Wii U GamePad: Console gaming with no TV required

The hallmark feature of the Wii U is its tablet controller, the GamePad. It promises to foster some interesting, asymmetrical gameplay innovations, but one of its best features is a bit more obvious. The GamePad's screen is a perfect gaming display, and many Wii U games can be played directly on tablet itself, no television required.

Handheld gaming is certainly nothing new, but the ability to play full-fledged console games without hogging the TV is a surprisingly delightful feature we've become addicted to. Once you try it, you may begin to wonder how you lived without it. See a round-up of our own experiences with the feature after break.

Richard Mitchell Joystiq Reviews Editor

Barring any obstructions, I'd say the range of the pad seems effective to somewhere between 20 and 30 feet, about the range of a typical wireless controller (which is what the GamePad is, after all). I can maintain a connection in my kitchen, which adjoins the game room, but anything beyond that it's either spotty or broken entirely. One interesting note: It's possible to play on the GamePad even when no AV cables are connected to the Wii U. Obviously that won't work for every game – notably any game that requires the tablet as a second screen – but it could come in handy if you find yourself without a TV.

While my dreams of playing Batman: Arkham City in bed may not have been realized, playing games on the Wii U GamePad is still quickly becoming my favorite feature of Nintendo's new console. In fact, I'd say that half or even the majority of the time I've spent reviewing New Super Mario Bros U has been on the GamePad. I've been able to play a console game while my wife watches TV and does homework in the same room (she's in grad school, and much smarter than I am). That's obviously a huge benefit as someone who reviews games for a living, but it's just as significant for anyone who shares living space with someone else.

Ben Gilbert Engadget Senior Associate Editor

It's Nintendo's fault that I want the Wii U's GamePad to function everywhere in my apartment, despite the company not actually promising it would do that. Not directly Nintendo's fault, mind you, but it's hard not to use the second screen functionality at home and not immediately see the potential for it going anywhere in said home. Sadly, for me, it cuts out right around where Nintendo promised it would – 20 to 25 feet. Those last few feet are lag-ridden, soundless, and fraught with connection error. Like Richard, the furthest the GamePad will go in my apartment is the kitchen (which is attached to the living room), meaning it won't reach the most important spot in my place: the bathroom. Stop kidding yourselves – you were thinking it anyway.

In the first few days of use, I found myself staring down at the tablet controller in my lap rather than the 42-inch HDTV 10 feet away. Sure, games looks prettier (and larger!) on my television, but it's a very good sign that play on the tablet itself is something my mind naturally gravitated toward. So, when your family member/friend/significant other gets sick of you hogging up the TV with your fancy new Nintendo console, don't fret! GamePad play should more than suffice. If not, you can always use the enormous controller as a weapon, of course.

JC Fletcher Joystiq Managing Editor

I loaded up New Super Mario Bros. U, picked up the GamePad, and started wandering the house. I can play Mario in the kitchen, no problem. In the bathroom next to my living room. On the stairs. On the landing. At the top of the stairs. Five feet away from my desk. Two feet away from my desk. But as soon as I sit down at my desk, where I spend the majority of my day no matter what, the signal goes dead. This tantalizing near miss sounds like the best-case scenario among any of us.

Okay, so directly in front of the TV is still the optimal location. It's not fair to criticize the system for a feature it never claimed to have anyway. The Wii U is not designed to stream games all around your house; instead, it lets you play games in the same spot you normally would, in new ways, and to do so while making the television more available to others in your house. And for what it actually does – for the technologically implausible ability to stream near-HD gameplay over the air with no latency – the Wii U is kind of amazing.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.