The Next PSP Is Officially the PlayStation Vita (Update: Hands On)

You already knew most of the details about the next PSP. But now we know its name: The PlayStation Vita. 'Cause it means life, or something. Update: Hands on. (Sony was being stingy about photos/video though, sorry!)

Where to start? The five-inch, 960x544 OLED display screen is uh-mazing. Super duper rich. And clear. The the 220ppi density is just enough to make all those polygons look perfectly crisp and seamless. Which, sure the screen being baller is meritorious in and of itself, but it's critical for the Vita, considering that it's trying to bring a full console experience to your oversized pockets. And well, the screen is pretty damn crucial to delivering that, which it really really does. Most games take serious advantage and look gorgeous, from the new Uncharted to quirkier titles like the flat, super-2D music platformer Sound Shapes.

Are they PS3-quality? Not quite. But. But, it's safe to say they're reasonable attempts at such a standard and totally the best-looking portable games ever. The claims of their amazingness and how they touch your eyeballs in special ways are not hyperbole, for the most part. It's easily a generation or two ahead of anything on iOS, and like half a gen or so ahead of most of the 3DS stuff I've played.

It's light. Almost weirdly so, considering the bulk. I almost wish it was heavier, the plastic denser and more expensive-feeling. It doesn't feel cheap, just not on the highest quality side of the build spectrum. But it does very much feel like a PSP in your hands. It's meaty, though you most certainly do not need gorilla hands to hold and use it comfortably. You will need a bag or some serious cargo pants to carry it around.

I think I hate the back touch panel. At least, after 45 minutes of gameplay. Fundamentally, the real problem is that almost every game that used it did so in a way that felt unnatural and forced or gimmicky. (One of a few expections: Little Big Planet.) It's spatially disorienting, trying to inversely translate your movements to the screen, mentally. And it's hard to tell where your finger are precisely in relation to the screen, even when games show you exactly where your finger is with a graphical overlay, because the touchpad doesn't have enough of a texture to readily set it apart from the rest of Vita. So I was accidentally touching the touchpad all the damn time, not aware I was stroking it. Also, there's like no good way to hold the Vita when you're doing touchpad activities-it becomes an awkward, nerdy dance of trying to hold the Vita securely enough you won't drop it while being keeping your fingers limber enough to play the game, particularly one requiring you to manipulate the rear touchpad with four fingers. What's holding up the Vita? Good question.

What I don't hate: The twin analog sticks. It made Uncharted feel like a teeny-tiny version of the real thing, in my hands. They're a little looser, a little nubbier than I'd like, but full on analog tumors wouldn't work here, so they're about as good as I expect. The buttons could stand to feel a bit more substantial, too.

Overall, it's hard not to see the crazy potential in the PlayStation Vita. The graphics and hardware are truly killer, even if it is asking you to carry around a lot to experience that. My only concern is that a lot of the games, or at least the ones I've seen, haven't quite figured what to do with all of the 10 million control options presented to them-some are splitting the difference, letting you control the game however you wish, with buttons or the touchscreen, while others are very intentionally designed to get you to use the Vita in a particular way. Which would be fine, if any of them could actually sell me on that rear touch panel, or even incorporate the standard touchscreen up front more smoothly. Regardless, this is some seriously exciting hardware, so I can't wait to see what developers do when they figure out how to really use it.

Previously:
The Wi-Fi model's gonna be $250, while the 3G model's gonna be $300. (Better than I expected, really.) It's coming out "this holiday season." AT&T is the exclusive carrier of the 3G model of the Vita in the US. Wow. No. Wow. Wow. No word on the data pricing at the moment.

There's a new "social connection tool" called Near which lets you play and recommend titles to people around you, kind of like Nintendo 3DS's StreetPass.