I wasn't deemed worthy to see the Wii U at E3, so I made damn sure that I got to put my hands on one here at CES. Nintendo's tablet/controller hybrid is an intriguing move that has the potential to offer some very unique game experiences but only if it feels comfortable to use and, when the device was first revealed, I had some reservations about that.
No longer. What Nintendo has designed here is a thing of beauty.
The first thing that has to be pointed out is how deceptively lightweight the controller is. Even with its internal battery, it remains light as a feather. Any concerns I had when it comes to games which will use the device's embedded screen and gyroscope as a form of viewfinder have been pretty much eliminated.
Great care has also gone into the placement of the controller's more traditional inputs. The position of the analog sticks in the upper third of the device works great and all of the buttons have a satisfying level of tension to them.
In an odd sort of way, the Wii U controller reminds me more of holding an open book in my hands than a gaming accessory. The extra depth allows the meat of the palm to rest at the base with no tension, thumbs aimed upward. In fact, this larger form factor may actually wind up being more appropriate for lengthy play sessions than the standard controller designs we've become so accustomed to wrapping our hands around.
So, kudos to Nintendo. They've done a top-notch job on the physical design here. Assuming that this is the final design (something Big N would not confirm in our meeting), color me thoroughly impressed.