It is Christmas, a time traditionally associated with joy, happiness, and generosity of spirit. Currently available only in Canada, one could consider the Wii Mini a festive gift from Nintendo – a full console bundle for just $ 99 CAD, that’s around £ 63 GBP, or just over $ 100 in US dollars. Unfortunately, behind the attractive price is a hardware proposition that reeks of the kind of rancor and meanness that Ebeneezer Scrooge would be proud of. This is a savagely compromised version of the original hardware that we can only recommend to less demanding gamers.
With that said, we can imagine that this is exactly the audience Nintendo has in mind for the new console review. With the console in hand, we found a machine designed with durability in mind: plastics are rough to the touch with a matte finish that should defy scratches, giving the impression of a heavy, child-proof, brick-like piece of hardware. It’s a print backed by Nintendo’s chosen color scheme, bright red on charcoal black, that makes it look like a little kid’s “my first game console”.
Included in the box is everything you need to get going: traditional Wii staples such as the sensor bar, power supply, AV cable, and a rather eye-catching and very Christmas bright red Wiimote Plus (with rubber sleeve matching) with matching Nunchuk. Aside from the instruction manual, that’s your lot, but it’s all you need for the vast majority of titles out there. Support is included for a few additional Wii add-ons, including the Balance Board, but beyond that any semi-serious user will be annoyed and frustrated by the utter lack of functionality and expandability that the new hardware offers.
Of course, we already know about the headline omissions – the slot-loading DVD drive has been removed in favor of a flip-top effort, while the legacy GameCube ports found on the original Wii hardware are gone, which means there is no possibility of running vintage games on the new device (although the optical drive can accommodate them quite easily). We would regret the resulting inability to use the shiny GameCube pad for retro virtual console titles, but of course the Wii Mini does not have VC or WiiWare support, due to the removal of WiFi hardware. Nintendo presumably rationalized that it wouldn’t recoup the cost of board hardware from eShop sales, so it decided to skip it entirely to hit that $ 99 price, but it didn’t stop there.
“First impressions aren’t that bad, the unit itself is pretty clunky, but gamers get everything they need to get going and the controller looks pretty splendid.”
We were hoping to be able to access the internet using Nintendo’s own USB-based Ethernet adapter (a single USB port remains on the new hardware) but surprisingly this doesn’t work at all, which means that the platform’s support isn’t quite out of order. put off. WiFi hardware, but it has also deliberately nerfed any kind of internet access. To confirm that, we also found that all internet settings on the front-end have been completely removed. Aside from removing access to retro games, downloadable titles, and DLC (there’s no SD card slot), this also means online gaming is off the table too, not to mention streaming video. Interestingly, the existing Wii’s traditional channel-based interface menu remains, although we assume that all those empty boxes will never be filled.
Surprisingly, the unjustified cuts don’t end there. Going back to the GameCube era, Nintendo hardware has supported analog component output with a 480p progressive scan option. For reasons known to himself, the platform support has not only eliminated 480p functionality, it has totally eliminated any kind of support for the component cable itself. Fortunately, standard RCA AV inputs are fast becoming a relic of the last decade, if not the last century, but here and now, that dark composite image is the best you’ll get from the Wii Mini.
In our recent article on the Wii U’s low power consumption compared to Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, we noted how Sony hardware has seen electricity consumption drop from over 200w in the launch model, to around 70w in the latest “Super Slim” review. This has been mainly achieved through smaller and cooler revisions of the main processors. We decided to run similar tests on the Wii, comparing the launch model with the new Mini; For the record, they are both NTSC models.
Originally running on 90nm CPUs and GPUs in 2006, we’ve heard unconfirmed reports that Nintendo dropped to 55nm and then 40nm hardware revisions in the following years. However, the launch hardware was pretty efficient on its own: running our North American copy of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption we found a relatively miniscule 18w power draw. Running the same software on the new Mini, we found a significant reduction in power: the same game consumes only 13w from the network. For those interested, the Mini comes with a 12v, 3.7a power supply, just like the original release model – good news for us as it meant we could use our existing PAL power supply to run Canadian hardware. imported.
Comparisons to the original Wii reveal a revised unit that isn’t actually much smaller than the original. And some might say that it is much uglier ”.
So what we have here is a crippled version of a six-year-old console that offers the absolute entry level of functionality, and nothing else. However, probably the most surprising element of the package is the “mini” form factor of the new console. The surprising reality is that the new model is not much smaller than the original model to the point where calling it the “Wii Mini” seems like an exaggeration. It’s a bit shorter and lighter than our launch unit, but just as thick. The downsizing certainly doesn’t make the Mini any more “living room-friendly” – the bright red plastics make it stand out much more than the more neutral blacks and whites on the existing model’s case.
Suffice it to say, this was proving to be one of the most disappointing hardware revisions we had done so far. The Wii Mini isn’t just a bad product, it’s also highly uninteresting, easily crossing our boredom threshold an hour after initial unpacking, so we decided to extract some more value by taking it apart. Now we will never claim to possess the disassembly skills of people like iFixit, but luckily we didn’t need them – a kid with a Phillips cross screwdriver could take it apart. The Wii Mini’s case is made primarily of two pieces of plastic: the drive cover assembly and a bottom case that houses the innards of the optical drive and the motherboard. These are held together by just four mini screws, two of them exposed and the rest lurking under the rubber feet.
Inside, we find four layers: the optical drive assembly, a plastic “plate” that the drive screws into, followed by a metal heat shield, which also houses a small attempt at heat sinks. The Wii mini uses so little power that it emits very little heat, which means nothing else is required. Also note that the fan mounted on the rear of the unit is absolutely small (and most of the noise generated by the drive comes from the DVD drive). Removing the final layer of screws allows us to access the final layer, the motherboard, where we find the main CPU and GPU (the larger of the two chips hidden underneath the metal heat spreaders) that reside under ineffectively large amounts of thermal paste. . Smashing the Wii Mini and photographing the process was a slightly interesting little exercise, but after that we found that we had completely exhausted all interest in what is a very poor piece of hardware.
“No component of the Internet, GameCube, analog, or 480p weakens the Wii Mini to a point that makes it an unacceptable proposition for any enthusiastic gamer.”
Nintendo Wii Mini: the Digital Foundry verdict
Traditionally, thin and light consoles are warmly welcomed by gamers across the spectrum – new hardware is often cheaper, more attractive, and sometimes even more refined than its more expensive predecessors, and is only very rarely seen. removes functionality. There is usually something for everyone in these important console reviews.
Unfortunately, the sad reality is that the Wii Mini disappoints on almost every level. It’s not an attractive kit at all, functionality has been reduced to the basics, and perhaps worst of all for a product that is actively marketed in its tiny form factor is the fact that it’s actually not that much. smaller than the original model. What we are left with is a console designed for young children, marketed at a price low enough to qualify as a toy.
That’s fair enough in that regard – there’s clearly value here, but what’s really irritating is Nintendo’s bizarre decision to actively sabotage its own product, effectively alienating it from the consideration of discerning gamers. Removing WiFi is one thing, but removing support for Nintendo’s own USB Ethernet adapter is quite another. Beyond that, intentionally removing component video and 480p functionality seems deliberately spiteful.
We never accepted Nintendo’s announcement that the Wii Mini would be exclusive to Canada; These console reviews don’t come cheap and we assume that the platform owner will release the new hardware in other territories in due course. But having spent some time with the Mini, it’s safe to say that we would be very happy if Nintendo never released it elsewhere. The original Wii hardware is generally quite reliable and we recommend a used example from the older model (look for the latest RVL-101 revision) rather than this shorter, fugl revision.