I've spent a lot of time with my PlayStation Vita since the 15th. It's a great handheld, probably my favorite to date. And the launch titles were great for me. (Uncharted, Wipeout, Hot Shots Golf, Rayman, Super Stardust Delta, Escape Plan and Little Deviants)
The PlayStation Vita is perfect in terms of it's hardware. Some software issues are annoying, but those can be fixed later. I'll talk about those in a bit.
Skip to *** if you want to just read a quick 'sell', or recommendation for people.
Let me just quickly say that Sony made the right choice in ditching the UMD Drive. It means losing backwards compatibility with them sure, but the UMD drive would have held this handheld back from being what it is now. I love b/c and wish for all hardware possible to have full b/c, but I can understand and appreciate the fact that it is not here on the PSVita. That said, digital b/c should be full. Not all games are supported at the moment, but some not on the official list already can be copied to the PSVita from a PS3 and then work just fine.
The handheld is LIGHT. I mean, I knew it was light from hearing about it from others online, but I had no idea how light it really would be. It doesn't heat up at all either, so the hardware isn't too big for it's britches like my iPod, which will heat up really quickly with even games with little graphical prowess. ): Which makes me afraid to use those games on it.
The battery depends on what you do. Like an iPod, or any device like this. The more power used, the faster the battery drains. Uncharted will drain the battery pretty quick, while Plants vs Zombies can go for hours more. I think I get an average of about 6-7 hours. I honestly don't keep track. The PSVita will last a really long time in standby though, I was surprised how long it can just sit there in standby.
The touch screen works wonderfully, and the user interface is designed perfectly for it. It's very responsive and adds a lot of options. In the right developer hands, it'll do great things to enhance gameplay and make things more intuitive. The rear touch is the same. It's surprising how easy it is to use to hit things on screen from the rear touch. And like the touch screen has tons of potential.
The PSVita has sixaxis as well, which is tilting controls. Which is great, the use in Uncharted to help aim is extremely intuitive and enhances the gunplay. While the sixaxis also allows for more traditional tilt controls for steering like in Wipeout.
The 5'' OLED is like nothing I've ever seen before, it is one of the most beautiful screens I have ever laid eyes upon. Probably the most beautiful. You must get it into your hands to really understand what I'm saying. The colors are so vivid and the size is worth it for a handheld that's not quite pocket sized.
The analog sticks are fantastic, they do take some getting used to because they stop sooner than say the PlayStation 3's Dualshock 3 controllers or even the 360's controller. But once you get used to it, they work fantastically and as you'd expect. And as most gamers know, 2 analog sticks is a must for a lot of games. Camera controls have never been better on a handheld. The dead zone is dramatically reduced from the Dualshock 3 as well (the dead zone is how long it takes before the movement of the stick registers).
The d-pad and face buttons have a nice clicky nature to them, instead of the mushiness of the PlayStation Portable buttons. Which I like a lot more, most seem to agree. It lets you really know when you're making a proper press. The L/R buttons are less clicky than than the PSP buttons but they work better from my experience.
And the start, select and PlayStation buttons all have the right push. Although take some getting used to because they're not raised at all.
The design of the device as a whole is simply beautiful. It is a beautiful device to look at. It really is.
Now on to the software positives. The lock screen is beautiful and the touch interface works great for it. You can set backgrounds on each different page and the lock screen. I have 5 pages currently. I think it goes up to around 8 pages total. It all depends where you place your icons.
It comes pre-installed with Welcome Park a 'game' to introduce you to the PSVita's various features (cameras, front and rear touch, microphone). It's pretty cool and comes with trophy support.
Think of the UI of iOS (if you're familiar with it). Instead of it being left to right, with a quick menu on bottom. It's up and down, with all opened applications to the right. Once you learn it, it's quick and fantastic.
Each game and application has a 'Live Area', which shows an icons for searching via the browser, checking the digital manual (most retail games don't come with physical manuals, which is a huge annoyance and shame), and a refresh button. Then there's the button to start the application/game, and around that are quick links. Which can be quick links to certain features in a game (Uncharted has a quick link to Black Market, Hot Shots Golf has a quick link to the Daily Tournaments), links to the developers website, links to the PlayStation Store for DLC (or to buy a full game with a demo's live area), and things like that. It's quite brilliant if I do say so myself. And the games have a button section which shows you data on friends and yourself in regards to the game. For example, it'll show when you (and friends) unlock trophies, accomplish certain goals, start the game for the first time and when you buy it (or download the demo).
Remote Play is great, but at present there aren't very many games that support it. Remote Play allows you to use your PlayStation 3 through a home network or through the internet. Letting you check the PS Store on PSN, play games, and even use your PlayStation Eye. All PSone Classics from PlayStation Store can be played via remote play. Being able to put PSone titles on your PSVita is being worked on, so that won't be much use then. The few games that do support it (All PixelJunk PSN releases, Lair, among others), really show off the potential of it. It works much better on PSVita than it did on the PSP. So I hope that Sony figures out a way to retroactively add Remote Play to all games for PS3. Or at least gets more developers to include the feature in new games.
Now on to the negatives. The startup process is broken. Not broken in that it doesn't work, but broken in that it's more complicated because of an oversight. It asks you to sign into your PSN ID, but you can't because you haven't hooked your PSVita up to Wifi yet. So it then forces you into a temporarily new account since the PSVita requires you have an account apparently.
Near doesn't seem to want to manually update your location data 99.9% of the time. You have to go to Skyhook and added your Mac Address and wait a week or two before it will work, if it doesn't when you get it. It's a fantastic idea. The general premise is that it will leave a digital 'foot print' from your location (or your routers in wi-fi models case, 3G models that we don't have here in Canada yet use GPS). You can also see the foot prints of other people who have done the same. Finding how many people were around that area, and also finding gifts and leaving gifts. I've found 2 gifts for games I don't have. You're unable to download gifts for games you don't own. Kind of nudging you to check it out and see if it's something interesting.
There's no way to turn off system sounds. (there is a way to turn off system music) So it's an oversight here as well I think. It would have been nice to be able to hide certain applications from sight. Once you're done with Welcome Park, there's not much to do with it but move it around to be out of your way.
The download list doesn't have any filter, so if you're a regular buyer from PSN already then you'll have a long list of PS3, PSP, PSMinis, etc to shift through. And when you start to buy PSVita games on there, and continue to buy things on PS3 or PSP it will be really hard to easily get to your PSVita supported content.
Some PSP games can't be downloaded directly to the PSVita, but a lot can be downloaded to the PS3 and then copied and work fine. Same with some PS Minis. Not that way for PSone Games. *Edit* More PSP and Minis games have been added to the store natively. And PSone Classics are supported now, but not all are on the PS Vita store. /edit
All of these software issues can be fixed later, so they don't really hurt the handheld in my opinion and what it is now is fantastic.
Added Info: Since I wrote this there have been a few firmware updates (as of now it's at firmware 2.0). This has added the ability to use the d-pad and buttons to navigate the OS for the most part. Near doesn't support it, and a few others don't still. They've added an email application. Changed around some things for the better.
***I think if you enjoy games with a little more depth (Uncharted, Wipeout), but also want those smaller/quick experiences (Escape Plan, Plants vs Zombies) then the PSVita is for you. It offers up games for both kinds of players out there, as well as those inbetween (like me) who enjoy a lot from both sides. You can have the fun touch games, and the awesome console type experiences here and on a big beautiful screen.