We've been bombarded with so many software updates from Sony over the past few years, that we've forgotten what it's like to get an update that actually makes the user experience significantly better. Firmware 2.00 for Vita is one of those rare transformative updates that makes using the system so much better.
I'm a big fan of the Vita OS, thanks to its WebOS-esque card system. In theory, the card system makes it easy for you to switch between ongoing applications. At release, Vita could run a game and a few background processes, such as Skype. With 2.00, you'll be able to have numerous programs open, all without ever stopping your game. I could quickly jump out of a game of Plants vs Zombies, read a few tweets, check my email, browse the web, and jump back into the game without a hitch.
The internet browser that originally shipped with the Vita was terrible. It struggled to render even the simplest of sites, ironically choking on graphically-intense sites like PlayStation's own official website. The new browser is fast, responsive, and renders pages nearly-instantly. We loaded up Shacknews without a hitch.
Not only is the browser much better at rendering HTML5, it also takes far less memory on the Vita. Before 2.00, you couldn't have much else running on the Vita when you opened the browser. Now, you'll be able to play a game and have the browser open--pretty crucial if you're looking up trophy requirements.
The new Vita browser is terrific
Firmware 2.00 adds a brand new icon to your handheld: e-mail! There are a few things I like about this app. Firstly, it's incredibly easy to setup. If you have a Yahoo or Gmail account, you simply type in your username and password, and it will automatically download all your messages. When you have the app suspended, you'll see a notification telling you how many new messages are in your inbox. And, you'll even get system notifications when a new e-mail comes in. It's pretty nifty.
However, the client itself is quite lacking. Vita doesn't support HTML mail, meaning many messages simply won't render. Some attachments, like images, can be downloaded to your system. But many others (like the .doc pictured above) will not work. It's nice to see Sony slowly making Vita more like a smartphone, but this will likely be a feature few will use regularly.
The e-mail client is easy to set up, but lacks features
One of the biggest nuisances of Vita is the need to use a proprietary USB cable. Before 2.00, you'd always need to carry the cable around if you wanted to transfer content between your PC and Vita. The firmware update introduces the ability to make wireless transfers. So long as your computer and Vita are running on the same wireless network, you'll be able to easily establish a handshake between the two devices and start transferring data.
The process is incredibly easy, but do note that you may need to update the Content Manager Assistant on your PC before getting it to work.
Wireless content transfers are easy to use
These tricks are no longer a secret
Sony has always struggled to clearly communicate many of the features hidden in its hardware. Did you know you can set upscaling options for PSone games, for example? With firmware 2.00, you'll get one-time notices that tell you some nifty tricks on how to make the best out of your Vita. For example, in the image, you'll see how launching a PSP game will tell you how to access the Vita's secret menu for PSP games.
Near, Vita's confusing social network, is made a little less confusing this time around. Now, you'll actually find out what Near can do. And, the updated UI is far easier to understand. Go! Find new friends and download location-based gifts without having to scratch your head.
Near makes a little bit more sense with this update
In spite of all these updates, perhaps the one people are most excited about are the features exclusive to PlayStation Plus members. Yes, starting today, you'll get access to the Vita Instant Game Collection as part of the $50 annual membership fee. However, there are a few other nifty features you can take advantage of.
So long as your system is in Sleep mode (not fully turned off), you'll be able to schedule automatic trophy transfers, for example. You'll also be able to transfer data to and from 1GB of dedicated cloud storage. Unsurprisingly, this space is reserved exclusively for save data (pictured above). However, I would've loved to be able to transfer pictures, MP3s, etc. onto that space as well.
Vita 2.00 is a much improved experience over the launch system. While an updated operating system is unlikely to make gamers want to buy the system all of a sudden, there's a lot more reason to be excited about owning a Vita. In conjunction with the PlayStation Plus Instant Game Collection, there's never been a better time to have Sony's latest handheld system.
PlayStation Plus members get cloud storage