There's a good reason PS Vita is often referred to as PSP 2.
It addresses the step up Sony's handheld console has needed to make since almost day one.
It's evolving from being the Nintendo DS competitor that didn't quite make it, to an all singing, all dancing touchscreen, motion controlled portable gaming console with tablet and multimedia aspirations thanks to a 5-inch OLED display that puts it up there with smartphones like the HTC Sensation.
The important thing to grasp is that this isn't a revamped PSP, an easy mistake to make when you consider the PlayStation Portable has been made available in five largely identical models since its 2004 debut.
Three of these, the PSP-1000, 2000 and 3000, are basically size revising updates, while the PSP Go aped sliding-case phones to create an even smaller pocket profile (and ditched Sony's proprietary UMD disk format for download only games).
The latest PSP, the E1000 goes one step further with a budget focused strip down removing all but the most basic features to squeeze the last out of it as a budget device.
In retrospect it looks like a series of desperate moves to revise a poorly implemented project.
True the size, price and poor battery life of the original meant it was never going to trouble the DS, but it's more a demonstration of the incredibly changing market over the last few years - most obviously influenced by the iPhone, which has gone from luxury lust gadget to ubiquitous and prominent gaming platform, while also making downloads and micro-payments the norm.
And that is why the PS Vita isn't a new PSP. It's Sony's attempt to create its own space in the portable market. It's definitely not just a phone you can game on, despite the 3G connection.
If you want that then there's Sony Ericcson's PlayStation certified Xperia Play which adds PS buttons but little else you can't do on any other Android phone.
The Vita's also not aimed at the Nintendo end of the spectrum thanks to that high end screen and quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore CPU, the same basic electronic heart you'll find in the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S' A5 chip.
Instead, this is, according to Sony World Wide Studios boss Shuhei Yoshida, a "big gaming experience".
As he puts it, "If you are a very casual person who might just want to kill time as you're waiting for your train, you might not need a dedicated, big game experience. But if you like games, if you really love games, you would want to play the kind of games you like, even on the portable."
There are going to be two models of the Vita come its February 22nd UK release: a WiFi only model at £229 and a 3G enabled £279 version.
The most obvious and unmissable feature on the Vita is that display.
It's incredibly sharp and vivid in action, whether playing a game or watching a video. Even before you get near the thing the image's sharpness sings thanks to 960 × 540 qHD resolution at 220 ppi.
That's a touch smaller than an iPhone 4S' 640×960 and 326 ppi but it's comparable to most high end smartphones and looks crisp and bright.
The display is also a multitouch capacitive touchscreen and while no final browser or eReaders have yet to be shown off by Sony, the combination of CPU, along with the 512MB of RAM and 128MB of VRAM promise a decent enough web experience.
Plus the Vita can multitask applications, while both the PSP and PS3 can already handle multiple browser tabs.
Combine that with the 182 x 18.6 x 83.5mm size and you've got something that, with the right software support, could double up as a decent mini-tablet. Just one with weird controls stuck on either end.
There's also a touch-sensitive trackpad on the back of the machine and it'll be interesting to see how that's made use of.
One of the bigger features Sony has been crowing about is the second analogue stick, meaning this has an almost identical control set up to the PS3's Dualshock control pad.
It might seem like a small thing but the lack of dual controls was a big issue with the previous PSP. Even the once faultless Nintendo have rushed out the hasty 3DS Extended Slide Pad - a slightly embarrassing add on that bolts a second stick to the handheld, and is the kind of about turn that's as good as a double page add announcing "we know we cocked up".
The sticks aren't the only input method. There's also motion control as well gyroscopes, accelerometers and an electronic compass to provide precise motion tracking tracking. This video shows how that can be combined with the front and rear cameras to create some great Augmented Reality games and applications.
The device is also well connected with a 3G service provided by Vodaphone (for the 3G model).
Both models also come with WiFi and Bluetooth. One drawback, however, is the lack of internal storage. Instead you'll have to fork out for proprietary Vita memory cards. There are a range of sizes planned from 2-16GB. There's no price for these but chances are it won't be cheap. Expensive, limited storage is the only stinker in an otherwise good list of features but it could be enough to limit the Vita's potential.
So far, the Vita's mainly been showing off it's gaming potential which is impressive.
We'll go into more detail in the next section but rest assured it redefines what you might expect from mobile gaming.
Angry Bird style games are possible and Sony launched the minis range of bite sized titles to encourage just that (although the £1 and up pricing feels like they've yet to grab the point of small games being cheap).
The Vita however is trying, and succeeding, to be the PS3 you can take with you wherever you go.
Graphically advanced games like Uncharted: Golden Abyss are near PS3 quality on the smaller screen, using rendering and lighting techniques that you would only normally expect to find on big consoles.
The Vita uses a quad core version of the PowerVR Series5XT SGXMP graphics chip as apposed to the dual core version found in the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S and boy does it show.
Video playback is also luminescently pretty, super sharp easy to view at most angles and light levels and free from ghosting.
There is a cost, though: you should, according to Sony, get about 3-5 hours battery life of solid gaming, and five of straight video playback. So portable then, as long as you stay near a plug.
Then there's the other control methods that open up a range options, both of gaming and more practical applications. The multitouch capacitive touchscreen, for example, is pleasingly responsive.
