on March 11, 2012
This review will address the AT&T bonus bundle which includes one 8GB memory card ($30), a DD code for Super Stardust ($10 PSN game) and a 250MB 3G network data packet ($15), which should be available through the end of this month. The review on the actual PSV hardware itself will follow.
As many have already mentioned, the promo items (PSN game and data packet) are only redeemable AFTER paying for the initial data packet, so anyone who thinks they're getting their first month free and will be downloading Super Stardust shortly after charging up their PSV for the first time will probably be upset, and not unreasonably so as the conditions for redeeming the promo items are not mentioned on the box itself. It's also a little underhanded to make users wait a month after using their first month of 3G service before they receive their game download code, but free is free I suppose and it is only a $10 DD game to begin with.
On the flip side, if anyone is actually buying a 3G model with the intention of NEVER paying for even one month/data packet, one almost has to question the intelligence of buying this model when the WiFi model is $50 less. At any rate, $15 isn't much for a two month (limited given the 250MB data cap) trial run of the service.
As for the 3G service itself, after one week of using it, about the only function it currently serves is for Near updates (PSV social app that shows who's playing what on the PSV in your proximity) and web browsing on the PSV's browser when outside of a WiFi network. It is very limited as of this writing and subjectively not worth subscribing to with the assumption that the PSV owner already has a smartphone with a data plan. If the PSV is your only way of accessing a 3G network when cut off from WiFi, it still beats running around for a WiFi hotspot.
Lastly, the bundle comes with a 8GB memory card that currently retails for $30. It is easily the best added value component of the bundle and even if one were to ignore the data packet/PSN game, it's only $20 over the cost of a $250 WiFi PSV when purchased with a $30 memory card. Seeing as how very little information has been put out regarding future uses for 3G and the PSV, $20 is nothing to add that feature on the chance that the service becomes worth renewing down the road. There are no service contracts.
As for the PSV itself, after two weeks of initial impressions, it is easily the most enjoyable handheld gaming device I have used running all the back to the original Gameboy and before with Nintendo Game and Watch games and Mattel Electronic Sports games, etc. The last two handhelds I've used extensively have been the PSP and the 3DS for recent comparisons.
The 5" OLED display is the first noticeable feature, with its ink like blacks, high contrast, relatively tight pixel density and even light distribution due to the self illuminating OLED pixels.
Build, fit and finish feels balanced and substantial. Face buttons and D-pad have a very satisfying click feedback that feels precise and responsive. The D-pad in particular, as the first deviation from the familiar Playstation 4 arrow button cross design is the best feeling D-pad I can remember using. The face buttons are smaller than those of the PSP and slightly larger than those of the 3DS. The X button proximity to the right analog stick has been mentioned as a potential issue, presumably for those who press with the heel of the thumb ("rolling") rather than the tip of the thumb (precise).
Following the OLED display, the second most prominent feature is the twin analog sticks, a first for handhelds. Unlike the sliding disk design used by the PSP and again by the 3DS, the PSV uses actual mini analog sticks with the same single axis rocking action everyone who has used an analog stick controller is familiar with. The feedback is a bit tighter than that of the DS3 with less travel due to the short throw axis which basically means more precise input is both possible and required for games without aim assist or loose controls. The size will probably take some getting used to for most, but for anyone who managed to adapt to the barely usable slider disk of the PSP, the analog sticks should be a snap to use.
The size of the PSV is another oft noted design issue, which is partially to accomodate the 5" screen in addition to the real estate taken by the face buttons, analog sticks and D-pad. Yes, the bezel could be thinner, but the controls themselves really can't be spaced much closer without causing more issues than solving. "Not pocket-sized" is another oft made comment regarding the size although it will easily slip into the back jeans pocket of just about any pair of jeans with at least a 30" inseam that aren't cut or worn like jeggings. I just don't know who would actually want to carry something like the PSV in their back pocket without some sort of case, slip cover, etc. to prevent scratches or other damage.
On the plus side, the PSV should fit average to large size hands very comfortably compared to the DS/DSl/3DS, PSP/PSP Go, etc. It's the first handheld I've used that didn't give me "crab claw hand" after 30 minutes of use. The position of the analog sticks are a comfortable distance away from the trigger buttons on the top of the PSV and the rounded shape with shallow contours moulded into the rear make it the most comfortable handheld I've used to date.
Sound volume from the built in speakers is adequate for a device of its size. Louder than the PSP or 3DS at max volume. Sound quality should fall in line with expectations for a portable device of its size. Naturally, the best sound output will be from a pair of quality headphones or a line out jack to a stereo system.
Battery life is adequate compared to the 3DS and PSP and realistically provides about 3-4 hours of gaming (PSV games) with more for PSP games, video, music, etc. Without the swappable battery design used in the PSP, there is no option to buy extra batteries for long trips away from a charger socket. SCE will be selling a $50 portable charger pack in the near future which while far from ideal, is better than no solution at all.
Users of iOS devices will feel right at home with the front and rear touch panels. Multi-touch, capacitive type interface that is more sensitive than the iPad to the degree that it is possible to trigger touch input without actually touching the display (if a bioelectric source, ie. finger, is about 1mm away).
That about covers the hardware itself without delving into the PSV games or any of the software functionality built into the PSV OS, which can and will be updated via firmware updates as more features are added and refined.
Overall, couldn't be more impressed with the hardware, barring a few annoyances like the lack of any onboard memory (the 3DS has 2GB internal memory, in addition to a 2GB SD card shipped with every handheld), the overpriced proprietary memory cards (deja vu Memory Stick) which serve the twofold purpose of slowing the tide of software piracy as well as provide hardware revenue to recoup potential losses Sony is taking on every PSV sold and the essentially useless VGA resolution cameras that are only useful for in-game use including the free augmented reality games available in the PSN Store for download.
The hardware is solid, the only issue from here on out will be the steady release of diverse, quality titles that will either make or break the platform.