07/02/2014 11:01 GMT | Updated 07/02/2014 11:59 GMT

PS Vita 'Slim' Review: Is Sony's Latest Handheld Console Really An Upgrade?

Sony's new slimmer PS Vita is on sale now in the UK starting at £180.

Key Features

  • 20% lighter (42g)
  • 15% slimmer
  • 5-inch, 960 x 544 pixels LED (not OLED) screen
  • plastic construction
  • Micro USB charger
  • 6-hour battery life
  • 1GB of internal memory

The Pitch

With it's slimmer size and rounded edge's the PlayStation Vita Slim is more comfortable to hold for those marathon gaming sessions.

The Verdict

The new PS Vita is a strange beast, in that in some important respects it's not really an upgrade from the old one. In fact, it's sort of the opposite.

First and most obviously there's the screen - the old PS Vita had a five-inch OLED panel, with brilliant and vibrant colours and great viewing angles. The new LED panel is the same resolution but is genuinely a step down in terms of both those qualities. But more than just the screen, the new handheld just feels cheaper, compared to the old metal-and-glass Vita. The plastic is body shiny and hard to love, and almost every neat detail of the heavy, but stunning original is lost to the gods of mass production and price cuts.

Which is the other downer, incidentally, because while the Vita Slim (or, properly, '2000' series) is less expensive at launch than the old Vita, it's still (at £180) about £40 or so more expensive than the previous one was, at least during the Christmas sales.

The Slim also only comes in a WiFi model -- there's no 3G option for UK consumers. It only comes in black, too, whereas in Japan it's available in a variety of friendly colours.

As such, it's worth saying right out of the gate that there isn't anything the new Vita can do in terms of games and features that the old one couldn't. Let's just agree that no one should upgrade from the original Vita to this, outside of basic completist's bravado.

All that said, we think it's still very possible to argue that this is the best Vita out of the two - for about three key reasons.

One is the battery, which is better - we got about six hours (tallying with Sony's estimates) compared to around four on the previous generation. Secondly - and on a related note - the new Vita drops the old proprietary power cable for a standard Micro USB charger, which for a mobile device is an absolute godsend. It makes it much easier to stomach taking the Vita with you on long journeys, or just on the commute, now you don't have to pack an extra cable. It really opens the console up to a bigger variety of use cases.

Third, the new Vita is much lighter and thinner and that does make a difference when it's a device you're supposed to be carrying around - if not in your pocket, then at least in your bag. The old one feels cumbersome and heavy in comparison.

A couple of other changes have less of an impact. The 1GB of internal storage is nice, but still a bit cheap. Sony's continued reliance on expensive and proprietary memory cards for the Vita is an annoying anachronism and should have been ditched. The rear touch panel has also been changed - it's now smaller than before - which is both helpful in some games and annoying in others when you're using it often, such as Tearaway.

Then there's the bigger question - should you buy a Vita at all?

If you own a PS4 and you've got the money? It's a no brainer. The PS Vita's ability to play PS4 games over WiFi and Remote Play isn't a total knockout - the need to use the touch panel for some of the triggers is imperfect during Killzone: Shadowfall - but it's a great bonus and easy to love.

But if you're not? It's still a bit tricky to recommend it over a 3DS in terms of games alone. For every okay Vita game - Killzone Mercenary, Little Big Planet 2, Gravity Rush - there's a world-beating Nintendo classic to compare it to. The range of indie games is improving all the time but still lacks hits like Fez and Minecraft, and while the range of PSP titles to download is wide, that library isn't exactly resplendent in golden memories either.

As such, our conclusion has to be that if you want a Vita this is just about a better option than the old one, for the USB charger and lighter form factor alone. But if you're on the fence and don't have a PS4, it's not quite a must-have, and won't be until it can find at least a couple of games to match the majesty of Nintendo's best moments.