While I love my consoles, I've always had a soft spot for handhelds. It's a different gaming experience entirely. The library of games is vastly different to my home console collection, and of course, there's the portability factor. Sure, smartphones are powerful and you can snap on some attachments to create a somewhat similar experience on-the-go, but it's just not the same. So rumors of a Sony PSP 5G have, of course, made me ecstatic.
I actually passed on the PSP and picked up a PS Vita, which is the more powerful of the two and generally better over all. Production of both pieces of hardware has since been discontinued, and while I still have my console and games, my Vita has been languishing away on a shelf for years. If Sony is truly working on a handheld, I'm on board. And if it looks anything like this render, I'll be happy – but I think I might be in the minority with that.
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Product design student Karim (opens in new tab) has mocked up a refreshed PS Vita design based on the rumblings that Sony is beavering away on a handheld that's 2021-ready. The device is set to boast 5G connectivity which would allow it to take full advantage of Sony's PS Now game streaming service – not that carrying around tiny cartridges is too much of an issue, but it saves things getting lost if you want to keep a few options on hand. YouTube channel GSMaholic (opens in new tab) has gathered up all the renders in one video for you above, and it looks fantastic!
The PS Vita is thicc, as the kids say; it weighs in at 260g and is pretty compact. The Nintendo Switch, for comparison, weighs around 400g with the Joy-Con controllers attached, and around 300g without; but it has a significantly bigger form factor. It's fair to say that the PS Vita is positively chunky, all things considered.
The PS Vita X renders have seemingly addressed that problem, showing off a streamlined chassis more in line with PS Vita Slim (which managed to shave off 3mm) so it would no doubt feel lighter and less cumbersome overall. Karim has done away with the traditional placement of the front camera, which is nestled next to the action buttons, and made it a pop-up affair instead. We've seen this feature on smartphones like the Oppo Reno 10x Zoom before, and it seems to have been done to accommodate the funky-looking screen shape.
The cameras on the back have been upgraded from a single lens to a double lens; the OG Vita has some AR functionality, so there's potential there to explore that with a better camera array. This is possibly a little overkill, but depending on how it's incorporated into the system, if it has a reason to be there, I'll let it be.
The PS Vita X keeps the rear touch pad of previous generations, and sports the larger depressions of the PS Vita Slim to help with grip. The flat edges are rounded off, and the metal frame has disappeared. For such a pleasingly smooth aesthetic, there's some real height on those volume buttons compared to the PS Vita's, which are practically flush. But it's nice to be able to feel what you're doing without taking your eyes off the screen, so I'm not averse to them.
Elsewhere, there are other modern touches like the USB-C port on the bottom, but the card slot is still on top, along with the volume buttons and power button. It's still too early for an all-digital handheld, with 5G in the process of rolling out, so if we do see a new Vita/ PSP, expect physical cartridges. And of course, there's a headphone jack on the bottom.
I imagine the PS Vita X will sport an LCD display, rather than the OLED panel my fat little Vita is kitted out with. There are arguments to be made for both, but from a cost perspective, it makes sense to opt for LCD, as Nintendo did with the Switch. Sony also migrated to LCD during the Vita's lifecycle which was great news for the price tag.
The screen is probably the only aspect of the render I have a real problem with – it's weirdly shaped, and seems counterintuitive to an immersive gaming experience. How would such an unusual screen shape even be utilised with games? It's a no from me. We most likely wouldn't see a panel with a very high refresh rate either, if the aim was to make it affordable, and a legitimate Nintendo Switch rival.
Ultimately, the 5G PS Vita X renders are stunning and made me pull out my PS Vita again – if only to sit steeped in nostalgia while looking at it with the power off. There are enough similarities to the older devices that it looks like a hardware refresh with some much-needed additions to bring it in line with today's tech standards, and that's fine with me.
But if anything, everything I love about it is what makes it terrible. If Sony sticks this closely to the template laid out by the PSP and PS Vita, it's not that much different than sticking a controller onto your phone. Screen real estate is definitely more of a factor these days, and a 5-inch display just isn't going to cut it.
Sony needs to give players a reason to shell out for its handheld in a marketplace where the Nintendo Switch and Switch Lite exist, and where a lot of consumers have just dropped £500 on a brand new PS5. A design overhaul with the same flair that was applied to the PS5 would elicit a better response that targeting the same aesthetic that had people like me invest the first time around. So as much as I love the look of the PS Vita X, Sony needs to ignore fans like me and focus on making a splash with something truly innovative.