"Surprisingly awesome - finally a true handheld console"4.5 starson by Earthanoid
Pros: Great screen, dual sticks and multiple control schemes, surprisingly slick OS, and a great game lineup (including backwards compatibility)
Cons: Back touchscreen can be awkward; many launch games illogically shovel in touch controls; middling battery life; 3G functionality is limited
Summary: I picked up a 3G model last week, and have been having a great time with it. This is what the PSP should've been; with the control set you can finally replicate PS2/3 games without sacrificing features and functionality.
I was expecting all of this, simply by virtue of the dual sticks. What surprised me was the OS; it is surprisingly good. It's very fast and the touch sensitivity is top notch, rivaling Apple's products. While it's very game-focused and limited, it's fast, responsive and multi-tasks without a hitch. The XMB was no slouch, the new OS and interface is fast and responsive, and well laid out for a touch interface.
The slick OS translates into very responsive games, and the PS Vita is all about precision control. The thumbsticks are smaller than a Dualshock, but once you get used to it they're just as accurate. Throw in touch and motion controls on top of that, and you have a level of control that is superior to a console. Combine the thumbsticks with the motion control to aim in Uncharted, and you'll be headshotting every villain that comes your way.
That said, there is a lot of touch/motion gimmickry in the launch games. Uncharted replaces standard controls with motion controls too many times, and throws in a number of mini-games that are essentially just reminders of the tech. Look, rub charcoal on this engraving and be reminded of the touch screen! Balance Drake on a log and experience the gyroscope! And so on. That said, the games still control well, and once the devs get over the novelty I think we'll see some innovative touch/motion controls implemented.
On the downside, where the back touch screen is active, it can be hard to hold the Vita without accidentally touching. It just takes some getting used to. The battery is pretty much as advertised, and a little on the low side. That is enough for me, but if you use it on long trips you'll need to charge it.
One of the great things, which isn't mentioned much, is the backward compatibility with many PSP games and PS Minis. There are a lot of great PSP games you can play on the Vita, with slightly improved graphics, so if you haven't experienced those yet you have a large library to look at. The Minis are smartphone style minigames with similar pricing. Between all of that, there are a lot of games to play at all price points. You can pretty much get a game anywhere from a few bucks to $50, so if you have money, Sony has something to sell you.
My one piece of advice to prospective buyers is to buy the wifi version. The 3G version has GPS and 3G, but they're not used for much. Maybe this will change later, but you can't play online with 3G; it's basically for accessing PSN, leaderboards, and the social apps (Facebook, Twitter, etc.). If you've got a smartphone, you won't miss it. So unless you're dying to compete on leaderboards or if you don't have a smartphone, use that $50 to buy a game or something.