The PS Vita is the most powerful, dazzling and impressive handheld games console ever built.

It packs not one but two quad-core processors, a sparkling 5-inch touchscreen OLED display, dual analogue stick controls and games that go way beyond what any other portable device is currently capable of.

Go further
PS Vita starter kit

PS Vita Starter Kit
Augment your PS Vita with some basic accessories from Sony

That includes the Nintendo 3DS, which may wield 3D optics as its trump card, but nonetheless simply cannot compete with the Vita in terms of graphical fidelity. What the PlayStation Vita offers is more akin to a home console experience on the move, and that puts it in an elite class of one.

Of course, whether or not there is a big market for such a device is an interesting question, and we're in the process of getting some early answers. A sluggish start in Japan has been followed by some less-than-stellar sales figures in the first weeks of its International launch. It doesn't come as much of a surprise.

After all, it's a luxury item launching post-Christmas into a Western world ravaged by financial floundering, and further hindered by Sony's desperate need to make money at a time when the strength of the Yen makes exported Japanese products very expensive.

Take a look at PS Vita gameplay footage, the new interface and touch controls in our video:

But we'll get to that a little later, and as far as this PlayStation Vita review goes, we're looking at the product as a stand alone piece of hardware, how it stacks up against the competition and whether or not it offers value for money.

The basics

In many ways, despite the new name, the PlayStation Vita is another revision of the Sony PSP legacy with plenty of much needed evolution on top.

The same basic form factor returns and it doesn't look too different from its predecessors. But this is a wolf in sheep's clothing. A beast among men. A veritable fire-breathing monster compared to those long-dead PSPs in the sky.

ps vita

The curvy oval shape returns, and measures 18.3cm from end to end. So it's the biggest Sony handheld ever, with a height of 8.4cm and a thickness of 1.9cm.

Sony's reasoning has clearly been: if we're going to make the world's most powerful handheld console, we might as well make it the best it can possibly be. That involves packing industry-leading visuals, hence the 5-inch OLED screen which on its own is as big as the entire PSP Go console was.

We think the enlarged size is a worthwhile compromise, and this Wi-Fi only model weighs in at just 260g which is 20g lighter than the original, smaller PSP 1000. So when you pick it up you'll react to its apparent lightness.

Of course, Sony has since revised the design with its new PS Vita Slim overseas, which is about 20 per cent thinner than the original and weighs even less. But until that launches in Australia, we get to enjoy the OLED screen of the original model.

On the table

The front of the console is a smorgasbord of hardware delights.

To the left of the screen you'll find the classic Sony D-Pad, a left analogue stick, a left speaker and the PS Home button.

ps vita

To the right you'll find your classic PlayStation triangle, circle, square and X buttons, as well as a right analogue stick, right speaker, a 0.3MP front-facing camera and the Start and Select buttons you're most likely very familiar with already.

ps vita controls

On the top side of the Vita are left and right shoulder buttons - there are no trigger buttons like you'd find on a PS3 Dualshock controller. Between the shoulders you'll find the on/off button, volume controls, the PS Vita Card slot (which we'll discuss in a moment) and a terminal to plug in any number of as-yet non-existent peripherals.

ps vita top

The base of the console houses the proprietary USB connector for charging and connecting to PS3 etc, as well as the headphone/microphone adapter and the Memory Card slot.

ps vita base

And finally, the rear of the PS Vita is home to the brand-new rear Touch Pad, a rear 0.3MP camera and a microphone.

ps vita back

Price

At launch the PS Vita will set back Australian gamers around RRP $350, while the 3G version will launch a little later for $450. At the time of writing, the cheapest deal for the PS Vita is $259 for the Wi-Fi version.

There are bundle deals if you shop around, and these include different combinations of PC Vita with memory cards and games.