita and haven't looked back.

These days I'm steadily playing a combination of Fez, Spelunky, Luftrausers, Final Fantasy X, Stealth Inc., and Lone Survivor, all on Vita. I've also been playing through the new ports of God of War Collection and Borderlands 2. (More thoughts on those games soon.) And that's not to mention the PSP games I come back to in fits and starts, primarily Trails in the Sky and Final Fantasy Tactics. All of which is to say that there are more good games for the Vita than ever before.

In Conclusion

The Vita Slim improves on the original Vita in several small ways — buttons, plugs, included memory, ease of use, lighter weight. It also brings one notable downgrade — the less brilliant screen. But in the end, it's important to step away from the constant comparisons and survey the black device on the table in front of me.

The New Vita Is An Improvement, Mostly

There it is: A pretty cool, relatively expensive gaming handheld with a big screen, two thumbsticks, a good d-pad, a few notable flaws, and an ever-more-solid collection of fun games. In other words, what once was a Vita remains a Vita, although now it will be a bit easier to carry around.


    Hmmm, at least they learned a lesson and the damn thing actually WORKS out of the box this time without the need for further physical purchases (memory card)

      But it's 1gb and if you use a memory card with it the inboard memory doesn't work.

    I love my Vita...that is it...That is all I wanted to say.

      We bought one just around 6 weeks ago now? Best purchase since our PS4. Loving it. With PS Plus it's turned out to be amazing value. Then EB, since we got a 2nd hand one, a week later threw us for FREE, one of those 16gb mem cards plus the 6 lego games (Thank you EB forest lake, Brisbane, consistently amazing guys, you're the best EB there is bar none). Then, the free games on PS Plus... within a week we were swamped in goddamn games for the thing... THEN I discovered all the cross platform purchases... HOLY SHIT!!! :D :D :D

      I cant continue with how happy I am with it, I'll be here alllllllllll day lol

        Wow EB gave you stuff for free? I have enough bloody trouble trying to buy from my local EB with them not wanting to price match because their version includes an extra frickin outfit or that they can't price match the JB hi fi 10 minutes away because there's another EB closer to it.

        But yeah I've only bough Killzone and Limbo for my Vita and I've had it since Sept - all those PS plus freebies are great.

          We bought the 2nd hand one, a week later they had the 199 deal brand new one with the mem card and the games. The guy was a little embarassed that he had sold us a 2nd hand one and had no brand new ones to swap us for it. Granted the 2nd hand one was only 6 months old when it got returned (ex staff member sold it to them, I know the person) so he gave us a pack to make up for it. He didn't have to and I thought it pretty great to do it. My son is absolutely stoked with it :)

    :) i prefer my gorgeous OLED PS Vita :) but i am willing to sacrifice battery life to have it :)

    The lack of R2 and L2 is ridiculous. Remote play is why the Vita jumped over 100% in sales, I got one but the lack of L2 and R2 is making it hard to actually remote play games.

      indeed but you can at least tap the screen for it... not the perfect situation but its at least a workaround.

        It doesn't really work with games I want to play like FIFA where it's the run button and also tapping the screen involves taking your thumb off the right joystick. Genuine question: Is putting two extra buttons on there hard? I've seen hacks that have copper wire running to the back panel (as mentioned by @bigdirtyjase), you'd have to know what you were doing though.

          Absolutely. Its functional but not that great. Just hope with the next one if theres one, they get the triggers AND the stick buttons in there too.

      @weresmurf beat me to it

      but isn't it mapped to the rear touchpad as well

      Last edited 07/05/14 12:17 pm

        It's harder than it seems to get that back panel correctly for the button to respond. Without any resistance it's kind of hard to know where you're pressing since you can't rest your finger on the back obviously.

    Out today where? I'm assuming you mean Australia and neither EB Games nor JB know anything about this console... I've kept a close eye on it and there has been nothing announced for Australia as of yet, does anyone know of a release date?

    So basically it's a good upgrade to the system and if you don't have one, it's worth getting, but if you already own the OLED Vita, probably not enough to precipitate switching?

      Yes, they are only minor changes. Screen is a downgrade too, which IMO makes the whole thing a slight downgrade for current owners.

      But, for people looking at getting it, it's a very good upgrade.

    To my understanding, it's been out in the UK since Feb, and released in the US since yesterday. Have Sony announced when the new model will be available here (or is it already out)?

    So, is it available in Australia or not? Or just USA?

      I can't find it anywhere in OZ, but strangle enough I can't find any new Vita's at (EB or Jb) only preowned

        I think this is a US repost, actually. No announcement that it's released for AUS, and prices in article are USD too.

        Mighty ape have announced a release date of June 4 in Australia, for $244 and and it comes with Borderlands 2. Still haven't seen it mentioned anywhere else though, which I find odd...

        Last edited 07/05/14 1:01 pm

    The edges on the screen would bug me, but I think I'd get over it.
    I'm debating it, but need to know what Slim's battery life is like. If it was a big enough improvement, I could probably live without the OLED screen.

    EDIT: To clarify, I already own an original Vita.

    EDIT EDIT: Wonder if the L/R shoulder buttons are any better, the original's are woefully imprecise. Too easy to hit the left or right edge of the button without actually 'pressing' the button. Minor quibble, but annoying regardless.

    Last edited 07/05/14 11:23 am

      Does make me wish Vita batteries were accessible. I have the genuine 3000mAh battery for my trusty PSP-3000 and that gets 9 odd hours of play, which is brilliant. Battery protrudes and is ugly, but I don't care because it's so damned awesome.

      Battery is supposedly +1hr.

      Shoulder buttons are indeed better. I tried it out on demo model.

    So if I've never touched a Vita before, had a PSP though, I shouldn't be put off by the new screen unless I can find an older model cheaper?

      if your not to worried about the screen then the new one is alot better, I hate that my vita doesnt have internal memory.
      I'm always swapping memory cards based on what game I stick in to access the saves and it needs a full rebot when you do that .

      If you don't know what you're missing, will you really miss it?

    My vanity extends to my handheld devices and those comparisons are making me super-glad I didn't wait too long to buy my Vita. The new version is really ugly. So ugly I hope my beautiful PSV never needs to be replaced. There's not enough function improvements to make it worth it, to me.

    I want those better Start and Select buttons - but cant give up that screen....

    I have constantly lit pixels though... so one day i might have to

    Same here! They have all seemingly disappeared. My only guess is that they are trying to clear out the original Vita models (since they are no longer being manufactured) and replace them with the new Slim models. That's just my theory however

    Now it needs to accept micro SD cards instead of proprietary memory cards.

      That would be the most logical thing Sony could do

      But Sony will turn around and scream piracy until the cows come home for the reason not accept microSD cards (still surprised that no 3rd party manufacturer has made an adapter yet)

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