We've started hearing a lot of buzz about Sony's follow-up to the PSP, codename NGP (or "Next Generation Portable"), which is slated for release at the end of 2011. The hardware is dressed to impress, with multiple touch-sensors and thumb-pads set around a luxuriant wide screen, and graphical capabilities to rival the PS3's.
Still, a high-end, expensive portable device like the NGP may not be the best choice for kids. If you plan to purchase an NGP for a younger child, make a checklist of the concerns below, and decide if the potential recipient will be able to handle a system like the NGP.
The NGP is planned to be a large device, with a screen almost as wide as an iPad's -- over seven inches -- and about half that in height. That may suggest it would be hard for a child to accidentally drop and break the NGP, but take heed: a large screen is much easier to crack if the owner, for example, slips on ice and lands on the device in their backpack.
Even if dropped on its side, a fragile LCD might stop working altogether, or develop "dead pixels": permanently-red dots whenever the system is on. Some possible effects of dropping the PSP (all models) can be seen in these posts from a popular technology message board -- this could give you an idea of how the NGP will react to the same punishments. (Except in the NGP's case, the rear touch pad, and the internal gyroscopic sensor and accelerometer, may be at risk of damage, too.)
I would recommend holding off on the purchase until you've gotten a chance to see and feel the NGP for yourself -- and until you've read a few online testimonials about how it held up to sudden impacts. At a projected three-quarters of an inch thick, it may turn out that the NGP can withstand more blunt force trauma than some of its thinner counterparts.
Size and Weight
In an earlier article on different models of the PSP, I wrote about how the size and weight of a handheld can determine whether it will be comfortable for a child to hold, or if they will even be able to reach all of the buttons. With a touch-pad on the underside and buttons at either extreme of a very large screen, it is uncertain whether a small-handed child will be able to play all games comfortably on NGP.
Have your child try the NGP at an in-store display to see whether it is a good fit.
Because of its extreme high-end graphics hardware, the NGP will almost certainly be more expensive than Nintendo's upcoming handheld, the 3DS. Generally speaking, the pricier a console is, the older its clientele will be -- and consequently, the more T- and M-Rated games will be on offer.
That said, there will no doubt be a fair offering of NGP games rated E, too -- just look at the selection on PSP. Many of these will be quality games, but just as the highest-rated and highest-selling games on PSP carry an "M" or "T" on their boxes, you can expect the NGP to cater to the older crowd.
We may not know exactly what to expect from NGP until it hits stores this holiday season, but with the information released so far, you can start to make a decision about whether it should be wrapped up for a child in your home.