Flicking through menus feels every bit as good as a more expensive tablet. However it's also used in games with sweeps, pinches and taps to play. Any lag or imprecision here would be glaringly obvious, but whether swinging punches in Uncharted or fidgeting through mini-games it proves itself a capable interface.
The rear touch pad is also precise but not quite as easy to use. The issue of course is that you can't see your fingers so the initial contact can be a little off. No problem if you're flicking between menu pages but in-game it can cause confusion and mis-hits as your obscured hand-to-eye lets you down.
The motion control on the other hand is precise. Several games use this to aim: one of which, Little Deviants, actually has you targeting enemies projected into the real world using the Vita's camera, while Uncharted lets you tilt to snipe with scoped weapons.
The ease with which you can pull off headshots shows just how responsive the sensors are. Wipeout 2048 also lets you use the Vita like a steering wheel. Unlike a lot of wafty air steering (Wii, I'm looking at you) this works. Wipeout is known for it's fast tracks, so if this wasn't a viable option it simply wouldn't be playable.
The motion control is also used for the previously mentioned tracking of virtual objects in augmented reality applications. A game called Reality Fighters creates a Street Fighter style beat-'em-up where fighters appear in the view of the front facing camera.
Even without AR cards it's possible move rapidly between viewpoints and track characters with precision as if they existed in three dimensional space. There's a little location creep if you keep doing it but only if you run around like a mad man. Normal wobble as you play has almost no effect. GPS is currently used in several titles to link game objectives to physical locations and it doesn't take much imagination to see how two could be linked with navigation.
The launch games
Unsurprisingly, Sony is pushing the games hard with a strong line up of big names and a range of genres.
The main event is undoubtedly Uncharted: Golden Abyss. This sees Uncharted's matinee treasure hunter, Drake, searching South America for yet more lost gold.
Unlike many handheld tie ins this shares the same high production values of the PS3 series with the same quality motion capture, acting and tech as the original game. Vita's quad core graphics chip shines here producing a level visual flair you almost can't believe is possible on an (almost) pocket -device.
Crucially, though, the Vita game offers something more compared to the PS3 version. You can 'draw' over the landscape to make Drake climb for example. One puzzle even has you taking brass rubbings to find a solution by actually rubbing the screen, while combat has you tapping where you want grenades to land.
This clever use of the technology gives the Vita an edge in the same way that the DS's touchscreen produced experiences you couldn't get anywhere else. It's the same here with touchscreen, rear track pad and motion controls seamlessly rolled into the gameplay.
The best example of this is Little Deviants. Essentially a mini-game compilation, it has you tapping, wiggling and swiping both touch pads to attack or save various monsters. There are also challenges that have you waving and tiling the entire machine to aim at targets or control rolling balls. It's Vita's best game for showing off what it can do.
The 'big game experience' that Sony are keen to get across comes with titles like Resistance: Burning Skies, the Vita version of their WW2 meets aliens shooter. It's about a trad FPS as you can get as you fight mutants with a range of big guns, and even packs in a console quality online multilplayer.
Similarly Unit 13 is a military shooter from the developer behind SOCOM and features the same blend of cover-based shoot outs and customisable guns.
Sports fans are well catered for with FIFA, F1 and Virtua Tennis 4 and the slightly less realistic jet-powered thrills of a PlayStation classic in the shape of Wipeout 2048.
There are also plenty of quirky oddities with things like Escape Plan, a claymation style puzzler that sees you helping little blobby characters avoid buzz saws and electrocution. Soundscapes on the other hand is a minimalist day-glo puzzle platformer that creates music as you play.
There are 12 games for the February 22nd launch with another 37 in production but undated. The mix of the machine's power and adaptable control methods have created a range that covers a wealth of genres familiar to DS, Wii, Xbox 360 and PS3. From what we've seen Vita covers it all.
First impressions are that the PS Vita has great potential. As a gaming console it's impressive: powerful enough to create amazing looking games on par with bigger consoles. And that crucial extra analogue stick ensures playing them isn't compromised.
However, it's also got a versatile range of control methods that can create new and unpredictable experiences. The AR capabilities for example turn it into a portable EyeToy, letting you not only take videogames anywhere but 'project' them in the world around you through the camera view.
Most importantly the price, £229 for the WiFi only model, means it's moderately affordable.Especially when you throw in retail discounts and game bundles.
For what it can do it's a competitively priced but without feeling overly cheap. True it's plastic but it's study and dense to handle.
The buttons and controls have none of the loose rattle you might expect and when you hold it like a tablet, it's not hard to see it functioning as one. Especially with such a pleasing to use touchscreens. The battery life and storage aren't looking so good though. A full charge doesn't give you much and expensive memory cards are definitely a dampener.
Those issues aside, it does seem to have all the gaming angles covered: it can keep the hardcore happy, the young entertained, and let the old join in with its Wii-like intuitive controls. What will be really interesting, however, is to see where Sony take it in terms of non-gaming features. Service like Music Unlimited, Vidzone and things like iPlayer already available on PS3, there's potential for this to be a capable portable media centre. Plus, the touch interface could make web browsing easy.
However, this non-gaming stuff is guess work. Sony are really leaning heavily on the PS Vita as a big gaming machine and have only really shown it off as such. There's been no sign of the finished OS and even the main menu interface - a grid of bubble-like buttons - feels placeholder.
If you're interested in this as a portable gaming console and don't mind carrying a charger around then there's potential - this is an impressively full sized experience in a small box. If you're after more, well, that's still to be decided.