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Game for more

Six years. It’s been that long since Sony first launched the PlayStation Portable that delivered console style gaming with a vast library of mini-disc format games that you could carry with you on the move. Cut to 2012, and portable gaming has changed, and how! With casual gaming ruling smart-phone charts and tablets and phones pushing out enough pixels to be mean gaming machines themselves, just how much space is left for the seemingly anachronistic PlayStation Vita?

Think of how much gaming firepower a premium smartphone packs in, and you realise the Vita isn’t hugely portable by any modern standard. But it is sleek, I’ll give it that, and the build of the device is sturdy enough to let the kids have a go at the new toy. You did buy it for them, didn’t you? The curvy oval shape of the PSP returns, and this baby measures over 7-in from end to end!

It’s a device that certainly won’t go unnoticed — the massive 5-in OLED display has seen to that. This is the kind of screen that elicits superlatives — not only is the touchscreen extremely responsive but it pops with rich colours and gorgeous in-game details as well.

Just as well, since the touchscreen is the primary method of input outside of games. Flanking the screen are two analogue sticks, a camera plus the familiar D-pad and the traditional PlayStation buttons. Two analogue sticks are plenty fun during games, allowing far more accurate control but they also stick out of the Vita’s surface in a somewhat ungainly fashion. What’s interesting is that Sony’s kitted the Vita with a rear touchpad to allow you to interact with the console without crowding the screen with your fingers. It doesn’t see too much use but it has definite potential.

Under the hood beats hardware that rivals the best in the business, with a quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore CPU and the PowerVR Series5XT SGXMP+ chip providing the processing and graphical chops to handle all of the Vita’s launch titles with consummate ease. Pity that I didn’t really take to the Vita’s new menu system — while the large circular icons are easy to use, it just isn’t fitting for a device packing such power. It almost comes across as…kiddish.

But let’s face it, gaming is the real reason you’ve read so far, isn’t it? Among the 20+ launch titles, Uncharted: Golden Abyss is the clear star of the lineup, and playing it on the Vita feels very natural and involving, almost at a level comparable to the console version of this game. Some others are hit-and-miss but you have to give it to the Vita for bringing a console-level experience to a handheld. Sure, the iPhone and iPad fare well but their size — too small or too ungainly — becomes an issue for extended gameplay. The Vita nails it on this front. The pricing is a letdown though — at nearly Rs 20,000 for the base model and with games starting at Rs 2199, not to mention pricey proprietary memory cards to extend memory, the Vita is a downright pricey proposition.

• Rating: 8/10

• Price: Rs 19,990 (Wi-Fi), Rs 24,990 (Wi-Fi + 3G)

• URL: http://bit.ly/wAHaYm

Playing it smarter

If you’re one of the many who snagged a PlayBook during its recent price drops, you’re in luck. With the release of PlayBook OS 2.0, RIM has plugged a number of gaping holes in the PlayBook’s portfolio and added some features that will breathe new life into the otherwise well-specced tablet. With 2.0, the PlayBook finally gets a calendar and email client integrated with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, and the Bridge App that earlier let you sync up with your BlackBerry contacts and email now adds remote control functionality, so you can control your tablet via Bluetooth from your Blackerry smartphone. Social integration with the new Calendar and Contacts apps is pretty neat as well.

Perhaps the most vaunted feature in 2.0 is the inclusion of the integrated Android App Player for running ported apps from Android on the PlayBook. You get these apps from the AppWorld just like other PlayBook apps, but for now, one can’t really see too many well known Android apps. A good dose of Android apps could change the game for the PlayBook, and finally give this little power-packed tablet its due.

• URL: http://bit.ly/AzLZJl