Wednesday, December 25, 2013
The tiny PlayStation
Sony is marketing the Vita TV as "the world's smallest PlayStation" in Japan,
and it isn't kidding. Measuring just 65mm x 105mm x 13.6mm (2.6 x 4.1 x 0.5 inches)
, the Vita TV is an impossibly tiny console. Its footprint is roughly the size of
the handheld Vita's 5-inch screen, making it closer to a smartphone than a typical
gaming system; if it were much thinner, there wouldn't be any room for the Ethernet
jack on the back. It's also beautifully minimalist, with a simple, silver
PlayStation logo on top, an embossed Sony legend on the edge, and little else
in the way of adornments on the plastic frame. The Vita TV's origins in mobile
hardware confer a few advantages: there are no vents to be found, the console
is completely silent in use, and it boots from standby in just a few seconds.
Like the handheld Vita, you can put the Vita TV into standby mode in the middle
of a game and resume almost instantly.
The Vita TV would be the least obtrusive console ever made were it not for its
color. It's only available in white, meaning it'll stand out somewhat in most
people's entertainment centers. Product designer Taichi Nokuo told Famitsu that
while the team thought about making the console black, it ultimately decided to
go for a slightly off-white tone that matches many people's walls so as not to
make the console stand out. Black would probably have been more successful in
that regard, but the white color is attractive and draws attention to the
system's compact, austere frame
Not quite the least obtrusive console ever made, but certainly the smallest
The most obvious way to place the Vita TV would be lengthways, so that the I/O
ports point towards the back. But in this position the PlayStation logo faces
the side, and the Vita game card slot — hidden behind a fiddly flap —
is awkwardly oriented in the opposite direction. From the company that included
rotatable logos on the PlayStation 2 and 3 to ensure the console looked right in
both horizontal and vertical orientation, it's a little jarring.
The $99-ish (¥9,480) price doesn't quite get you the same out-of-box experience
as an marked cards . You'll need a PlayStation 3 (or 4, after a forthcoming
firmware update) controller to use the Vita TV, for one thing, which doesn’t
come in that base package. You'll probably want more storage beyond the built-in
1GB, too, and for that you'll have to splash out on Sony's expensive proprietary
Vita memory cards. For those not already entrenched in the PlayStation ecosystem,
Sony is selling a Value Pack that bundles a PS3 controller, an 8GB memory card,
and three months of PlayStation Plus for about $150 (¥14,280).
If you’re not in Japan, you probably won’t get much use out of an
imported Vita TV — at present, you need a Japanese PlayStation Network
account to sign in and access the system’s store and online services.
Overall, though, the Vita TV is an impressive feat of engineering wrapped
up in an attractive package. Unfortunately, Sony didn't pay as much
attention to the software that powers it.