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Hands on: Nintendo Wii U production model

updated 06:23 pm EDT, Tue June 5, 2012

Nintendo shows off final design at E3 2012

Nintendo's Wii U introduction did not come as much of a surprise--prototypes were on-hand at E3 last year--however Electronista took the opportunity at E3 2012 to try out the final design that will be stocked on store shelves later this year. The hardware has changed little since the first prototype was revealed, aside from new joysticks and dedicated buttons for TV remote functionality.

The display-equipped GamePad controller is about as hefty as it looks. At 1.1 pounds, it is more than twice as heavy as a PlayStation controller and nearly double the weight of an Xbox 360 controller. Despite the weight, we did not have any problem holding the GamePad for a while. Users looking for the most comfort in traditional gaming can use the Pro Controller, which foregoes the screen and presumably brings a lighter build.

Wii users can finally utilize traditional console controls: dual clickable joysticks, a directional pad, L/R buttons, dual triggers, and A/B/X/Y buttons. Taking from the smartphone and tablet world, the controller also integrates an accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer, however we have yet to see how these extra sensors will be utilized in upcoming titles.

There has been talk of the iPad eroding traditional console sales, and the Wii U has been viewed as Nintendo's attempt to fight this trend, but we feel that both segments remain distinctly separate. The GamePad's 6.2-inch display supplements the television, but does not provide enough resolution or area to compete with the iPad as a standalone gaming device. In that respect, it is more akin to an oversized 3DS rather than a true tablet. Conversely, the iPad lacks the hardware controls to compete against a dedicated console system.

We like how the GamePad display was used for the few games that were available to play at E3 this week. Status information is typically moved to the controller, leaving the television view uncluttered and free of the bezel of data that typically surrounds the game visuals.

One of the biggest reasons to upgrade to the Wii U is the addition of HD resolution, finally overcoming the SD limitation that had been the focus of criticism for the original Wii. This is one of many areas where Nintendo stepped up to compete with the Xbox 360 and PS3, in an attempt to rekindle the relationship with hardcore gamers who never never considered the original Wii to be a serious console.

Our impression of the Wii U is generally positive, but it is difficult to make a final determination until Nintendo announces a price. We are also left to wait on the developer community to announce any high-profile titles that may be geared specifically for the dual-screen configuration.

By Electronista Staff
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