PlayStation Vita PCH-2000 Review

The PlayStation Vita has been out for two short years, and is about to enter its third year.  There are a lot of interesting games being released in the coming years, from the Final Fantasy X | X-2 HD Collection, Minecraft, The Walking Dead Season 2, Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z, and more.  Next year is looking to be a good year to own Sony’s powerful handheld, as far as software is concerned.

However, a game system, especially a handheld, isn’t only about software.  Just like PCs, Mobile Devices, and the like, there is also a hardware aspect to it.  In Japan, Sony recently revamped the PlayStation Vita and send out a “Slim” model, with various changes and enhancements, dubbed the PCH-2000.  We’ve seen many reviews and impressions on it from various web sites, and the thing everyone wants to know is, is it worth it?

Currently, the PCH-2000 is only available in Japan, but it is slowly reaching other territories.  Another factor is that the system is region-free, so North American or European gamers could easily import the console and sign in with their NA or EU PSN ID’s and be able to run it just like a Vita from their native country.  We recently nabbed one of these new models and we’re here to tell you our thoughts.  Here is our in-depth review of the PlayStation Vita – PCH-2000.

Design


As with all reviews of newer models, we must have a direct comparison with the older model.  By design, the PCH-2000 looks much like its predecessor, though it also looks different.  Buttons and speakers are placed in the same place, but there are things that are different and new that should be addressed, when compared, from weight to size to handling to more.

Let’s begin by showing the differences in size between the two model.  As far as the height and width, the PCH-2000 is the same size as the original PCH-1000.  The screen size, button sizes, and overall size of everything when looking directly towards the front of the system remains unchanged.  However, the back of the system has seen some modifications.

No doubt as a response to user reaction to the Rear Touch Panel, that part of the system has been changed.  Many gamers found it troublesome that they would be holding the system and accidentally run their fingers across the Rear Touch Panel, which was the touch screen that resided on the back of the system.  The size of this panel has been significantly reduced, and the two finger pads on the back where your fingers are supposed to be placed have both gotten wider and larger.

The most significant change in the design is the depth of the system.  Sony has shaved on twenty percent of the depth of the original Vita, along with fifteen percent of the weight.  This makes the PCH-2000 much thinner and lighter than the original system.  From a depth perspective, it makes the PCH-2000 look like a younger sibling, with the visual difference look like much more than the actual difference.

Handling the new system makes you realize the difference these changes made is extraordinary.  It feels like it is half the weight of the original system, and almost feels like you’re holding a light tablet, such as an iPad, though you’re actually holding a PlayStation Vita.  If there were a direct comparison I could think of, it would be like comparing the original PSP to the PSP 3000.  When you hold it, it feels like stress you never knew was there is lifted from your fingers during your gameplay experience.

A few of the buttons have seen a change in design as well.  The Home, Start, and Select Buttons have become much larger, and are circular, rather than oval-shaped as before.  This has an effect on handling the system, which will be explained in a later section of this review.  The speakers have also changed.  While they are in the same place they were before, the arrangement of the speaker holes has changed.  There are now seven holes for each speaker, instead of six, allowing the volume to be a little higher.

As far as ports and lights go, the top of the device has a Power Button and Volume Control buttons in similar places as they were placed in the original model.  However, the only slot on the top of the device is for the Vita Game Cards.  The second, mystery port from the original model has been completely scrapped this time around.

The bottom side of the system is largely the same.  The headphone jack and serial sticker are in the same locations they were before.  The charging port is also in the middle, as before, but the port is different.  The PCH-2000 uses a Micro-USB Male port for its USB cable and charging cables.  This means that if your charger goes down, you don’t need to buy a Vita proprietary charger.  You can just run to Radioshack and buy a Micro USB cable, which is very common in recent days, thanks to the popularity of smartphones and tablets.

The final notable change in the hardware and design is the screen that the system uses.  As many know, the original OLED screen was replaced in this model with a more energy-friendly LCD screen.  I find that this is the biggest aspect turning people away from buying a new model of the Vita.  I will get more into this later, but there is definitely a difference you can tell with screen to screen when they are side-by-side, and the LCD screen has its own benefits and inconveniences.

All in all, the design is the same design we know and love, but with a few changes, like a few buttons, the Rear Touch Panel, and the screen.

Hardware

Every new model of a game console, computer, or tablet adds something new to the mix.  Whether it’s a better camera, bio-metric recognition, or something else entirely, something new is always apparent in a new model.  The PCH-2000 does not leave you high and dry, in this aspect.  There are various improvements and additions to the hardware that the original system did not have.

The biggest change we see in the PCH-2000 is the addition of onboard memory.  The PCH-2000 comes equipped with a single gigabyte of storage on the system, without the use of a Memory Card.  This can be used just as a Memory Card can, storing save data, digital games, photos, and more.  The previous model had no onboard memory and, thus, you had to buy a Memory Card just to play certain games.

