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How do the PS Vita's specs stack up against the competition?

The PlayStation Vita hardware is a modern mash-up of fresh ideas and familiar elements already seen on the console or handheld sides of the gaming world. But if you haven't had a chance to hold Sony's new portable in your hands, it might be difficult to imagine how a list of technical specs translates into immersive play experiences, and how the system compares to what's already out there.

Above: How does Vita stack up against the 3DS, iPhone and PSP? Let's break it down by specific features

Rather than inundate you with a catalog of message-board-flame-war-ready numbers and stats, we decided to break down some of the Vita's key hardware specifications and look at how they impact the average player's use of the machine, as well as compare them to the primary existing handheld competition.

The display

Vita has: Five-inch OLED screen – 960x544 pixels (qHD) @ 220 ppi

The Vita's big, bright touchscreen offers crisp, colorful visuals that are a far sight better than Sony's earlier PSP. At 960x544 pixels, the Vita display is considered a qHD, or "quarter HD" screen, since its screen has one-quarter the pixels of a full 1080p display at a 16:9 aspect ratio. The "ppi" spec refers to "pixels per inch," which has become a popular way to describe how crisp a screen looks in the wake of Apple's iPhone 4 and 4S Retina displays putting up a remarkable 326 ppi. More pixels per inch means less pixelization or fuzziness, and more cleanly rendered text and visuals.

Comparatively, the Vita display weighs in at just 220 ppi (though we've seen some Android displays with higher ppi stats put up slightly more pixelated-looking text and images than what we've witnessed thus far on the Vita). Either way, the Vita is still notably sharper than the last-gen PSP, the standard model of which boasted a 4.3-inch display running at 480x272 for a ppi of 128, while the smaller PSPgo screen, at the same resolution, squeezed 145 ppi into a 3.8-inch display.

Above: To compare those resolutions directly, here's a screen from Lumines: Electronic Symphony for Vita at top (scaled down from 960px to 620px to fit our column width), with a screen from the PSP Lumines at bottom (scaled from 480 px to 310 px to maintain size ratio)

Directly comparing the Vita and Nintendo 3DS screens is a trickier proposition. The 3.53-inch top screen of the Nintendo 3DS runs at 800x240 for a listed ppi of 237, purportedly topping the Vita in 2D. However, with the 3D effect, the screen splits that resolution between each eye, effectively becoming a 400x240 image (132 ppi) for each. Meanwhile, the lower screen runs at a rather paltry 320x240 pixels across 3.02 inches, for a 2D ppi of 132 that matches the top screen's 3D number. But we don't have to tell 3DS owners that the bottom screen is a fuzzy, dated little thing.

Graphics/processor

Vita has: Quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore processor w/ quad-core SGX543MP4+ GPU; 512MB RAM with 128MB VRAM

Above: Uncharted: Golden Abyss is one of the Vita's more visually impressive launch titles

The PlayStation Vita pumps out the most impressive visuals we've seen to date on a handheld, with characters, environments, and effects that nearly approach the levels of early PlayStation 3 titles – and it's sure to improve over the coming years. The handheld's quad-core processor reportedly runs at upwards of 1.5Ghz, compared to the 1Ghz dual-core A5 processor seen in the iPhone 4S and iPad 2. Similarly, the Vita, iPhone 4S and iPad 2 all utilize similar PowerVR GPUs (graphics processing units), though the Vita's is a quad-core, while Apple's devices run dual-cores.

Above: Meanwhile, Infinity Blade II is generally seen as the high-water mark for iOS visuals

Additional processing cores and a higher overall processing speed mean much more processing muscle to handle detailed visuals at higher frame rates. Both the iPhone 4S and Vita have 512MB of core system RAM, while the Vita adds an extra 128MB of VRAM specifically for the graphics. In total, the Vita has more total RAM available than the PlayStation 3, which offers 256MB each for both general RAM and VRAM. The additional RAM helps explain why the Vita offers cross-game chat, while the feature remains MIA on PS3.

Lining up official specs for the 3DS proved mostly fruitless, as Nintendo's handheld uses a proprietary processor along with a single-core PICA200 GPU, plus 128MB of system RAM. Meanwhile, the PSP utilizes a pair of 333 Mhz processors along with a 166Mhz GPU, which utilizes just 2MB of VRAM alongside a paltry 32MB of system RAM and an extra 4MB of dynamic RAM.

