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    Dec 2009


    Default Hand to hand combat: Nintendo 3DS vs PlayStation Vita

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    The Verdict

    The Nintendo unit isnít exactly a one trick pony, but without that trick (the 3D) it would be clearly outclassed in this battle. That said the effect is at times impressive, but some people find it disconcerting, with some players reporting headaches and discomfort. The fact that you can tune the intensity of the 3D effect to suit or switch it off entirely is a very good thing. However, by doing so you eliminate the one significant point of difference that the Nintendo hardware has over the Vita.
    Also, not many of the current crop of 3DS games makes significant use of the 3D feature. While Rayman is one game that bucks this trend, for many games it is little more than garnishing and some games are indeed better to play with the feature turned off. Still Nintendo might be able to reinvent a few game genres as it innovates further to incorporate 3D play.

    The Vita's most notable innovation is the touch sensitive control pad on the back of the unit. This interface element hasn't been used prolifically in games yet either and it will take a solid injection of creativity from the development community to make a game that really exploits this feature.

    The Vita prevails when it comes to power and performance and so most would concede it is the "better" machine, technically at least.

    Both units have excellent third party support, in particular the level of support for the Vita in the short space of time since it has hit the market has been prodigious. There are plenty of games that are unique to each unit, and the key in choosing between the two is to look at each catalog. The 3DS has a very "Nintendoesque" software focus and there are some great "younger" games, while the Vita isn't quite a full-blooded PlayStation 3 you take with you, it's getting close - a fact that the games reflect perfectly. Either way you are going to have some great fun when gaming on the go.


    Weíll break the battle down looking at some of the most important features, so you can make an informed choice, focusing on the features that matter to you.


    When it comes to processing grunt the 3DS is superior to Nintendo's DS and comes with some interesting on board software. True to the name, the 3D display is central to the unit's appeal (we'll discuss the value of this feature later) but underneath the screen the 3DS is powered by a 1 GHz dual core ARM11 CPU.

    The Vita is powered by the Cortex A9 CPU, the same CPU as that in the iPhone 4. This makes the Vita quite a mighty little beast and the processor (which can be upgraded from 1 GHz to 2 GHz) is clearly more powerful than the ARM 11 chip in the 3DS.


    The 3DS isnít a particularly intuitive machine to play with at first. Combining stylus play with the direction slider and joypad isnít something most people can do with a mere two hands Ė a prehensile tail would be useful! That said, you get used to "chopsticking it" with the stylus and then you can control all three inputs easily. Few games expect you to do this at a rapid pace anyway, but the interface is certainly not as easy to live with as it could be.


    If you have larger hands, the Vita is the machine you will most likely find is comfortable for longer sessions and even though I have become quite fond of the clam shell 3DS over time, ergonomically the win still goes to the Vita. The 3DS might have a two pronged attack and the added bonus of a 3D display, but the Vitaís five-inch 960 x 544, 220 DPI screen is bigger than either of the 3DS screens and produces very sharp images. The Nintendo screens are very good too, but at 800 x 240 and 320 x 240 they fall short on resolution and, apart from the 3D aspect, the Vita has the better visuals by a fair margin.


    The processing power behind the Sony unitís screen also gives it a clear edge when it comes to detail, frame rate and visual effects. That said, Nintendo's aforementioned knack of making games that people want to play - even if they arenít the prettiest - might nullify Sonyís advantage to some extent. Both machines really struggle to be called true "pocket" devices and unless you are a fan of cargo pants you'll almost certainly find yourself lugging them around in a bag of some description. The 3DS is markedly smaller and with its closeable "book" design you don't have to worry about your screen being scratched ... so we'd give it the nod in this category.

    Battery Life

    Even though the Vita has been criticized when it comes to battery life it is pretty much on a par with the 3DS when you take into account the extra drain on the battery caused by the 3D on the Nintendo unit. The 3DS runs for between 3-5 hrs on a charge (shorter if the game you are playing is very 3D intensive) and the Vita over five, so a narrow victory to Sony here.


    Nintendo may well have a lead in this critical department by virtue of the 3DS being in the market longer, but the Sony release schedule is looking promising and combined with the option of playing already downloaded PSP games, there is plenty of software for the Vita even at this early stage. Some of these games, like the stunning Wipeout 2048, the epic Uncharted and the deliciously mesmerizing Stardust Delta, are just superb.
    ...being a human...



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