My niece has been asking for a Wii U ever since the console came out. I'm glad to see that it reviewed well overall, although I find some of the details about the game pad a bit disappointing. Still, I doubt it's anything that will bother her so we may very well go ahead and get her one for her birthday. Thanks for the review!
Wii U Review: The Hardware
Nintendo is at it again, releasing a brand-spanking new console, the Wii U, just in time for Black Friday and Christmas. Thereʼs a lot of good-as well as some bad-with the new console, so this review will cover the hardware, and the next will cover the software of the console.
The Wii U is the first console Nintendo conceived of as a direct sequel to a previous console. As the successor to the first Wii, the U is also an ambitious new console, and just as the original brought about motion control gaming, this one seeks to add a second screen to the experience.
Wii U is a gorgeous console, replacing the boxy look of the first with rounded edges. Key buttons are smooth to the touch;the disc rive and internal components no longer sounds like a boxfull of hamsters trying to escape. Build quality is significantly better-the console has a satisfying heft to it, and buttons no longer emit loud clicks when you press them.
Storage is always an issue to gamers, and Nintendo addresses that directly-rather than buying all you need at purchase like the Playstation 3 or buying proprietary drives like the Xbox 360, you can expand storage via SD HC cards in the front drawer, or via external USB hard drive connected to either the front or back USB ports, which total three.
The console comes packaged with a Gamepad, which combines a dual-stick controller with a touch screen and front-facing camera. Thereʼs a stylus along for the ride, but thankfully the screen is fingertip-responsive as well. Build quality is very good on the Gamepad as well;the controller packs a lot of tech into it, but still manages to be usable by anyone. Physical buttons as well as digital buttons are able to be easily reached while playing. There are physical buttons to turn the console on and access the home menu, as well as a TV button which allows you to control your TV with the Gamepad, as well as interface the Wii U with entertainment programing. More on that later.
The Gamepad also includes a headphone jack along the top and a dedicated volume control, which comes in handy for playing games made solely for the pad screen. If you donʼt like the idea of headphones, the Pad has speakers on the sides of the controller. There is a charging plug on the top of the controller, with a larger iPod-like connector on bottom for docking with the console. Using it,the screen is very robust-color matching is spot on with most HD TVs, although the resolution is lower for obvious reasons. Sound is very good, and the Wii Uʼs setup allows you to set the sound for standard stereo or virtual surround, which is executed well enough to make a difference playing sound- intensive games like ZombiU. The screen is sensitive enough to recognize if your finger taps it to select an item or option. The Home button has a blue ring around it that flashes when you get a notification on any other program, which eliminates constantly dropping into apps to see if anything changed.
Nintendo also sells a Pro Controller, which is not bundled, but to get an idea of itʼs size and feel, pick up an Xbox 360 controller and it feels about the same.
While the console itself is excellent, the Gamepad is big. *Really* big. Thatʼs not exactly a bad thing-I would hate life if a secondary screen for a home console were very small- but as Iʼl talk about with the software, typing with it can be a pain. The keyboard is far enough away from the other controls to make thumb typing unmanageable, and using the stylus to type feels like it takes forever. Battery life for the Gamepad is also disappointing, with average battery life in my usage around 4-5 hours. The battery ia easily replaceable, however you have to buy batteries from the source right now, but I donʼt expect that to be the norm for very long. In the padʼs possible defense, it does a lot, and is constantly internet-connected more than the console, since it constantly runs a few of Nintendoʼs social apps in the background, but I still feel like battery life could be greatly improved.
While the Pad is sensitive, itʼs not responsive enough for my liking. The screen is built out of plastic rather than glass, which is mostly wise on Nintendoʼs part, since they are well aware of the fact that kids will use this console and glass screens are extremely fragile.Still, the insensitivity of it was noticeable when I didnʼt feel like using the stylus to select setup options.
Nintendo has also gotten a lot of complaints from users who now have to purchase Wii Motion Plus controllers over the original Wii controllers, as well as there being just too many control options, with the Wii Remote, Classic Controller, and Balance Board being grandfathered in, as well as the newcoming Wii U Gamepad and pro Controller. This is solely speculation, but I think Nintendo might be angling away from the Remote in favor of the Gamepad, and the Pro Controller is there for hardcore gamers, as well as a secondary control right now for Gamepad games, like ZombiU. In my usage, I used the Gamepad and a Remote, but I could have easily used the pad for New Super Mario Bros. as well.
The option to use a hard drive is nice, but Nintendo has been getting a lot of static about being too specific about what drive to use. It might be a buzzkill to pay another $99 for an extra terabyte of storage, but they are also giving you the option to choose your own drive, rather than buying a branded one at a higher price.
Should you buy it?
The Wii U is an impressive piece of hardware, and the first Nintendo console to use industry standards, allowing it to appeal to hardcore and casual gamers alike. Itʼs design is impressive enough to leave in plain sight, and the Gamepad controller is designed so anyone can use it. However, the Gamepadʼs size and battery may be an issue for some.,so if youʼre on the fence, I would try it out with a friend or at a store before committing.
Thatʼs the hardware! Stay tuned as we pass judgement of the software and launch titles of the new Wii U