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It took longer than I wanted, but I finally procured a Nintendo Wii last week. As we did with Microsoft’s Xbox 360, we plan to crack open the Wii and get a look at the hardware that makes Nintendo’s new console run. Before beginning our system surgery, the CNET Louisville staff took the Wii for a test drive–just in case I couldn’t put it back together again.
Wii box left
Wii box right
Wii box contents sticker
The Wii comes with the console, stand, remote (or Wiimote) controller, Nunchuk controller, sensor bar, AC power adapter, RCA video and audio cables, and the Wii Sports game.
Opening the Wii box
The Wii and its accessories were packaged within two separate compartments within the outer box.
Boxes within boxes
The separate internal boxes were clearly labeled with the items they contained.
First look at our Wii
Wii head on
From the front, you can see the Wii’s power button, reset button (used to restart a game), game disc slot, and game disc eject button.
Wii front close up
From the front, you can see the small panel the hides the Synchro button and SD card slot.
Synchro button and SD card slot
With the front panel open, you can access the Synchro button and SD card slot.
Synchro button and SD card slot - close up
The Synchro button is used when synchronizing a Wii Remote with the consle. The SD card slot allows you to access files, such as photos and music, from an SD memory card.
Disc eject button
The disc eject does just that–ejects the game disc.
Wii GameCube sockets
Opening the two panels on the Wii’s right side (or top depending on the console’s position), reveals the GameCube memory card slots and GameCube controller sockets.
Wii GameCube memory card slots
As the Wii is backward-compatible with Nintendo GameCube games, GameCube memory card slots are provided.
Wii GameCube controller sockets
You can connect up to four Nintendo GameCube controllers to the Wii.
The back of the Wii houses two USB ports, an air exhaust vent, the sensor bar port, the AV output, and the DC power connector.
Sensor bar connector, AV output, and DC power connector
Wii air intake
An air intake vent is located on the Wii’s left side–or the bottom if positioned upright.
Wii battery cover
The system battery is also accessed from the left side–bottom.
Wii console stand
The console stand has small hole to allow for air flow into the Wii’s air intake vent.
Wii on the side stand
I think the Wii looks coolest when used with the console stand. The package also contains a saucer-shaped, clear stand plate that mounts to the bottom of the console stand. According to the Wii Operations Manual: System Setup, “The console can be damaged if knocked over, especially if this occurs during the operation of the disk drive. The Wii stand plate has been included to increase stability of the Wii console, and it is recommended that this stand plate be used if the console is placed in a vertical position.”
The stand plate is clear, but looks lame. No wonder you never see it in any of the Wii product shots.
Wii AC adapter
Although the Wii’s AC power adapter is fairly large, I was surprised by how light it was.
Wii AV Cable
The Wii can deliver standard 480i or the higher quality 480p resolution. Unfortunately, the Wii comes with RCA audio and video cables–allowing for only 480i.
Nintendo does offer Wii component cables that will allow high-definition TVs (HDTV) or enhanced-definition TVs (EDTV) to view 480p progressive output. As of this writing, the cables are in short supply and even Nintendo’s online store is limiting orders to one per household.
Wii Remote (Wiimote)
The vaunted Wii Remote that Nintendo hopes will revolutionize gaming and entice a non-gamers to try, and buy, the Wii. Although it took me a few minutes to familiarize myself with the remote, the new controller eventually felt as comfortable as any other console controller.
Wii Remote top
Wii Remote side
The Wii Remote’s B button, or trigger
Wii Remote bottom
From the Wii Remote’s bottom, you can remove the battery cover.
The Wii Remote uses two AA batteries–included. I’m not sure how long the batteries will last with average use, but you might want to invest in a set of rechargeable batteries.
Wii Remote front
The Wii Remote’s front contains the Pointer Lens.
Wii Remote back
The Wii Remote’s back contains the external extension connect, which lets you connect external accessories such as the Nunchuk.
Wii Remote - Power button, Control Pad and A button
I really like being able to power the console on and off using the remote–isn’t that what remotes are for anyway.
You can navigate most Wii menus using the Control Pad or pointed the Wii Remote at the screen.
The A button is the primary action button. This seemed a bit odd as I had anticipated that the remote’s trigger would be the primary action button.
Wii Remote - Plus and minus buttons, Home button, speaker, 1 button, 2 button, and player LEDs.
The Wii Remote’s Home button displays the Home Menu screen and is an easy way for digging yourself out of an extended menu tree.
The Player LEDs indicate which player the remote is configured for.
The remote’s speaker adds an extra layer of depth to games that use it effectively. For example, the speaker plays a satisfying smack when you hit a ball in Wii Sports tennis or Wii Sports golf.
The Nunchuk is considered an external accessory and is connected to the Wii Remote using the external extension connector.
The Nunchuk has a Control Stick, a round C button, and a trigger-like Z button. You must pay attention to how the control stick is positioned when the Wii Remote power is turned On or when connecting to the remote.
If the control stick is moved out of the neutral position during either of those operations, that position becomes the neutral position. To reset the control stick, you must allow the stick to return to the normal neutral position, then simultaneously hold down the A, B, Plus ( ), and Minus (-) buttons on the Wii Remote for three seconds.
The Nunchuk connector has a small hook through which you can insert the cord from the Wii Remote. This is designed to prevent you from pulling the two controllers apart during game play.
