Shortly before our interview with Shuhei Yoshida at Sony's Tokyo offices for the Next Generation Portable, we were given the opportunity to get our hands on the actual hardware for a bit. You can check out our impressions of the demos of Uncharted and Little Deviants elsewhere, but we wanted to spend some time discussing the surprising little piece of hardware itself. While photos and video of the unit may give the impression that it has a lot in common with the brick-style original PSP in terms of heft and feel, this is not entirely the case.
The upcoming device is actually surprisingly light, with the dazzling screen taking up a fair amount of real estate on it. The button and analog stick layout feels familiar and comfortable. The sticks themselves feel good; Sony used the term "micro analog sticks," and it seems pretty apt. They have the give that's comparable to the sticks on the PS3's DualShock controllers, which makes them comfortable to use. The shoulder buttons feel a bit thinner than the original PSP's, but they work out well.
The touch functionality takes some getting used to, but it works well. We found that the front-facing touch screen was responsive and not as much of a smudge magnet as we expected. While there were Sony staff members on hand with microfiber cloths at the ready, we noticed that the screen didn't look so bad after we played with the system for a bit. The back-facing touch screen took some getting used to and seemed to respond best to a light touch as opposed to our initial Frankenstein-like mashing.
As for the screen itself, the NGP continues Sony's tradition of outfitting its handhelds with head-turning tech. The NGP screen demolishes the original PSP's, above and beyond resolution. The viewing angle on the OLED screen is more comparable to the latest batch of high-end mobile phones. In fact, we'll go out on a limb and say that what we saw features better color, contrast, and black levels than anything we've seen to date.
In addition to our hands-on, we were able to speak with Sony reps following the conference and got a few more odds and ends of info on the system. The games for the unit will come in two flavors: downloadable via PlayStation Network and in a New Game Media, which sounds a lot like a cartridge to us and will store games in some sort of flash-based hardware. The system will have music and video playback capabilities much like its predecessor, although that wasn't showcased at today's event. Your PSN ID will carry over to the NGP, which will feature trophy support for games and will work with the Near utility (to track your activities) that was demoed onstage at the conference.
Overall, we were very impressed by the NGP. The device sports a smart industrial design and a stunning screen and packs some impressive features. The big question now is how much is it going to cost?