We've had our Wii kicking around the office for a little while now, but we had to hold off on answering
your many questions
about it until last night when they rolled out their launch update. Trust us, it definitely changed some answers, so let's get to the FAQ. Oh, and thanks for the questions. Feel free to leave your followups in the comments.
- How loud is the Wii?
We'd say of the next gen consoles, the order of loudness goes: Wii, PS3, and Xbox 360. Though that's not necessarily fair since the Wii and the PS3 are both pretty much completely silent from more than a foot away. To put it in perspective, the only console we can tell whether it was left on is the Xbox.
- Can you connect and play media from a USB hard drive?
Our USB drive turns on when we plug it in -- it's obviously USB -- but nothing happens. Right now there's no support for USB storage, including playback of photos, music, or movies, nor saving channels or games to the device. Bummer.
- Is it possible to attach an external keyboard, mouse, etc. to the USB ports on the back of the Wii?
Yeah, you can attach them, but they don't actually do anything. Kind of a bummer, too, since using that on-screen keyboard of theirs is kind of a pain -- we often aim off our letter when pressing the A button to type.
- Does the Wii upconvert non-Wii games?
If you've got the component cables you can "upscale" old games to 480p / EDTV. Not that it's going to look any better, but the display doesn't change back 480i or anything.
- Which audio / video / image formats work with the Wii?
The manual states it works only with JPEG images, MP3 audio, and motion JPEG movies. We found it worked with all of the above, and unfortunately nothing but. We tested pretty much everything, including BMP, GIF, TIF, PSD, and PNG images; OGG, AAC, AAC lossless, WMA, WMA lossless, MP3, FLAC, AIF, and WAV audio; and XviD, WMA, H.264, and every other variety of movie could think of to throw at it.
- When you insert an SD card into Wii with photos and videos on, do they need to be converted to display/save onto Wii?
Nope, but it does only read JPEG, MP3, and motion JPEG (MOV) files.
- What are the load times for the games?
Nothing at all unusual for a disc-based console. Considering it's loading less data than the PS3 or Xbox 360, we might've liked to see those load times shaved down a bit. But it's nothing unreasonable, and doesn't clock into the minutes territory.
- Is the sensor bar setup tough (does it require a level or anything like that)?
Not at all. Just rest it on top of or below your TV. If it keeps falling off (like ours did) you can use the double-sided tape on the bottom and stick it into place.
- How does the Wii work on a smaller TV?
Very well; we hooked it up to the smallest TV we could possibly find, a 13-incher, and even put the sensor bar way off to the side and it worked beautifully.
- Is it hard to aim on the smaller TV?
Not at all. It's like playing any games on a smaller screen: you're never going to be able to pick up the same level of detail and accuracy as on a larger display, but it still works great.
- How decent is the callibration for the Wii?
Very decent, and extremely easy. In fact, there's no calibration at all, just put the sensor bar on or below your TV, set the option for its location, and you're off.
- Is the sensor bar really that distracting?
Huh? Not really, it's pretty benign; we didn't even notice it. You might pay more attention to it if it's mounted on a wall (if you're using a projector), but it's very low profile and unobtrusive.
- What happens if you put a disc in upside down?
Nothing in the channel page; in the Disc channel, however, you get a simple cannot read disc error message. Our discs came out fine and unscratched.
- In the unboxing video, what were those "decals" plastic things?
That's actually a sensor bar stand and a clear Wii stand support.
- How long do the Wii batteries last? Are they rechargeable? Nunchuck change the battery life much?
They just take AA batteries, so your mileage may vary. They're not rechargeable out of the box, and the nunchuck feeds off the Wiimote's power. We've been playing for a week or more now on the stock batteries with no problems, but who knows if they'll die today, tomorrow, or two months from now.
- What does the Sync button do?
It allows you to sync wireless peripherals (Wiimote, etc.) to your system, like an Xbox 360. Nothing more or less.
- Is the Wii controller REALLY Bluetooth-compliant, or is it simply RF? What happens if you try to pair it with a Bluetooth 2.0EDR capable PC?
It is indeed. And unlike the PS3, since it has that sync button you can make it go into discoverable mode. We tried and found the Wiimote, but we were unable to pair with the device. For those curious, its Bluetooth device name was Nintendo RVL-CNT-01 -- different from its official model number RVL-003.
- Was there a "Wii Startup Disk" included in the box?
Nope. It works right out of box -- for us. We actually got an email this morning from reader Mitch, who says: "I got a Wii this morning. Waited 32 hours in a 24-hour Wal-Mart to do it, but I did it. I get it home, set it up, and it asks me for a setup disc. But there wasn't a setup disc in the box. [As with ours. -Ed.] When I called Nintendo, they said it was something they'd been contacted about on a small number of units, and are shipping new ones for free to those who call in. Like me." Ouch, that sucks.
- How long are the standard composite AV cables? Component cables? Sensor bar cable?
Sensor bar: 138-inches
Wii to power brick: 38-inches
Power brick to wall: 62-inches (power cable length total: 100-inches)
- Does the Wii's sensor bar limit you from what kind of TV you can hook it up to? For example, a 60" projection TV that sits on a pedastal -- can you put the sensor bar above the TV or does it have to go below? How about for setups where the gamer does not sit directly in front of the TV but perhaps off to the side?
Not as far as we know, no. You don't have to be dead on with your TV (of course it helps), but you do have to be within a reasonable angle of it. We'd estimate it was about a 145-155 degree angle on both sides that you could play within -- more than enough for getting four people going on the system. It is IR though, so if there are any obstructions the Wiimote won't cursor properly (although the motion control will still work).
