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Checkpoint: Portable Gaming 2012 Edition

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Now that I have the PlayStation Vita and Nintendo 3DS XL, I though it was about time I shared some impressions on the hardware.

Build Quality

The white PlayStation Vita is a real looker. Every inch of the handheld feels sturdy and high quality despite being very light.

Nintendo’s handhelds are well built but they don’t normally have that high quality feel that Sony infuses into their handhelds. The 3DS XL bucks that trend and is easily the nicest of the Nintendo dual screen handhelds that I own. (I have a DS Lite & DSi as well)

Screen Quality

I expected the PlayStation Vita’s OLED screen to wow me in all areas and while it is a beautiful screen it does fall short of my expectations. I was expecting superb viewing angles like those found on the IPS screens of the iPhone or iPad but that was not the case. Off angle viewing results in undesirable color distortions.

The Vita screen is a wonderful touch screen though. It’s responsive and feels incredibly natural to use along side the traditional controls.

With regards to quality, the 3DS XL’s screens are not in the same league as the Vita’s. But I wasn’t expecting anything stellar from Nintendo because it’s Nintendo. I was surprised by how large the screens are though; the top screen is actually larger than the Vita’s. It’s nice size but I am not fond of the relatively low resolution.

The handheld’s marquee feature, glasses-free 3D, seems to perform better than the regular 3DS’ screen. I was able to find the right angle to maintain the 3D image easier with the 3DS.

The bottom screen is still a restrictive touch panel which appears to perform just like the predecessor’s DS touch screens. I’m still able to use my fingers to hit simple functions and buttons which is good enough for me.

Controls & Comfort

The directional pad is probably my favorite on a PlayStation console — handheld or otherwise. The twin analog sticks are also surprisingly comfortable to use. My only complaint against the controls are against the face buttons which I find a bit small. The X button is also a bit uncomfortable to use for acceleration in a game such as Wipeout 2048.

The Nintendo 3DS XL’s circle pad feels surprisingly effective but I am disappointed with its placement. I wished Nintendo swapped the position of the d-pad and circle pad. The only game I own right now is New Super Mario Bros. 2 and it is traditional directional pad game. The circle pad is not sufficient enough to handle 2D platforming.

The 3DS XL has slightly more rounded corners than the DSi but it still digs into my palms a bit. I didn’t have significant comfort issues with the Vita.

Battery Life

The Vita seems to only last a single serious gaming session. After 3 hours or so, it’s time to charge it. The 3DS XL on the other hand appears to have more endurance in it but it is a bit early to call that because I just got it yesterday.

Games thus far

I’ve only played Wipeout 2048 and just started Gravity Rush for the PlayStation Vita. Both games play fine on the Vita and yet I am wishing that I was playing on the big screen.

New Super Mario Bros. 2 is another one of those New Super Mario Bros. games. I have no real opinion of it either way yet. It’s a familiar game but I’m not offended by how safe it is yet.

A promising start

Solid hardware from both Nintendo and Sony. I’m happy with both handhelds and I’m looking forward to acquiring more titles for both handhelds. Persona 4: Golden and Super Mario 3D Land are on the top of the list for the Vita and 3DS respectively. I’m hoping to see some sales this coming Boxing Week.

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