Nintendo 3DS versus Sony PS Vita

We compare the latest generation of portable gaming systems from Nintendo and Sony

December 13, 2011
Nintendo vs Sony boxing

If you’re in the market for a dedicated portable gaming system, your two choices are the Nintendo 3DS and the Sony PS Vita.

There are other platforms such as the Sony Ericsson Xperia play, and a plethora of smartphones and tablet PCs with Angry Birds, though these aren’t really dedicated devices.

With the PS Vita about to launch in Japan (17 December 2011), we decided to take a look at the various strengths and weaknesses of the Nintendo 3DS and Sony PS Vita.

Processing

The PS Vita sports a quad core ARM Cortex A9 processor, and a 4 core SGX543MP4 graphics processor, along with 512MB RAM and 128MB VRAM used by the respective processors.

Comparatively, the 3DS sports what appears to be two ARM11 single core processors running at 233mhz each. This is complemented by a PICA200 GPU running at 200mhz and 128mb RAM, alongside 4MB of VRAM.

Interestingly, despite the lack of data (until the Ed lets me take a screwdriver and hammer to the MyGaming 3DS…), one can compare the vertex performance of the two GPU options.

The PS Vita’s GPU can process 133 million polygons per second, while the 3DS’ graphics chip can only process 15.3 million polygons per second. This is just one aspect of how powerful the respective GPUs are, but it serves as an indication that the PS Vita packs more powerful hardware than the 3DS in terms of raw vertex processing; something one would expect given the 3DS was released over 9 months before the PS Vita’s Japanese launch date.

Going on the available specifications, the PS Vita wins this round. It has a faster CPU with more available cores, 4 times the amount of system RAM and what appears to be a faster GPU; though this last point is up for debate.

Nintendo 3DS

Unique features

Both units are essentially revisions of the previous gaming console rather than new from-the-ground-up offerings. That said, each has a number of unique features.

3DS: The most prominent feature of Nintendo 3DS offering is the glasses free 3D visuals on the upper screen. It also offers dual front-facing cameras capable of recording 3D images, and a player-facing camera capable of capturing 2D images.

2.4GHz Wi-Fi support is also present, while an accelerometer and gyroscope round off the package.

PS Vita: By contrast the PS Vita doesn’t attempt to include a revolutionary screen or revolutionary anything else for that matter, but rather builds on the foundation laid by the PSP. The most notable feature is a rear touchpad, though this is as adventurous as things get.

3G, Wi-Fi, three axis accelerometer and a three axis gyroscope round off the list of new features on the PS Vita.

In terms of “groundbreaking” unique features the 3DS wins here, though if we were comparing the length of feature lists, the PSVita would just about take it.

Gaming

When it comes to the games, both units are backwards compatible with titles in one way or another. The 3DS can accept older Nintendo DS game cards and is compatible with the entire Nintendo DS catalogue of games, though unsurprisingly 3D is not offered with these titles.

The PS Vita is a somewhat more complicated affair. Utilising a new NVG card format for games, the PSVita does not support the original UMD disks that the PSP made use of. However, the PSVita can download PSP, PSOne and PlayStation mini games from the PlayStation Store.

The PS Vita will have access to the PlayStation Network, and does support multiplayer gaming over the internet. The 3DS, however, while supporting online gaming, typically favours a system where users can game against other 3DS users locally. It also has the StreetPass system which allows the device to swap data and info with other 3DS users simply by passing by them on the street (as the name implies.)

While this may work in crowded cities where there are multiple 3DS users on the same train or in the same apartment block, South Africa might not be able to benefit from this fully. Bear in mind that the PS Vita will also have 3G capabilities – while the 3DS is limited to Wi-Fi only.

Since we can’t really judge the quality of the games and how they compare until the PSVita is released, in terms of backwards compatibility the 3DS wins outright thanks to the ease of use with which older games can function on the new console. In terms of multiplayer gaming, the PSVita takes the cake, thanks to its online capabilities.

PS Vita

PS Vita

Comfort

Comfort is quite important when dealing with a handheld console. Having played with the 3DS, I can attest to how uncomfortable it gets during an extended gaming session. However, MyGaming Overlord James who has hands on experience with both devices had this to say:

James: Extended gaming sessions on the 3DS become incredibly uncomfortable, thanks to Nintendo’s classic “make everything square!” design philosophy and awkwardly positioned shoulder buttons.

By contrast, the PS Vita has comfortable rounded edges and is a bit larger, providing more surface area to grip and allowing it to rest comfortably in you palms. The control buttons are within easy reach and the whole experience feels far more organic than when handling the 3DS. For extra points, it has a right analogue stick as standard.

The PS Vita wins on the comfort front.

Conclusion

Which is the better device? Well that depends.

The PSVita is more powerful, and will thus have a longer lifespan; but it will also cost more than the 3DS.

The 3DS by contrast has greater backwards compatibility with games; great if you have a collection of DS titles you don’t quite feel like resigning to the back of the cupboard just yet. If you don’t have a vast collection of games, or don’t consider the 3D feature as anything more than a gimmick, the 3DS might not be for you.

Tags: headline, Nintendo 3DS, PS Vita

Shutterstock is the image partner of MyGaming – technology images can be found here

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