PS Vita (Sony)There's no denying that the PlayStation Vita is an incredible piece of technology. Loaded for bear with a slick OLED screen, dual analog sticks and pretty much every bell and whistle you can imagine, it's a gadget lover's dream (and the launch game lineup is nothing to scoff at, either).
But that doesn't mean there aren't a few things that drive us crazy.
We appreciate that it's a technical marvel, and we understand the realities of both marketing and flexibility. Still, Sony, couldn't you have rethought a few of these things before shipping?
- That looping background music
The minute you turn on your Vita, you're welcomed with a soothing music that puts you in a happy mood. It's a nice introduction to the system.
But it never turns off! After a short while, that music that put a smile on your face gives you a facial tik as you frantically search for a way to get rid of it. It's possible — and not that difficult to do so through the system's setting (just go to the sounds and displays option) - but was it really necessary to put it on an endless loop originally?
- Cutting out of cut-scenes
You may be the type to skip through unplayable cut-scenes in games. But if you're not, you could be in for a surprise the first time you play Uncharted: Golden Abyss.
The Vita kicks into screensaver mode after a mere one minute of inactivity under its default settings. So if you're simply holding the device, watching a game set up its storyline before you dive into the action, the system will occasionally seem to turn itself off.
Again, you can change the time frame for these sorts of actions, but really, who thought it was a good idea to have one minute as the default setting?
- Time to recharge
Don't expect any marathon gameplay sessions on the Vita. It's not that the games aren't worthy of them. It's the fact that the system's battery just can't hold a charge for an extended period of time.
The Vita only lasts three hours or so per charge when you're playing games (though Sony says it will sometimes last as long as five). In other words, if you were planning to bring one along for a cross-country flight, you might want to have another entertainment option at your disposal as well. Even worse? Fully charging a drained Vita battery will take 2 hours and 40 minutes.
The Vita's advanced graphics chip and blissfully indulgent OLED screen team up to create a gaming experience that's almost on par visually with the PS3. In fact, by subtly encouraging the comparisons, Sony has helped build interest in the device.
Unfortunately, like its home console cousin, the Vita is plagued by repeated system updates. Since we got our Vita to begin testing, we've had to update it three times. Regular, mandatory system updates (which are never short affairs) have been a pain in the neck for PS3 owners for years. Will Vita owners be subjected to the same annoyance?
- The pricing problem
Sony knew the Vita would face plenty of competition from Apple — specifically when it came to software pricing. While no one expected Vita retail games to match the ridiculously low pricing of the App Store, we did expect downloadable games to be more competitive.
So far, that's not proving true. Take the omnipresent Plants vs. Zombies. On the iPhone, it's $3. iPad owners will pay $7. Want it for the Vita? That's gonna run you $15.
- Ow! My thumbnail!
Gamers are pretty universal in their praise for the look and feel of the Vita. It's quite sleek and Sony seems to have thought out every detail…
…except the slot where you insert games. The cover does a good job of keeping dust out. Unfortunately, it's nearly effective at keeping users out, too. If you don't have sturdy fingernails, prying the thing open can be a frustrating, challenging experience. Our friends at Wired note they had to resort to using a small knife.
- Too touchy
The Vita's rear-touch pad seems like a killer feature -- and perhaps one day, it will be. But for many of the launch titles, rear-touch is an oversized, overly sensitive nuisance.
Accidentally let your finger slide over the pad (which, incidentally, is where your fingers naturally want to rest) and you run the risk of taking an errant shot on goal in FIFA. While many games let you disable rear-touch, a hardware solution would have been a nice alternative. Perhaps some way to cover it up?