Pound products have been a bit of a mixed bag – some have been excellent but equally some have been appalling and others have been, well, meh. Walking into PoundWorld today I say an optical mouse – for 1 pound. Surely not?
Well, it’s an average size, probably more suitable for a laptop than your desktop. The top and bottom are black plastic, wheras the sides are transparent. It has a USB connection, transparent scroll wheel and it glows red when in use (making use of the red LED light used as the optical sensor). In fact, digging out a Saitek mouse I bought some time ago I realised that they must have both come out of the same mould – the design of the mouse is near identical (I can only find one minor difference between them, right down to the dimensions). Sadly what was poured into that mould wasn’t the same – whereas the Saitek has a nice rubberised coating over the top and sides, the PoundWorld equivalent doesn’t. In fact the plastic that it’s made of feels cheap. The Saitek has a rubber click wheel which glows white, whereas the pound version is again just made of a cheap plastic which glows red, but only when moving the mouse. The internals look different too.
Packaging wise it’s held in a bag within a small box (not sure the reason for bag to be honest).
But, is it any good? In use, there was no difference between the cheap mouse and the Saitek equivalent. Or, indeed any other mouse. It was precise and felt good under the hand. The button are more audible than most, though, so don’t buy this to use in a library!
Summary of 800dpi Precision Optical Mouse
Yes, it’s got a few bad points – no rubberised coating, a poor click wheel, loud buttons, cheap constructions – but, more importantly, it works well and is an absolute bargain. If you need something to throw into a laptop bag and use occasionally, there is no reason to pay any more.
As well as the Vita itself, I also ordered the official Sony “starter kit” for the console. This is, really, a bunch of basic accessories that you’d have hoped might have come with it. It includes a screen protector, cleaning cloth, adjustable wrist strap, 8 game cartridge case, pouch and console case. What I really purchased it for were the last 2 items.
The case is a strong wrap-around hard case that the Vita connects into (through the holes in the bottom corners of the device). The top of the case can be turned back and there’s a little section which sticks up allowing you to prop the Vita onto it for hands-free video watching. The pouch is a soft every-day protector, with a little section to allow for a headphone cable to come out of.
The rest are what you’d expect. The game holder is just a cheap plastic case that the game cartridges snap into – there’s also room for what I assume is 2 memory cards. The cloth is just that but with a logo on it, much as with the wrist strap. The screen protector went on easily and one of the sections that you peel over and discard extends over the right hand side controls, allowing you to align it up really well before removing the backing – an excellent idea.
Images of the 3 larger items can be seen in the gallery below, along with the Vita propped up using the case.
Why Sony couldn’t have included, at the very least, the screen protector, cleaning cloth and wrist strap with the Vita I don’t know – these probably don’t even cost a pound to produce. What you’re left with, therefore, is the majority of the kit cost being down to the case and pouch.
Having said all of that, these are all useful items to have. I got mine from Play.com for £18.
Summary of PlayStation Vita Starter Kit
Everything is good quality – as you’d expect from Sony. But, really? To stump up extra for a cheap wrist strap, cloth and screen protector?
I have in my hands Sony’s latest portable console, the PlayStation Vita. There are 2 versions available – 3G and wi-fi. The latter, as you can imagine, is cheaper and is the version that I have1. It was launched in Japan back in December and today to the rest of the world.
I pre-ordered it from Amazon as it came with a free memory card. As usual (and when will Sony learn the users hate this) Sony have created their own format for memory cards – it’s basically a modified Micro SD card (and no, a Micro SD card won’t work) but a lot, lot more expensive. 4GB costs £15, 8GB costs £28 and £16GB costs £40.
So, what does the Vita offer over its previous incumbent, the PlayStation Portable (PSP)? An awful lot, to be honest. Sony have combined pretty much gaming input method into one device. We have a 5″ touchscreen on the front and a touchpad on the back. There are 12 buttons, a D-pad, 2 analogue sticks, a microphone, Sixaxis motion sensing and an electronic compass. There are also front and rear VGA cameras (so intended for gaming rather than taking snaps). It weighs 260g and measures 84 x 182 x 17 mm.
Connectivity, other than the aforementioned wifi (b/g/n band) and/or 3G, includes Bluetooth. As well as the memory card slot there’s a Vita Card slot – this is a larger card that games will come on. A proprietary multi-use connector, used along with a provided cable, allows you to connect the Vita to your PS3 or PC. You also charge your unit with this cable. There is also an “accessories” slot on top – what this is for is yet to be detailed. Media wise, along the top of the device is a power button and a volume control. There are also stereo speakers and a headphone socket.
Back to that screen – it’s a vibrant 960 x 544 resolution OLED screen and it truly is stunning – when anybody has seen my Vita that’s usually the first thing they comment on. Power wise the 4 core CPU and 4 core GPU really shows, with many commenting that it nearly has the power of the PS3 in this compact unit.
I didn’t buy any games initially as I wasn’t keen on the few that are currently available. However, I’ve started to download demos from the PlayStation Store and the quality is outstanding. I’ve even bought Grand Theft Auto : Vice City Stories, which is a PSP game – these emulate fine on the Vita.
The XMB front end of the PS3 has been dumped in favour of a more touch-friendly GUI named LiveArea. This allows you to swipe up and down through your apps (each shown as a shaking sphere, although the quality of the images are not brilliant) – left and right then allows you to scroll through any that are running. Small icons for each running application is also shown in a status bar at the top of the screen. I haven’t, as yet, read the manual but after a while I worked my way around it – working out how to close running programs was the hardest thing to work out for myself! All-in-all it works well.