Onboard memory is a very good idea for Sony, but it has its limits.  First of all, it is only a single gigabyte.  Most PS Vita titles that are digital are larger than that.  The average file size I see, other than Indie Games, is between one and two gigs, which wouldn’t be able to fit on this onboard Memory.  This is more for someone who doesn’t want to buy a Memory Card right away and still wants to play games that require memory.  The downside of this is that it becomes redundant as soon as you start using a Memory Card.  The moment a Memory Card is inserted, the onboard memory is disabled.

The LCD Screen also comes with ups and downs.  Many people are disappointed that the new model doesn’t have the OLED screen, and they removed it for a few reasons.  For one, it is cheaper to manufacture LCD screens, and the system both benefits and is hurt by this change.

When you compare the two screens, the LCD screen has brighter colors than the OLED screen does.  When I was looking at the systems, side-by-side, the LCD had brighter colors over everything, whether it was the Settings Menu or in the middle of The Walking Dead.  It is kind of like when you turn the Contrast up on a PC Monitor.  The LCD screen also is slightly dimmer than the OLED.  On their maximum brightness settings, they are nearly the same level of light brightness, but the OLED is a little bit brighter.

The main benefit of the LCD screen is in reference to the battery.  The original Vita cannot game for very long without the battery being seriously drained.  This is partially due to the fact that the OLED screen uses up a lot of that battery power.  With the LCD screen, less power is taken, and the battery life of the system is significantly increased.  The actual increase is in comparison.

We tested the batteries out and found that the 2000 has at least three more hours of battery life than the 1000.  Thus, the LCD screen does look dimmer, but makes up for it in the exceptional increase in battery life.  This is a big deal, as the Vita doesn’t have a replaceable battery.  If the battery dies and you’re not at home or near an AC port, you need the external charger, which costs a pretty penny, to be able to recharge your system.

One last set of stuff to mention are the lights and the cover for the PS Vita Card slot.  There are two lights on top of the system, next to the card slot that shine when the system is on, charging, or downloading something via Wi-fi.  The boundaries around it are covered in a soft material, making it very easy to open.  I always had to dig my fingernail into the old model’s slot, but I have yet to need it with the new model.  It opens fluidly and very easily.

Handling

Other than testing the battery life, actually handling the system was the most time-consuming task of comparing the new model with the old.  As we picked up the system, we found the lightweight form-factor to be very comfortable to the touch.  The previous weight was gone, and our fingers flew by as we powered the system on and began the setup.  The back of the device is covered in a soft, smooth material that makes it much more comfortable on the fingers.  Being a Japanese system, there were a few things to consider.

The setup process was simple, other than getting used to using Circle for selection and X for going back to the previous option, which is because the system is Japanese.  The first menu that came on-screen was the language selection.  Once we scrolled up and selected English (United States), everything was in English and nothing couldn’t be understood.  It was easy to get everything set up, sign onto the PlayStation Network, update the software, and activate the Memory Card on the system.  The entire process took less than twenty minutes and we were ready to go, aside the fact that all of the Vita bubbles on the Memory Card we used had been taken out of their respective folders.

We previewed The Walking Dead: Season One as our test game for the system.  While the L and R buttons remain the same as in the old model, the other buttons work surprisingly better.  The buttons were very fluid and sensitive.  While the D-Pad and Face Buttons click a little bit louder than the same buttons on the PCH-1000, they were more sensitive to the touch, and putting button inputs is much easier.  When we got to a portion, where we needed to tap the X Button over and over, it came in fluid and I found myself able to get those commands in considerably faster and more fluid on the PCH-2000.

The Home, Start, and Select Buttons have also been improved.  On the old model, to press down on these buttons, you needed to put your finger over them on the actual system and then push down to make them initiate their commands.  With the PCH-2000, however, they’re bigger and fit on the pad of your thumbs more comfortably and slightly stick up, making the process much faster.

The performance of the system and the fluidity of the buttons make the PCH-2000 Experience much easier and less-stressful on your hands, enabling a more comfortable and enjoyable experience, whether you’re racing through Fairhaven in Need for Speed: Most Wanted, or fending off Walkers in The Walking Dead.

One thing I noticed is that, with certain games, the system alters the control scheme.  I tried this with several games and I first noticed this with Dissidia 012: Duodecim Final Fantasy.  When it booted up, the Selection button had switched to Circle, and it even gave prompts in the game with the Circle button as the selection button.  I tried every game on my Vita, and the only two games this happened to were Dissidia 012, God of War: Chains of Olympus and Final Fantasy III.

Overall

The PCH-2000 offers a wide variety of improvements, from more responsive buttons to a more comfortable, lightweight feel as you’re playing and greatly improved battery life.  While the new screen isn’t quite as deep as the OLED and the onboard memory becomes redundant once you insert a Memory Card, those looking for a new Vita can’t go wrong with the PCH-2000 and those looking to replace should carefully consider the benefits and find someone with one to try it, if you can.

The PlayStation Review Network Rates the PCH-2000 a 9/10

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