- How steep is the learning curve on the Wii? Is it worth the time investment to learn a new way of gaming?
Not very steep, most of the motions and gestures come naturally. Which is kind of the point -- they wanted to make gaming less about button combos on a 20-button controller, and more about natural, intuitive movements that people of all ages can understand and play with.
- Is the blue light always on during gameplay?
Nope, only when loading games into the drive.
- Are there any screws outside of the Wii allowing you to open the unit?
The screws are all well concealed, but no doubt about it, the Wii can be opened one way or another.
- Does the sensor bar not function properly when it is exposed to sunlight from outside or from many reports, when somebody points a laser pointer on it?
We can't possibly imagine why anyone would be shining a laser pointer at the Wii sensor bar. But since you asked, we did just that and saw absolutely no problems with cursor movement. As you might imagine, we've also had no problem playing in a well lit room.
- Does cursor speed change when playing in a totally dark vs a well lit room?
No, not that we can tell. Although the Wii does have a cursor sensitivity setting in options
- Does the Wii support WPA?
Yes. The Wii supports WEP, WPA-PSK (TKIP), WPA-PSK (AES), and WPA2-PSK (AES). Pretty surprising!
- How do the graphics of the games for the Wii compare to that of the previous generation consoles?
Previous generation consoles? Well, it's better than the GameCube. Just not by as much as we'd have liked. Compared to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 it's kind of pathetic. But if you're a GameCuber and haven't really dabbled with Microsoft's and Sony's latest offerings, you'll probably be happy.
- Can you use Wii game save slots for GC games?
We don't see why not. We didn't see any messages in the system that would lead us to believe we couldn't save our games to SD or internal memory, but we couldn't confirm for sure. Why? Good question. Our copy of Wind Waker started ok, but it wouldn't even let us get to the main menu without a classic controller. We really wished they'd have prompted us to plug one in (like the way it prompts you to plug in a nunchuck for some games) before we had to shut down the looping Zelda title and restart the system.
- When you save Wii game save data, do you get a choice of saving it to the internal memory or SD card, or can game save data only be saved to the internal memory?
You can save your game data and even downloaded games to your inserted SD card. The files are stored in \private\wii\title\FAKE and RSPE folders as either content.bin (ours was 2.7MB) or data.bin (80-200KB) files. We weren't really able to do anything with those files, although it stands to reason you could back those up (or hack them to pieces).
- Does the sensor bar have to be in the exact center of the display, or can it still be accurate if its a little bit off.
Not at all. We put ours completely off to the side and it was still totally accurate. We have a feeling when you've got a bunch of people around you'll want to try to keep it centered, but you definitely don't have to bust out the measuring tape during the install.
- Does Excite Truck indeed support custom soundtracks off of the SD card?
Yep, and it worked perfectly -- as long as they're MP3s. You can play in order, or set to shuffle.
- Does Wii support SDHC cards? MMC?
Actually, MMC didn't work. We can't 100% confirm it won't take SDHC cards, but given the fact that we're seeing 2GB Wii cards -- and not 4GB+ cards -- we're assuming that SDHC isn't supported right now.
- Are the battery contacts coiled springs, or bent metal?
They're spring-engaged bent metal, actually. Some of the nicest battery contacts we've ever seen in a came console, to be honest.
- After playing with the Wii for a few days, do you feel that your interest in the Wii will last? Or is it a gimmick?
We'll save that for a full review, but basically that's up to the game developers. If they can make the games feel right with the motion sensing and continue to come up with new, interesting ways of using it, then no, not gimmicky at all. But if all these games are just going to be use your Wiimote to aim an onscreen cursor like the new Mario and Zelda, that might get old after a while. Still, for now it's all very fresh and fun.
- What input does the power brick take, just 120v, or right up to 40v? Also how many watts?
Our adapter reads 120V only, not 120-240v; it's rated at 53 watts, and 3.7 amps.
- Is the Wii multi region?
It stands to reason that because of the power supply, you probably won't be able to (easily) import your Wii. Even still, Wiis are supposedly quite certainly region-locked. Sorry, gamers.
- How do you put the mini Gamecube discs into the slot-loader?
- Does the Wii have HD capabilities?
If you define HD as being 720p or higher, then no. The best we could do was get ours going with extended def, 480p.
- Can you turn it on and off remotely with the controller like you can with the Xbox 360?
- Can I put DVDs in the Wii?
You can, but it won't read them. Watch out for a DVD-reading Wii next year.
- Do I have to sync the Wiimote every time I want to play?
No way. But you do have to sync it if you bring your Wiimote to a pal's house. Also, your Mii can be saved to your Wiimote, so when you play at a friend's place you don't have to do anything weird to transport it.
- Is the Wii's sound similar to some GameCube games in the sense that they are MIDIs on steroids (think: Metroid Prime)?
No, for the most part our Wii audio experience has been pretty good. Excite Truck has real, honest to goodness lame rock music. The sound coming out of the Wiimote, however, is another story entirely. It's pretty awful. We're not sure if that's due to Bluetooth bandwidth restrictions or a really awful speaker, but man does it remind us of a Game Boy trying to make real audio sound effects.
- Is there a hard switch to turn off the WiFi on the Wii?
Nope, not that we can tell.
- How does the Wii's browser do on the ACID2 test? Have you seen any problems with page rendering?
Sorry, as we wrote last night, the Wii browser isn't available yet. However, since it's Opera based, and Opera performs well on the ACID2 test, it stands to reason that it will render it properly.