The device is quite free of bundled software that you might not want – in fact I’d wished they’d included some videos and music for demonstration purposes. There are social media programs waiting for you in the PlayStation store, including Facebook and Twitter. To get you used to the various control methods the Vita does come with “Welcome Park”, a series of games and fun applications that will make full use of the input controls.
The camera software is basic but the pictures are remarkably good for a simple VGA camera – the colours are crisp and the macro facility particularly good. Without a flash, though, darker pictures are noisy. Today was quite overcast so I haven’t been able to get any get photos – as soon as I can I’ll add them onto this review. However, they Video recording capability is only added by a system update that will be waiting for you when you first turn the device on. My biggest issue is what to do with media once you have it on the Vita – for example you can’t send a photo to any of the social applications and Facebook doesn’t seem to have an upload facility. So you can take photos, but then what? The only saving grace is the Twitter app, which does allow uploads from the Vita.
It’s a shame that the Vita doesn’t appear to recognise external media servers as the PS3 does. I have a NAS on the network which contains photos, music and video – the PS3 can see this and read from it. It would have been a nice touch for the Vita to have been able to do the same.
I’ve not had a chance to try out these features fully but connection between the Vita and a PS3 is possible. Some games will interact across devices – you can even (and I have tried this bit so I know it works) connect to your PS3 and operate it from the Vita. This is brilliant but what you can do is limited – you can’t play games on the PS3 for instance. However, as well as doing this on a private network you can also enable this over the internet. As the iPlayer, ITV Player, etc, are all accessible this is a great way to view content remotely. It’s such a shame that Sony didn’t think to have iPlayer, etc, as applications for the Vita – this would have really set it apart from the struggling 3DS.
The battery doesn’t last long – a few hours of gaming at most. Power saving options consist of changing the screen timeout and nothing much else – considering battery time is an issue you’d have hoped that more of an effort in this department would have been made. BE wary too that if you put the Vita into standby using the top power button then it will disconnect Wifi, even if you’re downloading something at the time. The best thing to do is leave the screen on and let it timeout that way – the Wifi remains active that way (this was rather essential for the 1.5GB Vice City download).
In the box you get a lot of leaflets, but these are related to health & safety and warranties. A small quick start guide is the only printed manual – the main user guide is on the Vita itself (or rather it’s not – it’s via a browser link, so you can’t view the manual unless you’re online). You also get a cable that plugs into the multi-user connector and then terminates to USB – you can then plug this into your PS3 or a PC. You can also charge via USB as well. Alternatively, they also provide a USB mains charger as well. To compete with the 3DS they also include some Augmented Reality cards – the games that use these are free via a provided code. But that’s it – you’ll need to splash out some more money if you want a memory card, screen protector or even a wrist strap.
The quality of the hardware is beyond reproach – it really is a thing of beauty. From the silver circle around the thumbpad to the quality of the materials it’s a well built, sturdy device. I never owned a PSP so this is my first time around a portable Sony console, so I’ve a lot more to discover – expect more updates over time. As for the name Vita I’m yet to be convinced. It sounds like a breakfast bar.
Summary of Sony PlayStation Vita
Brilliant! The hardware is fantastic and although some of the software is still a bit rough but I expect that to improve over successive updates. It’s probably only one for avid gamers, but the quality of those games and what the Vita can deliver means that they will be very happy indeed. It’s such a shame that Sony have to resort to proprietary memory cards, connectors and penny pinching when it comes to the content.
Reviewed by David Artiss on 22nd February 2012.
if I’m out and about and need to get the Vita online I can always turn my phone into a mobile wifi hotspot and connect that way [↩]
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Before I start I should really point out that I’m a rarity. I don’t mind Jar Jar Binks. Having said that my daughter doesn’t either – she finds the young “Annie” far more irritating.
So, having put that into context, I don’t mind The Phantom Menace. I do think it’s the weakest of the Star Wars films but not to the extent that I think many do. The story sags at times with little happening and some of the dialogue, hardly sparkling in any of the films, is particularly poor in this one – “are you brain dead?”
This 3D release was the first opportunity for my daughter to see Star Wars at the cinema and she loved the experience. The 3D added a bit to it, but not a huge amount. As it’s been added on it’s not as good as something filmed in 3D in the first place – indeed, a lot of the 3D seemed fuzzy and washed out at times. It also seemed to me that the 3D got better the more CGI the scene was – by the time we get to The New Hope I suspect the 3D will be pretty poor all round. What this meant was that scenes with actors in, therefore, were pretty flat – the spectacle of the 3 way fight with Darth Maul 3D could have been amazing but was one of the least convincing 3D scenes in the entire film.
Some of the best 3D was the opening scrawl – the stars had a real distance to them giving a real feeling that you were staring out into space. Equally the space battles (because of the aforementioned reason that they pretty much completely CGI) had a similar feeling of depth to it
However, it was telling that the best 3D of the night was in the trailer for The Hobbit.
The only modification to this film that I noticed was the replacement of the puppet Yoda with the CGI version.
It’s not the fault of the film but the prices for watching a 3D film are ridiculous – nearly £20 for an adult and child. And that’s before drinks and popcorn (a small of each cost a total of nearly £7). There’s an extra amount to pay for 3D films, even though they’re using the same equipment to project it. And you pay extra for the glasses. I wonder if those seeing The Artist get a reduction on the standard price because it lacks sound and colour? The complaint is that piracy is killing the cinema – I think it’s the outrageous prices. But that’s a moan for another time!
Summary of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace 3D
It’s Star Wars! It’s at the cinema! Sadly it’s not the strongest of the franchise but, ignoring Jar Jar, it’s still worth seeing. The 3D makes it different but it’s not brilliant.