E3 2011: PlayStation Vita Hardware Hands-On

This year’s E3 has come and gone, and there’s no denying that the two biggest storylines came to us in the form of new hardware at the show. Although we already knew of Sony’s NGP, there were still too many questions left unanswered since the company’s PlayStation Meeting  2011 and even after their Game Developers Conference follow-up appearance. For E3, price point and software lineup were at the top of the priority list, and Sony gave the people what they wanted.

Following Sony’s press conference extravaganza, those in attendance were invited to check out the new software and hardware while consuming an illegal amount of pork buns, alcohol, and Jane’s Addiction (who happened to be playing live). The DualShockers crew took that time to gauge others’ reactions and take pictures with people like God of War III Director, Stig Ausmensen (who’s much taller in person), and opted to wait for our booth tour before molesting Sony’s new hardware. The line after the conference looked as long as one that you would find in the New York City Department of Motor Vehicles, which is not fun.

When we finally made our way to Sony’s pavilion on Wednesday for our appointment, we were like rabid dogs waiting for our shot at the new handheld. As soon as we saw the crowd gather on the second floor, I immediately knew that it HAD to be the Vita with such an audience. I grabbed our very own handheld gaming aficionado and weekend contributor, Danl Haas and we made haste to the crowded area.

As soon as you even get near the handheld, the immediate thing that strikes you is that screen. The OLED panel is absolutely gorgeous and it’s paired with a viewing angle that looks like it goes for miles. When asked by our tour guide what demo I wanted to play, I glanced around and from about 8 feet away I could immediately recognize the lush greens of Uncharted and said “that one.”

I did take a good 15 minutes playing Uncharted: Golden Abyss and you can look out for those impressions in the coming days. But during my demo of the title, I just couldn’t help but take into account all of the PS Vita’s hardware. Not sure if the person handling the demo was frustrated or not, but I couldn’t stop asking questions about the handheld instead of the title being played.

The first thing that you’ll notice when you initially pick it up is just how lightweight the device is. I’m not going to lie, on the way home after the event we (the DualShockers staff) all noticed that the PS Vitas were all tethered with some pretty thick wires that seemed even thicker than your traditional security cables. I’m not saying this to ignite any rumors or anything but the device felt so light that we didn’t think that components were actually inside of the devices we were using but instead in the tables they were being displayed on.

Another quick note is that the material on it felt, well, rather cheap. It sure looks like a million bucks with an industrial design akin to Apple’s iPhone 4, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it. Another thing that kind of turned me off were the analog sticks. Now before you lose your PSP-loving mind, I was obviously not upset that there were two of them. It’s more of how the sticks actually felt.

Anyone who has played the 3DS, I’m sure, would agree that one thing Nintendo got right on their device was opting for the analog circle pads. I was expecting something similar on the Vita, so when I felt that not only did the analogs not sit as flush to the hardware as they should, they are also convex (similar to a DualShock 3), instead of concave (similar to the left stick found on the 360). The reason I thought it was a poor and awkward design choice is because when you consider that this thing is a handheld, storing it away shouldn’t be a headache. One would assume that they would at least try to make this thing as thin as possible and not having these analog sticks sticking out from the rest of the body.

After initially feeling the light-ness and cheap plasticy construction of it, I asked if what I was holding was final build. What I was told by the representative responsible for my demo was that it was the final reference design, but not necessarily the end product. One thing I’m personally hoping for is glass across the front instead of the layer of plastic I felt on the E3 show floor. Also, maybe some thicker, heaver plastic for the housing on the device — that way when I pick this thing up, I don’t confuse it for my cell phone, considering it already weighs less than it.

One thing to keep in mind with the Vita is that it’s very much like its bigger console brother. It’s definitely a product that is as future proof as you can get these days, as it packs as many bells and whistles as it can fit under the hood and all within a reasonable price. It’s launching with all the potential in the world. Let’s see who will be the first to tap it.

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Joel Taveras

Joel Taveras is one of the founding members of DualShockers. He hails from New York City where he lives with his wife and two sons. During his tenure with the site, he's held every position from news writer to community manager to editor in chief. Currently he manages the behind the scenes and day-to-day operations at the publication.

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