Nunchuk in hand
The Nunchuk was comfortable in my hand, but felt lighter than I would have liked.
Wii Sensor Bar
The Wii Sensor Bar connects to the back of the Wii and can be mounted above or below the screen. The bar comes with adhesive pads and a small, clear plastic stand to aid with placement.
Wii Sensor Bar sensor
The Sensor Bar uses Bluetooth to receive signals from the Wii Remote from up to 30 feet (15 feet when used a pointing device).
Wii Sensor Bar bottom
Wii Sensor Bar bottom close up
Wii Sensor Bar sensor bottom
Wii Sensor Bar Stand
You can use this stand to slightly raise the Sensor Bar if necessary. For example, if the television is setting on the floor and you want to place the bar below the screen.
Wii language selection
Sensor Bar positioning
Sensor Bar sensitivity
Sensor Bar below the screen
We connected the Wii to a ceiling-mounted projector and place the sensor bar below the wall-mounted screen. this small trash can was the only item available that was the about the correct height.
Setting the date
Setting the time
Standard (4:3) or widescreen (16:9)
Our Dell projector supports widescreen projection so we when with the Wii widescreen display setting.
Setting the Console Nickname
The Wii’s console nickname is used to distinguish your Wii from others connecting with other Wii consoles.
Keyboard text entry
When you select a text entry field, the Wii UI provides a visual keyboard. Using the Wii Remote you can point to each character and click the A button or use the remote’s Control Pad and A button to navigate and select the appropriate characters.
Using the remote as a pointer
Navigating menus or entering text with the Wii remote isn’t difficult, but could be improved. The remote lightly vibrates when you move over a menu button, but the remote is so sensitive, that the pointer wiggles a lot when you’re trying to hold the remote still. We reduced the remote’s sensitivity, and that helped a little. But, the Control Pad is faster for navigating most menus.
Wii Parental controls
Using the parental control settings, parents can limit the Wii content their children can access.
Health and Safety warning
Nintendo made the Wii a more physically active video gaming experience and goes to great lengths to let gamers know. Repeatedly during the Wii power on process, setup, and game play, we were warned to head Nintendo’s health and safety warnings.
From the Wii Menu, you can play the inserted game disc, run one of the Wii’s built-in programs, start an application downloaded from the Wii Shop Channel, access one of the Wii channels, access the Wii Settings and Data Management menu, or access the Wii Message Board.
The Mii channel
The Mii channel allows you to create a digital persona that can be used in some Wii games–such as Wii sports.
The Mii channel start screen
Our first Mii
Using the Mii channel interface, we created a simple Mii.
Lots of facial options, but not perfect
Wii Wi-Fi access
The Wii can access Wi-Fi networks if you have a supported wireless router.
No go with CNET Louisvilles VPN
Unfortunately, we weren’t able to connect during our initial session. CNET Louisville’s wireless network is locked down to prevent anyone from access it without a VPN connection.
Wii Data Mangement
The Data Management and System memory menus allow you to manage the internal system memory, inserted SD cards, and connected GameCube memory cards.
No memory cards inserted
Accessing the game disc
Inserting the Wii Sports game disc
Oops - the wrong way
The Wii will warn you if you put the disc in upside down–which I did.
Wii Remote warning
Before starting each game, we were reminded to securely fasten the Wii remote to our wrist. Wii sports games require you to swing and “throw” the remote, so follow this advice. Don’t risk throwing the remote through your television during a particularly heated inning of baseball.
Wii Remote securely cinched to the wrist
The Wii Remote ‘s wrist strap has a cinch the holds the strap and remote securely to your wrist.
Another safety warning
Here’s another warning you really should follow. During our testing, people really got into the games and were often unaware of how much much they were actually moving. Have plenty of space before using the Wii.
Enough of this configuration I want to play a game
I tried the Wii Sports tennis first.
There goes my tennis elbow
I was skeptical that the Wii’s controller could live up to the hype, but it did. I was able to hit a tennis ball with only a practice swing or two. I was even able to serve the ball by moving my arm in an upward motion to loft the ball and then moving my arm downward to hit the ball.
More Wii Sports tennis
The big screen really gave you a feeling of being in the game.
The Wii Sports controls were simple and intuitive. Everyone was able to pickup the remote and starting playing within seconds.
Timing is everything
How you hit the ball seemed to depend on several factors–when you swing, how you rotate your wrist, how fast you swing, and so forth. Wii Sports seemed to be a game that’s easy to pick up, but requires more skill to master.
Wii Sports Boxing
Wii Sprorts Boxing requires the Wii remote and the Nunchuk. I found the box fun, but the controls seemed less responsive than tennis. baseball or golf.
Wii Sports Boxing persepctive
Like most of the Wii Sports games, Boxing gives you a third-person perspective that puts you in the action.
Wii immediately draws a crowd
Perhaps the most surprising element during our Wii tests, was the continuous crowd that formed around the Wii. When we tested the Xbox 360 last year, the hard core gamers in the office were interested, but not many others. When we tested the Wii, people kept showing up at the conference room door wanting to give it a try. I wouldn’t want to generalize our office experience to the general population, but if Nintendo can elicit the same response on a larger scale, the Wii may bring first-time gamers into the Nintendo camp.