PlayStation Vita Buyers Guide

It’s finally here! If you’re heading out to buy a PlayStation Vita today, or you’re waiting until the weekend, take a look at our breakdown of the Vita and hit the stores informed. We’ve tested out Wi-Fi vs. 3G models, handpicked our five launch essential games, and combed different retailers to give you a solid breakdown for this week.

3G vs Wi-Fi – Which is right for you?

It ultimately depends on how much you want to be connected to PlayStation Network. If you mostly use a smartphone for tweeting and keeping up with friends, Wi-Fi may be just fine for you. You can use Wi-Fi hotspots to log into PSN, sync trophies, check Near, and make purchases from the PS Stores.

If you’re more interested in a constant connection to PlayStation Network while you’re at work or riding the bus, that’s where the advantages of 3G come into play. With 3G set up, you can play on PSN and upload game scores and data over the network. It simply provides most of the options that Wi-Fi does, only you’re not tethered to a hotspot—unless, of course, you’re downloading a file that’s more than 20 megabytes.

Keep in mind that unlike a big budget gadget like the iPad, which has a $130 price difference between Wi-Fi and 3G models, it’s a $50 difference between Vita units. However, like the iPad, you’ll need a data plan, which in the US, is exclusively through AT&T, and costs $15 per month for 250 megabytes or $30 per month for 3GB. The cost also includes free AT&T Wi-Fi Hotspot access, so if you’re within range of a Starbucks, you’re covered. After the first 30 days of using 3G service, AT&T will send you a PSN voucher good for a download of Super Stardust Delta.

We got SIM cards for our office Vitas nearly two weeks ago, and we’ve tinkered around with the 3G functionality in public, mostly during morning commutes. From our experience, the 3G usage is rather sparse in nature. We logged into PSN to upload game scores, sync trophies, check Near, and do other bandwidth-light activities. In a little under two weeks, we’ve uploaded 3 megabytes and downloaded around 25 (including a movie trailer, just to test it out).

The 3G feature is nice, but if you live in a densely populated urban area, these features are a perk more than a necessity, at least until we see a second wave of Vita titles that enable 3G in more uses than data uploads. The bonus for city dwellers is a constantly connected experience over 3G that means you won’t have to login at every hotspot to send your scores.

It’s a different story if you’re in the suburbs or in a rural area with less Wi-Fi access. In that case, 3G may work better for you and be worth the monthly cost.

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