ORIGINAL IMPORT REVIEW (Jan 2012)
Sony already has the PS Vita release date set in stone, but in an age when 69p App Store titles dominate the market and even Nintendo's forced into a massive 3DS price cut, a move to launch the £230 portable behemoth, PlayStation Vita, looks more than a little brave - and that's the price before necessary memory cards and £40 games.
But hardcore gamers with money to spend will be rewarded for taking a risk on Vita. With its supremely impressive 5-inch capacitive OLED touch screen, dual analogue sticks built in (nudge, nudge, Nintendo) and strong launch line-up, PlayStation Vita really is a gaming enthusiast's handheld dream.
Like most Sony products the Vita is a slick, sexy machine bound to impress entire carriages of fellow train travellers, and it'll quickly transform you into a cloth-using wreck, thanks to the mass of fingerprints you'll leave all over its super-shiny display.
With naturally-placed sticks, a shaped plastic back and surprisingly light at 279g, the Vita is as comfortable to use as it is to look at - certainly more so than the PSP.
Along with two analogue sticks, Vita sports the iconic Sony d-pad, face and shoulder buttons, and a plus PS button to accompany start and select. Volume controls, a rear touchpad, a microphone, inputs for (sometimes required) proprietary memory cards and a 3G sim round-off the handheld's cosmetics.
Crucially, Vita's uncompromising selection of buttons and control inputs mean it's a device that offers something touchscreen-only smartphones and tablets cannot; core console-style games without having to wrestle with a messy, frustrating touch interface simulating physical controls.
Vita's impressive technical specs (it's been compared to the PlayStation 3 and certainly looks the part) and DualShock-esque controls mean the handheld undoubtedly offers the most home console-like experience of all modern portables. And though Nintendo would likely disagree with us, it's something no rival machine has really achieved before.
The second analogue stick really does make a world of difference, unlocking the kind of console experiences and genres (shooters, 3D adventure games) that never really worked well on PSP, and which have already forced Nintendo into drafting in its bizarre circle pad add-on peripheral.