The Wii Mini, the Canada-exclusive redesign of the original Wii, is very small. That's its best attribute, and the one you notice immediately. Even the box it comes in is tiny, roughly 10" by 8" by 5". Anyone with even the most basic understanding of physics would see that box and get the message that something pretty small is inside.
And indeed, the system itself proves very small. You can get an idea of its tininess in our gallery, in which it's placed next to other consoles for reference. If I'm dwelling on the impressively diminutive size of the Wii Mini, it's because I don't have anything else good to say about the console.%Gallery-176215%
The Wii Mini, as we've established, is small. Beyond that, the hardware design is not that impressive to my eyes. The plastic is textured instead of smooth and shiny. Combined with the big red bumper around the device, it looks like it's designed to be "rugged" compared to the original Wii. I'm not going to drop it or hit it with a hammer to test.
In a common price-reducing measure dating back to Sega CD, the slot-loading disc drive has been replaced by a top-loading drive with a mechanical eject button to pop the door open. That means the disc drive no longer lights up and blinks when you get a message.
No message will ever come in to a Wii Mini anyway, because the Wii Mini lacks Internet connectivity. And without Internet, the Wii Menu is strangely empty: no Weather Channel, no Everybody Votes Channel, no Wii Shop Channel, and, in fact, no way to add any more channels for the life of the system. You get the Disc Channel, Mii Maker, and Wii Manual, and a screen full of empty boxes, forever. The menu can never fulfill its purpose. For just $99, a lifetime of existential despair.
Speaking of despair, here's what happens when you try to load up a GameCube disc:
I'd share a screenshot of what happens when you try to connect the Wii Mini to your TV with component cables, but you've all seen empty black rectangles before. The console failed to output any audio or video through the same component cables I've used with the Wii for years. Looking around the internet shows that others have run into the same issue. The manual says "IMPORTANT: The Wii Mini console will not work with any AV cable other than the model supplied." So it's unlikely to be a problem specific to my third-party cables, and more likely to be that the Wii Mini just does not support component output.
Other than that, it's a Wii. It plays Wii disc games just like a Wii does, and has the exact same interface. The ports on the back – AV multi out, AC adapter, sensor bar, are identical to the original Wii. A single USB port is also in the back. It differs only from the original hardware in that it's cheaper-looking and does less. That's not really worth the savings or the zany Canada road trip.
Counterpoint: it just barely stands up in a Slime Speaker Stand. So, in conclusion, ignore everything else I said and buy a dozen Wii Minis.