Quick Review: Nintendo’s Wii U game console and GamePad

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Nintendo’s latest console, the Wii U, offers high resolution graphics and a GamePad controller (above) with a central touchscreen and all the buttons you’d find on the other game system controllers.

After spending about two hours setting up and updating the system (and some sleep) I was finally able to put in some decent time with the new console.

Here are my early observations, in bullet-point form for quick reading. Look for more in-depth posts in the future that about system setup, the GamePad controller, Mii creation and the system itself.

  • Wii U physical console setup up – in terms of the wires – took only 5 minutes.
  • Likewise, setting up the GamePad with its cradle was a breeze.
  • The power cable for the console looks similar to – and is the same as – the original Wii’s and the power cable for the GamePad looks similar to – but should not be mistaken for – the 3DS’s.
  • The HDMI cable is deceivingly long. So is the power cable for the GamePad (which is a very good trait for a cable).
  • All of the cables are Nintendo grey, which is great. It made it very each to know which cables went to the Wii U even when I could not see the physical connection.
  • Syncing the GamePad to the console in seconds. It uses the same mini red button system the original Wii uses.
  • The GamePad is far lighter than I’d expected. From the look of it, and after playing with tablets with similar size screens, it is rather light and comfy to hold.
  • Using both the trigger and shoulder buttons, however, is a little bit of a wrist twister since you are holding so much of the system from such a small part (and at the top).
  • The GamePad was successfully synced with my Samsung HD TV but not with my DirecTV HD DVR satellite receiver (even though there are 15 DirecTV codes available). Not finding the DirecTV code took about 15 minutes since I had to do it twice (once from afar and once up close to make certain I was in range). Finding the TV, however, took 30 seconds.

  • System setup took about 15 minutes. Once I got into the system and started clicking around, I needed to update everything. The system update took about an hour and a half, with it timing out twice. The nice thing was that it resumed the download from where it left off (so it did not start over again). I’ll blame a lot of that time on everyone with the system trying to update at once but it was still way too long. Also, it did not give a progress percentage, just a progress bar.
  • Setting up the system is very step-by-step. You’ll have to look between the Gamepad and TV, although mostly the GamePad. You are directed where to look.
  • Mii creation is easier thanks to the GamePad camera. You pick a couple basic traits – gender,skin color and hair color and style – and it uses your face to draw the closest approximation it can. (It did have issue with my goatee where it considered it a big chin and not facial hair).
  • You are instructed to charge the GamePad before you begin but mine had enough out of the box to last a while. I did charge it while it was taking its time updating the system software.
  • Each time I clicked on a new program or  game it asked to update. You can skip the update and try to load the software but, for non-games, you then might not be able to use it (e.g. Netflix, YouTube, etc.).
  • The black console and GamePad look very nice but, like the PS3, they show every finger print (and, only 16 hours after unboxing, is already collecting dust). They did not give a dust cloth for the system or the GamePad screen, so you’ll want one of those soon. Especially if you have kids.
  • Everything has a load time and there are rarely loading progress bars or notifications. I was a bit surprised how much waiting I had to do between selections. I thought the system froze a few times but, instead, it was just processing.
  • The Wii U system background reminded me a lot of Sony, especially with the accompanying dreamy music. No Mario jumping for coins here. This is a much classier look.
  • When playing games, I noticed that I rarely looked at the Gamepad unless I specially had to and was prompted by the game. Trying to watch two screens was a little hard especially since the GamePad is so large and holding it up to eye level would certainly wear on (or build up) you arm muscles.
  • The GamePad includes a speaker so a lot of the sounds from menus and games had accompanying sounds on the GamePad. Sometimes they were in harmony, sometimes very similar or sometimes just silent.
  • The graphics look great. There was no dithering I could notice in the couple games I played. I look forward to trying a few games with truly intense graphics (it’s been years since anyone could say that about a Nintendo console).
  • The GamePad is, so far, extremely responsive. The twin sticks are accurate (I hardly miss the clicking points) and the touch screen is very quick.
  • The GamePad has a Home button, much like the 3Ds, which is the real way to Quit games now.
  • Range for the GamePad seems pretty decent. I have not yet done a real distance test but I’ve been using it without issue fromabout 10 to 15 feet away.
  • Range from the TV, however is direct-line-of-sight, so I have to bee close enough with an obstructed view.
  • The TV button allow you to control TV volume, channel and Line-In feature. It is already one of my favorite features as it means I can use the GamePad instead of  fumbling for two other remotes to turn on the TV, adjust the volume and make certain I’m using the correct Line-In slot.

OK, so that wasn’t as much a “quick” review as it was a quick look at a lot of points.

So far, I’m pretty impressed with the Wii U. I’ve only played a couple games and spent a couple hours on it but it’s been enjoyable. My main frustrations right now are the updates. Every friggin’ new thing I press requires some update. Considering the hour+ I spent waiting for the system update, I’m waiting to perform the rest until I can let it grind while I do something else (eat dinner, go for a jog or sleep).

I have not yet moved my Wii game saves and data to the Wii U but it looks pretty easy. There are instructions in the booklet (there is both a paper a manual and a Quick Start guide). I’ll also sync my WiiMotes to the Wii U after I move the data.

Look for more coverage of Nintendo’s Wii U on GamerTell this week including reviews of many of the launch titles, in-depth looks at the system features and more.

Also Read [Wii U Unboxing @ GamerTell]

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  • Gregory

    The twin sticks DO have a click for L3/R3 functionality.

  • PJ Hruschak

    Yes, you are correct: You can press down on the twin/thumbsticks and use them as buttons. I was referring to the notched circle where the thumbsticks set so that, as you rotate it, it would hit the corners and “click” near each primary angle.

  • joey

    i had the same problem with directv until i remembered i had set it up to be RF instead of IR. Reset your remote settings and pow! Got it sync’d. problem is though that it really doesn’t give you the button layout you need can’t figure out if there is a menu key at least.

    • PJ Hruschak

      Does that mean you are stuck with the DirecTV remote being set to IR as well? When it comes to regular TV watching the RF setting is so very nice.