February 22nd was the official release date for the Playstation Vita in the US and Europe, though it has been out in Japan for a while. The vita is Sony’s new portable game console, but unlike other portable game consoles that came before it, the Vita is essentially a small tablet with some special hardware. The CPU is a quad core ARM Cortex A9, the same as in most tablets these days, though running at an unknown clock speed. The GPU is the SGX543MP4+, which is a quad core version of the GPU in the iPad 2. The screen is a 5-inch 940 x 544 capacitive touchscreen, it has dual cameras, , GPS, 3G (some models), acceleometer, gyroscope, and Bluetooth. In other words specs that are far closer to tablets than something like the Nintendo 3DS, which in comparison is 1980s technology with a 3D screen.
Frankly, I don’t understand how the Vita can be sold as cheap as $250 with the specs it has. Then again, thanks to proprietary memory cards that cost many times what a microSD card costs ($99 for 32GB), as well as game cartridges that definitely don’t have app store prices, I guess Sony will make up any lost profit per sold unit rather quickly. As for non-gaming features, the Vita makes a very poor alternative to even the cheapest tablets – but we can always hope that Android somehow finds its way onto the device. I do find it rather ironic that despite this being an official Sony product with tablet parts, it isn’t capable of using some Sony products that other non-Sony devices can, namely PS3 controllers and PS1 emulators. Perhaps more to the point, the fact that this is currently limited to what Sony wants you to have access to means that it isn’t exactly utilizing its full potential right now.
Personally I’m a lot less interested in this now than I was when it was first announced last year. Tablet and smartphone gaming has come a long way since then, and right now my money is on that becoming the big mobile gaming platform in the future. Especially with games like Borderlands 2 coming to mobile devices. With the life span that portable consoles are expected to have, it won’t take long until the Vita is outdated itself, and considering the hardware it’s running on, I can’t help but wonder if a Vita emulator is going to be relatively easy to get running in the future, when you don’t have to emulate the hardware it’s running on in the same way that on older consoles.