If there's one glaring omission from the design of the PlayStation Vita, it's provision for a video output. While the notion of running games designed for a handheld on an HDTV may not appeal to many, the ability to capture footage or live-stream Vita gameplay is a highly attractive option to YouTube fans, bloggers and games journalists alike, so it was with much interest that we noted the arrival of a new product that adds video output to any Vita, with the option to buy a pre-modified, brand new handheld.Available from Japanese site 3DSvideocapture.com (yes, they'll also mod Nintendo's handheld too), the upgrade isn't cheap - we're talking total costs in the region of 200, notincluding the handheld itself. Alternatively you can spend around 300 in total if you buy a brand-new unit direct from the site (though beware custom fees).It's clearly quite an investment then, and it's worth pointing out that it's not the most flexible solution either. In common with previous 3DS video-out mods, image data is piped out of the Vita via USB rather than HDMI (in contrast to the custom hardware we used for ourStranger's Wrath, Need for Speed: Most Wanted and Assassin's Creed features), so if you did simply want to connect your handheld to your HDTV, you'd need to channel the signal through a PC - not exactly ideal.However, it is the only video-out solution available to potential Vita broadcasters, so we put the whole purchase procedure to the test, ordering the upgrade from the website, paying via PayPal, shipping the unit to Japan (via Royal Mail's "International Signed For" service - about 12) and then sitting back, hoping that our beloved handheld wouldn't get lost in the post. After about ten days, we received a DHL shipping notification that our Vita was on the way back to the UK, with the package arriving three days later. Opening up the box, we found our unit returned in excellent condition, with the handheld now sporting a small USB port on the base of the unit, to the left of the charging port and beneath the product barcode.
"The mod is clearly geared towards video capture on PC - the USB connection ensures there's no way to directly interface the Vita to an HDTV for example."

Despite the inclusion of what must be a pretty intricate internal modification, our Vita was returned to the UK in pristine condition - with the addition of a USB 2.0 port on the underside of the unit.

A very poorly translated instruction manual clued us in on where to download the driver and viewer software. Once a product key is input (the key is tied to a serial number on the USB board implanted in your Vita), you're away. First impressions aren't particularly promising, but only because the software defaults to an interlaced 960x544 resolution, effectively murdering the image quality. The viewer software itself - at the moment at least - only supports Japanese, but it was easy enough to find the resolution settings, where 960x544 progressive is a valid selectable and offers up the kind of boost to image quality that you'd expect. The software has a vast array of options and for the non-Japanese speaker it can be bewildering, so we've provided accurate English translations of the options below.Returning to the modification itself, the viewer software reports that the USB connection is streaming anything from 296-304mbps - that's 37-38MB/s. Assuming there's no compression involved here, what we're looking at is a device that is pushing USB 2.0 bandwidth to its absolute, practical limit - so you should expect variable results on different hardware. At the top of the viewer, frame-rate throughput is measured and we found that on one PC, there would be occasional dips to 50fps before full refresh was restored (a 30fps limiter is available to iron out problems like this). The same PC simply would not work with the modified Vita when we tried its USB 3.0 ports. Moving to an older laptop, performance was improved - effectively a locked 60fps, with just the occasional, singular dropped frame. Our last test was based on our Core i7 3770K graphics card test platform, with the Vita connected to a USB 3.0 port. Here we achieved the desired locked 60fps throughput with no problem whatsoever. Mileage clearly will vary.