Wii U Hardware Review

The Nintendo Wii U is Nintendo’s first step into HD gaming. I’d like to go through some information on the system and my impressions of playing on the Wii U generally and the included software.

Wii U Hardware Review – console

Wii U front

The Wii U is a relatively small console. On the front you have an eject button, the power button, a sync button, the under a flap you have the SD card slot and two USB ports. Then on the back of the console is the sensor bar port, a HDMI port, an A/V port, power adapter port and two more USB ports.

There is also a small light on the front which is blue when the console is turned on, red when its off and orange when downloads / updates are downloading in standby.

Wii U Hardware Review – controller

The Wii U Gamepad is a fairly large controller, isn’t heavy, but isn’t light either. I’ve found the controller fairly comfortable to hold. It does take some adjusting to control with your hands so far apart and have the analogue sticks being above the buttons. You do get used to it though. The gamepad features are as follows;

  • 6.2 inch touch screen with 854 x 480 resolution with stylus support
  • Infrared sensors, acceleration and gyroscope
  • Wii U NFC chip
  • Built-in 1.3 MP camera, headphone jack and on-board microphone
  • On-board digital keyboard to write messages, send notes, and more
  • Connects via Bluetooth to the main console

The sound is of good quality as well, certainly a big step above the speakers on the wiimote.

The screen quality isn’t outstanding, but it performs fairly well and is comfortable enough. I enjoy playing games in Off-TV mode.

Unfortunately, the battery life of the Gamepad isn’t brilliant. Estimates put the gamepad battery life at 3 to 5 hours. So you’ll find you often have the gamepad plugged in during long gameplay sessions.

What makes the Wii U unique is the gameplay possibilities afforded by the gamepad. The Off-TV mode is confident for freeing up the TV. Then there is the unique interaction between the Gamepad and TV. NintendoLand does a good job of highlighting some interactions – particularly with multiplayer, where one player has a different perspective from the other players. Or in ZombieU, where the touchscreen acts as your inventory management and you can’t pause the game – adding to the tension.

Bundled software

Miiverse and Wara Wara plaza

After initially setting up your WiiU, you have to choose an ID by a unique username. Then each time you turn on your system, you have the Wara Wara plaza appear on your TV screen and traditional menu appear on the Gamepad screen. The Wara Wara plaza is basically a community area where a large number of Miis (both friends and strangers) appear under icons for games and community areas and will show comments and drawings made by those Miis. It is interesting to see some of the amazing drawings people can do with just black ink.

These comments are pulled from the Miiverse application. On Miiverse, each game has its own community and there are some special communities. People can post drawings, comments or ask for game advise. The communities are carefully moderated and tend to have a good atmosphere to them. I’ve yet to see any rude or nasty messages on there. On Miiverse you can also follow individual posters and send messages. Miiverse messages can also appear during games.

Friends list

You can only access your friends list when you press the home button, it is not there on the standard menu. Here you can see who is online, what they are playing, you can add new friends, but cannot send messages to friends from here.

Internet Browser

The Internet runs fast on the Wii U and generally works well, it runs HTML5 well but not Flash. You can view the Internet on your gamepad or TV screen. Choose to put a curtain over the TV screen, then press a button when you’re ready to reveal what is on your gamepad screen. You can also have a video playing on the TV screen while you are lining up another video or browsing on your Gamepad screen.

Nintendo TVii

Unfortunately, at the time of writing Nintendo TVii was not available in Europe, so I cannot provide any impressions. Here is a video courtesy of a WiiUdaily.com youtube channel.

Wii U Chat

A video chat application. You can only launch this out of games, It works fairly well. You can draw on the screen while chatting.

Wii U Hardware Review – Summary

Wii U is not a powerhouse, it can’t compete in power terms with the PS4 or XboxOne. Like the Wii, it is not looking to compete on those terms. The Wii U is a fun console, is enjoyable to play Off-TV and multiplayer games are especially fun. The main downsides are the current drought with games and the battery life of the Gamepad.

As with all consoles, it comes down to the games. Sadly, the Wii U has been slow on the uptake, but Nintendo has plenty of exclusive IPs to pull from down the line.


David Lee
David is the founder of Heart Gaming. Regular writer, reviewer and editor. Has a strong passion for gaming; particularly the Legend of Zelda series.