The portable gaming market is now unrecognisable compared to the PSP’s launch in 2004 — smartphones with cheap casual games rule, and although the Nintendo 3DS has been flaunting its 3D party trick for some time now, hardcore gamers have been left twiddling their thumbs. Until now. Drum roll please for the PlayStation Vita – the handheld that wants to save portable gaming…

Sony PlayStation Vita – Design

Despite looking like an aged camera-toting PSP, the Vita feels much more luxurious. It's heavy enough to feel premium but light enough to prevent arm-ache when you play. Its twin analogues sticks are perfect for console-style gaming, and although we'd have preferred triggers, its shoulder buttons feel natural enough at the end of your index fingers.

Sony's tradition of proprietary peripherals sadly continues however, with a custom USB/charging port and overpriced 4GB (£18) and 16GB (£45) proprietary memory cards, which most games require.

Sony PlayStation Vita – Dual touchscreens

On top of its traditional controls, the Vita has a touchscreen on the front and a touchpad on the back. The former is used for navigating menus, web surfing and some in-game controls, the latter for gaming only. The one downside is that you’re forced to use touch controls in situations where the hardcore gamer might prefer to opt for the real thing.

Sony PlayStation Vita – Display and power

The Vita's 5in 220ppi OLED display produces sharp, punchy pictures. Movies look lovely, but the real thrill is the gaming graphics — the four-core CPU and GPU make this a real powerhouse, leaving Nintendo's 3DS cowering away in the corner. All that oomph comes at the expense of battery life though – you’ll get five hours max when gaming.

Sony PlayStation Vita – Game lineup

We've played 14 of the Vita's 33 strong launch titles and are yet to find a duff one. Standout titles include the graphically stunning Uncharted: Golden Abyss (read our Uncharted: Golden Abyss review) and the delightfully quirky Gravity Rush, a Japanese title which features a young female amnesiac and a gravity altering cat team up against blob monsters.

Turning your office desk into a battlefield with the AR-based Reality Fighters is also an impressive example of how the Vita's camera can supplement the gaming experience.

Sony PlayStation Vita – Extras

The Vita packs in a whole host of social features including Near (a service which lets you see what nearby Vita users are playing), and Party which lets you chat and text with other PSN gamers. Browsing is also a pleasant experience with smooth scrolling and pinch-to-zoom action, although page rendering could be a little snappier.

Sony PlayStation Vita – Verdict

The PlayStation Vita is the portable console that hardcore gamers have been waiting for. It trumps the Nintendo 3DS and smartphone competition in raw power, graphics and quality of titles, while the dual analogue sticks and rear touchpad controls provide lots of room for future innovation. It may be pricey, but for proper gaming on the move, the Vita is in a league of its own.

Stuff says... 

Sony PlayStation Vita review

Pricey console, pricey accessories and pricey games, but for ‘proper’ gaming on the move the Vita is simply unbeatable