The Nintendo Switch is finally in shops - or more likely, out of stock in shops - adding a new contestant to the ongoing home console war.

Except, the Nintendo Switch isn't really a home console, is it? It's a handheld with a glorious facility to hook up to your TV for widescreen play.

Indeed, we'd argue that the Switch has got far more in common with the PS Vita than it does with the PS4. What better place to start our series of Switch versus pieces, then?

Nintendo Switch vs PS Vita - Design

The Nintendo Switch and the PS Vita take a similar approach to the basic look and operation. Both are relatively wide machines with a full set of controls stacked either side of a large display.

The PS Vita remains the more sleek, cohesive design. It's an outright handheld, after all, and one that's been honed with a subsequent redesign.

It's also a fair bit smaller (if a little thicker) at 184 x 85 x 15mm versus the Switch's 239 x 102 x 14mm dimensions. At 219g, meanwhile, the PS Vita is almost 80g lighter than the Switch.

Nintendo Switch vs PS Vita - Controls

The Switch uses its greater size to fit in an extra pair of shoulder buttons, which brings it more in line with current home console standards than the PS Vita. It also arranges its analogue sticks in an asymmetrical formation, with the left one nice and high for easy access.

Conversely, the PS Vita has a proper D-pad, which arguably makes its better suited to fighting games and other classic 2D game genres.

Both devices have capacitive touchscreens, but the PS Vita also has a touch-sensitive rear panel. Having said that, it's never been all that useful except in a few limited situations.

Nintendo Switch vs PS Vita - Screen

The PS Vita's 5-inch 960 × 544 (qHD) 16:9 display has always been one of its most beloved features - particularly the original model, which featured a vibrant OLED panel. The current model uses a more efficient but less impressive LCD equivalent, but it's still attractive.

However, the Nintendo Switch 6.2-inch 1280 × 720 (720p) 16:9 LCD display blows it out of the water. It's bigger, sharper, and just all-round better.

Of course, you'd hope so. The original Vita is five years old now, while even the revised model is three years old. That's progress for you.

Nintendo Switch vs PS Vita - Power

Here's another area where age has really caught up with the Vita. When it launched it was a cutting edge handheld, promising console-standard games in your pocket.

However, that intangible console standard turned out to be somewhere in between the PS2 and PS3. The Nintendo Switch sweeps in offering a similar 'console gaming in your pocket' promise, but we're talking about a standard that sits somewhere in between the PS3 and PS4, and ahead of the Wii U.

In terms of components, the PS Vita uses a Quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore CPU, while the Nintendo Switch uses a Custom Nvidia Tegra chip based on the Tegra X1.

We won't got into the technical nitty-gritty here - that's not really our bag - suffice to say that the Vita's GPU is roughly equivalent to that used in the iPad 3, while the Switch's is more in the ballpark (and technically ahead) of the Xbox 360. That's an obsolete tablet compared to a last-gen home console.

Nintendo Switch vs PS Vita - Special features

Both of these handhelds have a clever trick up their sleeves. In the PS Vita's case, it's Remote Play of PS4 games.

This involves streaming PS4 games, over a Wi-Fi connection, to your PS Vita's screen. It's far from a flawless provision, with slight delays and compromises on visual fidelity and control set-ups, but it certainly works.

The Nintendo Switch's clever trick is that it can plug into a dock and output the very same games to your TV. What's more, thanks to that dock's mains power and extra cooling, the Switch's CPU can be clocked higher for a proper 1080p Full HD (or thereabouts) output and slightly smoother performance.

Indeed, the Switch doesn't stop there with the special tricks. You can also remove the Joy-Con controllers, turn them on their side and use them as two separate controllers for multiplayer games. Thanks to a kickstand on the console itself, you can do this pretty much anywhere.

Nintendo Switch vs PS Vita - Battery

The PS Vita has a 2200 mAh battery which, in its latest Slim guise, can power approximately four to six hours of gaming.

As for the Switch, it has a much larger 4310 mAh battery, but the length of gaming time this lasts varies a little more widely between three and six hours.

Nintendo Switch vs PS Vita - Price

Here's where the one area in which the PS Vita wins out - and by quite some margin. Whereas the Nintendo Switch costs £280 for the console alone, the PS Vita Slim has an RRP of £180.

Maths geniuses will notice that this is a £100 difference - and you can get a good condition boxed second-hand unit with a guarantee from a reputable retailers for around £130.

There's also the matter of games. A quick scan of new PS Vita games on Amazon shows a general price range of between £15 and £25. Switch games will cost you £40 to £60 - and there are far fewer of them.

Conclusion

We still love our Vitas here at PG, but there's no denying it's a highly mature platform that's come to the end of its life. It already has the feel of a retro platform, and for a lot of gamers it's more of an indie game player, emulation machine, or PS4 accessory than a fully fledged stand-alone console.

The Switch by contrast is just beginning, with lots of new games - including some guaranteed mega hits from Nintendo itself - on the horizon. But of course, the future is uncertain, and there's no guarantee the Switch will be a success.

What is certain is that the Switch is an improvement on the PS Vita in most of the key ways. It's not as pretty, elegant, or cheap. But it's way more powerful with a much improved screen and (generally speaking) set of controls, and it can be enjoyed in a far broader range of situations.

It's tough to say which machine is flat out better, because they're not competing on a level playing field. They represent two completely different generations of devices, launched into very different markets with very different capabilities.

And that really is the main thing to take away: the Vita is the handheld of the past, while the Switch is the handheld of the future.