PSP and PS Vita Side by Side

How do the two Sony handhelds compare?

The PlayStation Portable (PSP) and PlayStation Vita were two of Sony's attempts to break into the handheld video game console market. They released in Japan in 2004 and 2011, respectively. What's the difference between them? We break it down.

Sony discontinued the PSP in 2014. The PS Vita was discontinued in 2019.

PSP vs. PS Vita From the Front

PSP vs PS Vita - Front View
Niko Silvester

At first glance, the PS Vita looks a lot bigger than the PSP, but it's really not that much of a difference. Sure, it is bigger. It's actually a little bit slenderer than the PSP-2000 (that's the silver one in the photo) and it's definitely heavier. Overall, though, it doesn't feel too bulky, just more substantial than the PSP.

In terms of what's actually on the front of the device, you can see the controls are mostly the same, with the D-pad and shape buttons being in more or less the same locations on both devices. The speakers have been moved lower down, while the volume and a couple of other buttons were moved off the face. The big differences are three: first, there's a second analog stick on the PS Vita. Yay! Not only that, but these are actual sticks and much more comfortable to use than the PSP's nub. Second, there's the front camera, fairly unobtrusive near the shape buttons. And finally, look at the size of that screen! It's not hugely bigger than the PSP screen, but it's a definite increase, and with the better resolution it looks far superior.

PSP vs. PS Vita from the Top

PSP vs PS Vita - Top View
PSP vs PS Vita - Top View. Niko Silvester

As mentioned, the PS Vita is thinner than the PSP (that's a PSP-2000 in the photo). It's not a huge difference, but you can feel it when holding both of them. You can also see the various other buttons and inputs are shuffled around quite a bit. The volume buttons are on the top of the PS Vita instead of on the face, and the power button is there, too. Moving the power button was a good idea. Some people complained about accidentally turning off their PSP in the middle of a game because the power switch was right where your right hand tends to rest when holding it for long periods of time. That's not a problem with the PS Vita. Also on top of the PS Vita are the game card slot (left) and an accessory port (right).

The headphone jack is still on the bottom, but now it's a regular jack and not the dual purpose thing the PSP had. The memory card slot and input for the USB/charging cable are also on the bottom. Unlike the PSP, the sides of the PS Vita have no buttons, inputs, or controls, meaning there's nothing interfering with your grip.

PSP vs. PS Vita from the Back

PSP vs PS Vita - Back View
PSP vs PS Vita - Back View. Niko Silvester

There's not a huge amount to look at on the back of the PSP and PS Vita. Really, there are only four things to note. One, the absence of a UMD (Universal Media Disc) drive on the PS Vita. The Vita ditches that technology for cartridges and digital downloads instead. Two, there's a big touchpad on the back of the PS Vita, although it was mostly a gimmick and underutilized by game developers. Three, there's another camera on the PS Vita. It's bigger and more noticeable than the front camera, but still relatively unobtrusive. And four, the PS Vita has nice little finger-grip areas. One thing missing in the PSP re-design was the sculpted shape of the back on the PSP-1000, which was perfect for gripping. These differences make the PS Vita more comfortable to hold that the PSP-2000 or -3000.

PSP vs. PS Vita Game Packaging

PSP vs PS Vita - Game Cases
Niko Silvester

The PS Vita game packaging is quite a bit smaller than PSP game packaging. It's the same width, but thinner and shorter. It kind of looks like doll-sized PS3 game packaging.

PSP vs. PS Vita Game Media

PSP vs PS Vita - Game Media
Niko Silvester

You can see here that the games themselves are also considerably smaller for the PS Vita. Those cards are even smaller than Nintendo DS carts. But there's a lot of wasted space inside the box.

PSP vs. PS Vita Game Memory

PSP vs PS Vita - Memory Cards
Niko Silvester

Finally, here's a picture of a PSP memory stick and a PS Vita memory card. Yes, the PS Vita cards are tiny. And they have four times the capacity of the PSP card. (If you're wondering about the scale, a PSP memory stick duo/pro duo is about an inch by half-an-inch in size.) If you have more than one of these, you need some sort of case or box to put them in, because think how easily they could be lost.

This could be a good argument for getting the biggest-capacity memory card you can afford, so you don't have to juggle them and risk losing one.