Ben Kuchera

The Wii U is here! First images and impressions of the hardware

The Wii U is here! First images and impressions of the hardware

Today the retail box Wii U Deluxe Edition showed up at the Penny Arcade Report Office (my house) and the embargo that goes along with it is oddly complex. I'm allowed to take pictures of the unboxed hardware and post some impressions, but I can't show you what it looks like when powered on, I can't take it apart, and I can't give any kind of definitive review. With that in mind, this is definitely more of a first look than anything else. I was hesitant to do this sort of “unboxing” post, but I promise to try to make this worth your while. The system itself is larger and heavier than the original Wii, and the shiny black surface attracts smudges and finger prints almost instantly. The system came with two small plastic stands in case I'd like to set the system on its side while playing, but that always made me nervous. I think I'll stick to keeping it flat. The system's fit and finish is attractively austere; each button is clearly labeled and easy to understand. It's an inviting design, and you feel comfortable picking it up and playing with it. The flap on the front of the system opens to reveal an SD Card slot and two USB ports. The system's rear is likewise clean. You have your HDMI output (and the Deluxe edition comes with a gray HDMI cable of a good length), the port for the sensor bar, two USB ports, the AC port, and an “AV multiport.” I'm guessing that last one is good for families who want to use component cables. The $49.99 Wii U Pro controller is a pleasant surprise. It seems to be modeled directly after the 360 controller, although the face buttons and second analog stick have swapped places. The D-Pad feels amazing, and I'm looking forward to testing it on a fighting game. The controller is charged via an included mini-USB cable, and the controller's built-in rechargeable battery can be replaced by the user by removing one screw from the rear and removing a panel. The controller is nearly the exact size of a 360 controller, but it somehow feels slightly larger in your hand. I can't heap enough praise on this thing; it feels wonderful to hold and that D-Pad is worlds above its direct competition. I'll have more thoughts after some testing. The Game Pad! I'm sad I can't power this up to show it in action, although I can begin to preview some of the included games today. If I talk about things like the touch screen am I breaking the hardware embargo? With a controller like this the hardware is going to be a large part of the user experience, so that touch screen form factor better be up to the task. The controller is estimated to run around 3 to 5 hours on a single charge, and it takes 2.5 hours or so to charge it completely. The Deluxe Wii U set comes with a charging cradle, or you can plug it directly into the wall via an AC cable. The controller is surprisingly light, and comfortable to hold. We'll see if those initial impressions last after a few multi-hour sessions; I'm planning on playing the living hell out of some Mario tonight. The rechargeable battery in the Game Pad can also be replaced by the user, and I'm hoping for some third-party solutions that offer a longer charge. Even if the new batteries are slightly heavier, it seems like that would be a good trade. We'll see. The top right side of the game pad. You can see where the stylus is located, as well as the volume controler. The top left side of the GamePad. You can see the IR port, headphone adapter, and AC adapter. The GamePad near a beaten-up 360 controller for relative size. A surprisingly large power brick. The embargo sheet has a long list of what I'm allowed to talk about and when, and the preview rules are pretty lax; I'll be able to provide some solid information on Nintendoland and New Super Mario Bros. U in the next day or two. I've been a big fan of the Wii U when I've had the chance to play it at industry events, but you never know how well hardware holds up until you put it through the paces in your own home. If you have any questions, ask in the comments and if I can answer them, I will. The test begins….. NOW!