Wii

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Nintendo Wii
  • Nintendo Wii
  • Nintendo Wii
  • Nintendo Wii

Pros

  • Enjoyment factor, intuitive and tactile controls, design, user interface, affordable

Cons

  • Graphics and system power not up to standard of competing consoles

Bottom Line

The Wii's ridiculously enjoyable titles and innovative, motion-sensitive controllers help make it feel more like a toy you'll want to share with a group of players than a console you'd use strictly on your own for hours on end. If you have a group of friends at the ready, or if you're looking to buy an affordable, fun console for yourself or your kids, get yourself a Wii.

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Nintendo's new Wii game console is a big winner, starting with its innovative, crowd-pleasing controller.

Design and setup

The Wii is the most compact of the next-generation consoles, with clean, sharp lines and an Apple-like glossy white finish, though we'll undoubtedly see units in black and possibly other colors at some point. Like the soon to be released PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360, the Wii can be oriented horizontally or vertically, thanks to its angled plastic stand. Once positioned, the next step is to plug in the power supply (which is about the size a notebook brick), and connect the bundled composite audio/video cables to your television. To output content at the Wii's maximum 480p resolution in 16:9 wide-screen format, users will have to purchase the optional component cable separately.

Next, users must set up the included controllers, a Wii Remote and a Nunchuk - a joystick-style controller that connects to the remote for additional game control. We first hooked up the supplied sensor bar to the console and placed it just under the display of our television. The sensor bar allows the console to communicate wirelessly (via Bluetooth) with up to four Wii Remotes at a time. The Wii Remote works for games within a radius of about 10 metres and functions as a cursor-type pointing device within about five metres. In our testing, the on-screen pointer jittered slightly when we tried to use it from further away.

The final setup steps are to place two AA batteries into the Wii Remote, rearrange the furniture as necessary to clear plenty of space in front of the TV and fire up the console.

Interface and Features

The Wii Menu interface, which uses a television/channel metaphor, is where you access the Wii's largely free online features. The Wii includes a built-in 802.11b/g wireless network adapter, but users can also go online by using extra-cost options such as a LAN adaptor or a Wi-Fi USB adaptor that shares a PC's Internet connection. We tested the integrated Wi-Fi, and setup was a snap. The Wii scanned for and found our wireless connection, and we entered the network's WEP key via the on-screen keyboard.

Users can select letters and move around the Wii Menu using the Wii remote in the same way they would use a computer mouse. The remote even vibrates subtly in your hand as you hovered over menu options, so its tactile feedback is excellent.

Nintendo's online store (Wii Shop Channel and Virtual Game Console, offers various extras to download, but the most notable one is the Virtual Console. This allows gamers to download and play games from past consoles such as the Nintendo 64, NES, Super NES, Sega Genesis, and TurboGrafx16. Some of the games include Super Mario 64 (Nintendo 64), F-Zero, Donkey Kong Country (Super Nintendo), Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong, Wario's Woods (NES), Sonic the Hedgehog, Altered Beast, Golden Axe and Ecco the Dolphin (SEGA MEGADRIVE). The online shop operates on a payment system called Wii Points. Users can purchase Wii Points at retail outlets or with a credit card online. Wii Points are available in blocks of 2000 for $30 a block. The retro NES games will start at 500 Wii points, TurboGrafx16 titles at 600 Wii Points, SNES and Sega Genesis games at 800 Wii Points, and N64 classics at about 1000 Wii Points.

Other Wii channels include the Internet Channel, Forecast Channel, News Channel, Photo Channel, Mii Channel, Disc Channel and the Wii Message Board. The most notable are the Internet and Forecast channels, which allow you to browse the web through an Opera browser and scroll through a world map to receive up-to-date weather forecasts respectively. The rest of the channels are fairly self explanatory; the News Channel enables users to receive the latest Associated Press news from around the world, the Photo Channel allows access digital photos via the Wii's SD card slot or a mobile phone, and the Disc Channel simply enables users to start a Wii game disc. We particularly enjoyed the Photo Channel. Besides just viewing the images, you are able to zoom in, create slide shows, a photo gallery or photo puzzles, draw on images, adjust colors in various artistic ways, and send your creations to other Wii users.

The Mii Channel is also a fairly innovative feature. This channel invites you to create customised caricature avatars for yourself. You can then use them in a variety of Wii games, and save them to the Wii Remote for use later, even at a friend's house. Users can store up to ten Mii characters on a single Wii Remote.

Controllers

Wii controllers are designed to be perfectly usable whether you're left or right-handed. For games, the Wii Remote has a plus pad (D-pad), a large 'A' button, an underside 'B' trigger, and buttons labeled '1' and '2'. The main surface has other buttons as well: power up, minus and plus (for escaping game menus, and the like) and a home button (for switching back to the Wii Menu and checking controller battery life).

The Wii Remote also contains a control for adjusting force feedback, a built-in speaker, a wrist strap (in case the remote flies out of your hand), and four blue LED lights that indicate which player/controller number you've been assigned. An expansion port on the remote lets you connect the Nunchuk and other optional controllers. The supplied Nunchuk controller is used in conjunction with the Wii Remote and provides an analog thumb stick, and two front trigger buttons labeled 'C' and 'Z'.

Nintendo has experimented with different controllers in the past. This time however, the company's efforts seem to have produced a winner. Impressively, the responsive Wii controller remains satisfying to use even after the gimmick factor wears off. Your movements can become more subtle (and less energy consuming) as you learn how various games work.

Specifications

The Wii uses a PowerPC processor jointly developed by Nintendo and IBM and manufactured by IBM. The Wii also has an ATI graphics chip. The console comes with 512MB of built-in flash memory for storage, plus an SD card reader. GameCube fans will appreciate that the unit also has four ports for GameCube controllers and two GameCube memory card ports. Two USB 2.0 ports are available for optional accessories such as the Wii LAN (Ethernet) adapter.

The Wii's built-in DVD slot drive emits a blue light when you turn the console on or insert a disc, but the Wii currently can't play back music CDs or DVD movies. Nintendo and Sonic Solutions are working on introducing DVD playback functionality, which they hope to make available via a future software download.

Retailing at $399.95 at the time of its release, the affordable Wii is half or less of the price of both the Xbox 360 and the soon to be released PlayStation 3. While the competition may have superior graphics, a casual gamer may find them overkill, and for many, far too expensive. The Wii appeals to a far broader audience and its innovative controller system is hours of fun.

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