Thursday, September 03, 2009

Free + Wii = Weeee

I missed this piece of news, but luckily a friend did not. The Wii Internet Channel, which used to cost a princely 500 Wii-Points (about $5), was made a free download as of September 1st. And for those who had previously forked over their 500 points, a refund is in the mail. That's pretty good customer service, I think.

The Internet Channel is really just a Nintendo-branded web browser for the Wii. The browser software is a customized version of the very good Opera browser - the same embedded browser found on the Blackberry, DSi, and other consumer devices.

I like the idea of surfing the Net from a comfy chair in front of a nice, big TV screen. More and more, we find the need for the family to surf together - be it for vacation planning, checking the movie listings, or settling an argument courtesy of Wikipedia. Crowding in front of a PC screen isn't cutting it, but using a Wii, a Wiimote, and a nice, big flat panel sounds pretty Jetson-sweet to me.

So of course I downloaded Internet Channel and took it for a spin. On the whole, I like it - but it's not perfect.

The Good: The Wiimote interface is very well thought out. With gentle flicks of the wrist and push of a button, it's easy to surf, scroll, and zoom in and out of webpages. Pages that I visited were rendered quite well. Some sites, notably Youtube, will custom-render their pages when the Wii-browser is detected - a very nice touch. The on-screen keyboard is very easy to use through the point-and-click interface (a much more pleasurable experience vs. the Xbox360 keyboard). But for those who like to type, a USB keyboard will do.

The Imperfect: Because the Wii does not drive HD-quality video, there can be a subtle graininess with some webpages. While the video is quiet readable and clear, I'm clearly spoiled by the clean-and-crisp XBox360 interface. As well, webpages do not get sized to fit on the screen. Instead, a small amount of side-to-side scrolling is required - a simple matter with the Wiimote, but a small nuisance nonetheless. I also found that the content-rich DisneyWorld main page did not play well with the Wii browser. The Javascript-heavy animations were never present and, instead, the Wii admitted defeat and told me it ran out of memory for the page.

Imperfections aside, the Wii Internet Channel is a nice piece of work. Now if it could just stream movies and music from my home server....


David said...

So there is a point to the Wii. Hmm.

I really wish this was something offered by the 360. It is plainly ridiculous that I am paying money for Live and can't access the web. I guess Msoft if more family friendly than Nintendo.

Crazylegs said...

I hear you. I can't believe MS has not implemented some kind of direct Web access on the 360. For all their efforts around MS Live branding and Bing, you'd think the 360 a perfect vehicle for an MS-mediated Web experience.

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