Next page: Controls, battery, storage and more

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21 comments

  • NeoTechni - February 23, 2012 3:11 p.m.

    "The 3.53-inch top screen of the Nintendo 3DS runs at 800x240 for a listed ppi of 237" Except even in 2D mode, it's only running at 400*240. It shows the same image twice.
  • Ravenbom - February 23, 2012 10:45 a.m.

    Actually, the carts of the 3DS go as high as 8gigs right now. There's a good chance both companies will expand the flash memory cart size through the life of both machines.
  • NeoTechni - February 23, 2012 3:09 p.m.

    Actually, no they don't. Konami had to beg Sony to increase the limit to 4 GB for MGS3D
  • NeoTechni - February 23, 2012 3:15 p.m.

    *Nintendo, not sony
  • ryoishibashi - February 24, 2012 1:03 a.m.

    Actually, yes they do. It's just that Nintendo currently has a 2GB limit on games right now.
  • IceBlueKirby - February 22, 2012 12:40 p.m.

    I was hoping the battery life would be better, but at the same time I guess I wasn't expecting any miracles. It's not that big a deal since the 3DS has crappy battery life too...once some Vita games I just can't live without hit shelves I'll certainly pick one up.
  • shai-uchiha - February 22, 2012 8:42 a.m.

    Well I am picking mine up today, I loved the psp and I am really excited about this portable. I enjoy the 3DS for what it is and will continue to be a true gamer, my advice is if you can't afford it or just don't prefer the vita just don't buy it. Simple as that.
  • rob619 - February 22, 2012 6:39 a.m.

    Vita is really over rated and over priced, especially with the memory card situation. Played it today at Game, and nothing is impressive. Alot of tablets/smart phones I've seen are better! :(
  • CancerMan - February 22, 2012 6:49 a.m.

    6 buttons, a d-pad, and dual analog sticks.
  • Imgema - February 22, 2012 5:35 a.m.

    Yeah, nice words and nice numbers. Still not powerful enough to handle a Wipeout game at 60fps... But it is. Its just that developers don't care about gameplay on this thing, they only try to squeeze as much eye candy as possible with this hardware to show it off. I'd rather play a sweet looking and smooth Mario Kart 7 that runs at 60fps with 3D all the way up and has a nicer sense of speed while i wait for the next 60fps F-Zero. I prefer games not gfx demos.
  • CancerMan - February 22, 2012 6:48 a.m.

    Slowdown cowboy, the Vita just launched, launch games are almost always mediocre; At least there's some good games in between the meh.
  • NeoTechni - February 23, 2012 3:37 p.m.

    "developers don't care about gameplay on this thing" Much like you don't care about how stupid you sound
  • spatuluk - February 22, 2012 1:48 a.m.

    Why do people keep calling the back touch pad a 'touch screen'? It's not a touch screen - it's a touch pad, like wot laptops have been using for years!
  • ncurry2 - February 21, 2012 8:25 p.m.

    Ya, graphics are cool and everything but it's the games that define any system. Right now, the 3DS is trouncing the vita hard in that aspect. Also if specs sold, the psp wouldn't have been destroyed by the ds.
  • Fox_Mulder - February 22, 2012 12:53 a.m.

    You also have to take into account that the 3DS launched 11 months before the Vita. And from what I can tell, and from what most of the press is saying, the Vita has a much more impressive launch lineup of games than the 3DS did last March.
  • Cyberninja - February 22, 2012 3:36 a.m.

    impressive is something for people to decide personally, while i am not saying 3ds launch was good, Vita's isn't very good either seeing as i can play every game at home in some form just like with 3ds and i don't like uncharted so its not like i am getting that today, just blazblue, i would have said it was good if it had gravity rush
  • NeoTechni - February 23, 2012 3:10 p.m.

    Agreed. Vita had the best launch I ever saw. It took months for 3DS to get it's Zelda, Vita launched with it's. And Uncharted was actually a new game, not a remake of a decade-old one
  • darron13 - February 22, 2012 3:29 a.m.

    Consider the fact that the 3DS has been out for almost a year now and the Vita released today...
  • mackshizzle - February 21, 2012 5:36 p.m.

    That's a lot of features.
  • Fhiend - February 21, 2012 5:30 p.m.

    I always like system specs. But, do not for get, the true test of a system are the games.

Showing 1-20 of 21 comments

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