We recently reviewed the PlayStation Vita and had quite a few positive words to say about it. All things considered, the Vita is a great handheld gaming device that hopefully does very well and gets the software support it deserves. Still, nothing's ever perfect, is it?
After spending even more time with the Vita, Dale North and myself have been able to isolate a number of problems that are too small to ruin our lives, but provide enough minor irritation to at least be worth bringing up. We've selected ten nitpicky little niggles that we'd love to see rectified in the future.
USB Charging is a Hassle:
The PlayStation Vita can be charged by connecting it to a USB port on a computer or other electronic device, but it's not very convenient. Firstly, you have to manually set your Vita to accept a charge on an electronic device, rather than having it just work like USB devices are supposed to.
Not only that, the Vita cannot charge via a USB device while remaining switched on. You cannot charge it while playing a game (slightly understandable), but you can't even get any juice when it's in standby mode. As someone who likes to hook his devices up to a computer and intermittently check up on them, it's a bit annoying to not have it charge while remaining in standby. Instead, it needs to be powered completely down before it'll regain any battery life, which defeats the object of hooking it up to a computer in the first place. I gave up and just started using wall sockets, which I don't want to do.
So, you can charge via a USB port, but there's not much point. So ... what's the point?
Lengthy Boot Time and Standby Recovery
If there's one thing a Sony device loves to do, it's make users wait around. The Vita is no exception, taking its sweet time to switch on after being powered down. Not only that, but reactivating the system after placing it in standby mode takes far longer than it should.
When you press the home button to recover the system, there's an irritating delay between your interaction and the system's response. It's not exactly an eon of waiting, but it's just long enough to make you wonder whether or not you pressed the button. This is definitely a massive deal!
Double Tapping Apps
Whenever opening an app, you have to first click on its bubble icon to open up a specially designed splash page. You then have to click "Start" on that page to actually access the software. I don't quite mind that for games, where there are useful links to the manual and extra content, but why do I need to click through two screens just to access the Vita's settings page, or the PlayStation Store?
It's yet another example of Sony's tendency to introduce minor little inconveniences with absolutely no justifiable cause. The only reason you have to double tap is because Sony didn't implement a way for the Vita to differentiate from a game and another piece of software. After all, why should Sony put a little extra time in when it can just waste the consumer's?
Connections and Notifications
The Vita loves to spam its user with constant messages. Every time you put a new game in, you have to sit through a "please wait" pop-up and watch the icon bounce up and down annoyingly. Various games disable the network capabilities of the Vita during gameplay, and warn the player every single time it happens. As if that wasn't enough, the Wi-Fi Vita adds an extra annoyance by needing to manually connect every time it opens an app with online features.
Not being a technical expert, I don't know how necessary any of these notifications are, but I've decided none of them are required because they get on my nerves. So, get rid of them. All of them. Forever.
New Apps Installing in Dumb Places
You can fit ten apps on a single PS Vita home screen, and you can use multiple screens. I currently set up my system to have functional apps on the first page, games on the second page, and crap I don't want to touch on the third page. On any other mobile device, a new app would fill the first open slot available on the system. On the Vita, every game I install currently opens up on its own new page, even though the first two pages have open spaces.
This makes for a bit of extra fuss when personalizing the page, constantly having to shift apps from one page to another to get them where I need. All those empty spaces, and the Vita keeps ignoring them because it insists on doing silly things.
Lack of Multitasking
I'm definitely not among those silly critics who bash the Vita for not being a smartphone, but come on. If you're going to have a system with multiple features, it's a little embarrassing to not allow multitasking. I should be able to pause a game and go on to check some emails without having my game shut down. I should be able to do that, but I can't.
The bloody thing has a 3G-enabled SKU to appeal to the iPhone market, but it can't even let users check their Twitter in between game levels. That just seems self-defeating to me. Users are easily distracted and want to do more than one thing at once. The Vita doesn't cater to modern demands in that regard.
The Shittiest Browser In The World
The PS Vita web browser is one of the worst I've ever used. I'd take Netscape Navigator over that crap any day of the week. Dale didn't seem to think it was quite so bad, but I absolutely despise the thing. I don't know how it got so difficult to do something that other machines got right years ago. Hell, even the PSP has a better browser.
Slow, unresponsive, laggy, and unable to make even the most basic sites look right and function properly, the Vita's browser makes the Internet a sad and frightening place. I couldn't get the thing to open my emails correctly -- it would load up the email, but only render as far as the subject line before freezing.
Rambo thinks he had it bad in Vietnam, but he didn't have to use the PS Vita's web browser.
That Fucking Music
I've barely had the PS Vita for a week and I can't get the bloody music out of my head. When you're navigating on the home screen, this depressing mall music drones on and on, never stopping, never changing, just chirping and warbling for ten million years.
It'd be nice to set your own music, but instead you'll need to go to your settings and find the mute option in Sound/Display. Your choice is cold silence, or a repetitive drone that'll have you jamming knitting needles in your ears after fifteen minutes.
What is it about game consoles that think the cool, cutting edge thing to do is use cheesy muzak? It'd be like Skrillex wearing a flowery dress on stage ... though to be honest, he'd probably look a bit more sensible.
App and Data Management
I can't say I'm impressed with the PS Vita's ability to let you manage your application data -- or rather, how it doesn't. There's no way to check up on PS Vita save game data without opening the game itself, as only PSP save data has a menu item in the settings. If I want to check whether something has data saved to the memory card or the internal memory, either I can't do it, or the option is hidden away in some infernal corner of the console.
I also don't like how certain apps have to remain on the home screen. I don't think many of us need to keep Welcome Park on display forever, and some folk might not want to deal with photos, or use music, or fiddle around with Near. These items cannot be deleted, but they also cannot be hidden away. There's no folder or sub-menu to store away those apps one isn't interested in, so they have to stay there forever. BAH!
Needless Separation of Apps
There really is no need for Trophies, friends, party chat and even Near to be stored on the Vita as separate applications. They're all social and networking features, and they should all be used together in a unified social networking app. Having to open several apps to access several related features is pretty damn stupid.
This is indicative of Sony's larger problem of being unable to provide any sense of synergy in its software. Everything is so gated and fails to gel together properly. I want to feel like the PS Vita is a fluid and unified experience, not simply a dull conduit for a bunch of unrelated applications. This "close one door to open another" approach is lame.
Lame, but no deal-breaker. In fact, nothing here is a deal-breaker. The PlayStation Vita is a fine system and I really enjoy using it, but there are still all these little gripes with the thing. That is what Sony does -- it never really has one, big, all-encompassing problem. It just has a lot of minor issues that pile on top of each other.
Still, compared to the potential of the Vita and the fun already on offer, these issues are nitpicks that many can ignore. Just be prepared for them and enjoy your expensive new toy!
What's Up? Our panel at PAX Prime 2014, Far Cry 4, Destiny Beta, Vietnam & a ferret
8:00 PM on 07.25.2014