I pre-ordered the PS Vita, so I have had the chance to use it for a week. While I have not played it to death yet, I figured I'd share my experiences for the people who are on the fence about picking one up.
Before I start, I'd like to point out that this review expresses my own views and opinions. Unlike many reviews out there, I was not sent a demo PS Vita to play with. Like most people, I used my own money to purchase it.
My main reason for purchase of the Vita was for testing purposes (video capabilities). When the original PSP was released, the video format it required, as well as the strange file-naming system required in order for the PSP to play video files resulted in a long struggle in order to get it to work properly, and with the PS Vita, Sony was likely to do something similar. Thankfully, this time, Sony did adhere to a more "standard" format.
While I try to write this review from an unbiased perspective, I am not a Sony fan. While their hardware is usually great, throughout recent years they pulled some nasty tricks on their legitimate customers, including malware(rootkit) on music CD's, releasing DVDs that do not play on some of their own DVD players, removing advertised features from the PS3 and of course putting an expiration date on Bluray players with new-release movies requiring firmware-updates for the player. This might shimmer through this review a bit.
Since the Vita is a gaming-system, I figured I'd start with this. While I am an avid gamer from the "older" generation (growing up with systems like the MSX, C64, Amiga 500) but the last few years, the amount of time available for gaming has been reduced drastically, so my gaming habits have changed a bit. A quick game of Angry Birds, Stupid Zombies and Fruit Ninja covers most of my current gaming. My portable gaming goes back as far as the original GameBoy (still have it), and throughout the years, I have used the Gameboy Advance, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS and the Sony PSP, and as of last week, the PS Vita.
The Vita, of course, has the best looking games of all the portable systems out there at the moment. The games themselves are very similar to the versions available for the PS3, which is quite a feat. Visually they are mostly stunning.
When I pre-ordered the Vita, I ordered Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 to go with it (last year I ordered the 3DS for testing only so I didn't order any games with it, and it spends most of its time in the box because of that). Later in the week, I got a few more games for it, including WipEout and Uncharted. While I did play all 3 a bit, for portable gaming, WipEout and Marvel vs Capcom 3 seem to be more along the lines of understanding portable gaming, so I spent most of my time with those.
Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 looks stellar, and for a high-speed fighting game, the Vita's controls work really well. The various game-modes, unlocks etc are a-plenty, and will keep you entertained with the game for quite some time.
WipEout looks great, and everything moves fluently, even with a lot of things going on at the same time. The races are pretty quick, so it lends itself great for doing a quick race or 2 while waiting for something. Unfortunately, it is plagued by long loading times, and in order to play online, you are forced to purchase a $10 online gaming pass (seriously).
One of the biggest advantages the Nintendo devices have over Sony is the cartridge-based system. While in most cases I would not consider that an advantage, the PSP used a custom optical disc, the UMD, and the Vita uses a custom flash-based card for its games. While similar to a cartridge-system, the actual cartridge results in quicker loading times.
In addition to that, the actual memory-cards (for save-games and downloadable content) are custom as well. On the inside, they are pretty much the same as your standard flash-based SD card, but the shape is of course a bit different, forcing you to pay 3x as much for the same amount of memory as you would for a phone or even a Nintendo 3DS (which uses standard SD).
This alone would not be such a big deal, but if you have to pay $40 for a Vita game in the store, the least they could do is a bit more of a discount of $4/$5 when you purchase the downloadable version from PSN to compensate a bit.
The service, similar to Microsoft's XBOX Live, is a great idea, but I rather pay a yearly fee than to have to pay to unlock online features for individual games such as WipEout. With $10 a game, vs $60 (or with some digging even less than $40) a year. Note, not all games have the $10 unlock price, but I am sure there are more to follow.
The biggest issue I have is that with PSN being hacked recently and taken down so often and for considerable amounts of times, I don't want to enter my credit-card details in my account. The requirement of information other than an email and a user-name in order to actually be able to use the Vita is something that bugs me already. It might be free (for most games) but free isn't always the best.
This is the main reason why I picked up the Vita.
For the most part, the standard Android video formats (MP4) work just fine on the Vita, however, it does not like the HD-optimized HQXT formats in DVD Catalyst 4 which is a bit of a let-down. I like to create dvd conversions that just play on most of my devices, so I can just grab whatever has enough of a charge.
The Vita also does not like streaming video too much. For some reason, when you use the browser to connect to streaming enabled video files, such as through MP4 Streaming Server, it will just download the files rather than stream them.
The file-transfer part for putting movies on the Vita (explained in this guide) is a pain. With most devices, you simply connect it to your computer, and copy the files over using the PC. For the Vita, it works reverse. You use the Vita to browse a set folder on your computer for your video files and using a fair amount of taps on the screen you initiate the file-copy. Not user-friendly at all.
Downloading the video through my streaming server app is a lot easier, but unfortunately, the download-speed, over wifi, seems somehow limited.
While the video playback on the Vita itself is decent, unless Sony is going to put something like Netflix on it, I seriously doubt I will be using it much for video playback.
While Sony crammed a lot of cool and interesting features into the PS Vita, with 3G, touchpad on the back, 2 analog controls (finally) and great graphics capability, it just seems a let down on everything else. Custom over-priced memorycards, online-pass purchase in order to play online, not much of a difference in price between store-bought games and downloadable versions, and of course the painful process of putting your own movies on it just make the Vita feel "off". With the Amazon Kindle Fire, it was obvious from the start that its main purpose is to tie all of Amazon's commercial activities (prime, store etc) together, while offering some additional functionality, the PS Vita, which attempts to try to do the same, just falls behind.
If you are just into games, the Vita is great, but for everything else, it tries, but just doesn't get there.