The Playstation Vita was officially released today. For those who haven’t kept up, the Vita is Sony’s new portable Playstation (originally codenamed “NGP”) which boasts a quad-core CPU and GPU, a 5″ OLED screen, dual analog sticks, two touch panels, and optional 3G and GPS. The device is exceptionally powerful, but it’s expensive, and Sony made some typically frustrating decisions in its design that keep it from being everything it could be (namely, no TV/HDMI-out, proprietary memory cards, no internal storage, sealed internal battery, low-resolution cameras). Still, I managed to save around $80 off retail value and still got it on release date; I received a free retail game, a free memory card, a half-price pre-ordered game, and I didn’t have to pay any tax, so I can’t complain too much.

But I can’t play anything. Amazon utilized an obscure shipping service to get my memory card to me, and the Vita does not allow anything to function without having a card installed. My game card copy of Uncharted: Golden Abyss is sitting here, unplayable, until my memory card arrives. The fact that Sony did not include a paltry amount of internal memory to store game saves, or at least force every game card to allow for gameplay without an external memory card is borderline insanity. My stacks of unused microSD cards are weeping from disuse.

From what I’ve been able to try out so far (which is very little), the system seems nice. It’s not particularly sturdy feeling, but it’s a good thing for a device of this size to be lightweight. The interface could be worse, and the quick standby and resume is well-executed. I’m awaiting arrival of FIFA Soccer (Amazon was sold out when I ordered) and…Hot Shots Golf. Yes, I bought a golf game. But I couldn’t play it even if it had arrived.

The box of Uncharted sure does look fun though. 😐

Postscript: Why the Vita Is Not Overpriced

At $250 for the base version, the Vita is expensive compared to a selection of groceries, or a month of rent, or other things in life that are important. But as far as consumer electronics go, it’s really not so bad. The technology within the Vita is superior to the average smartphone, which retails for $550 when not subsidized by the carrier. Portable devices have always carried a premium due to the difficulty in miniaturizing components, and there’s always research and marketing to consider in the overall price of the device. The Nintendo 3DS retailed for $250 a year ago, and it’s only $170 now (and can be found for less); it’s unlikely the Vita will drop that far that fast, but the price will come down. And finally, people still consider the Kindle Fire tablet to be a great value at $199, and it’s not nearly as impressive a device as the Vita.

Also, happy 280th birthday to George Washington.

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