The Wii Console

At the simplest level, the Wii console is the game unit itself. Some people talk as if the console is the entire system, rather than its heart, so the distinction is necessary. But, semantics aside, that description barely scratches the surface of the unit that makes up a major component of the whole system.

The unit itself is small and lightweight, which is great for those gamers who want to be able to take their console with them. At 1.75 inches high by 6.25 inches wide by 8.5 inches deep and weighing in at less than three pounds, it's portable and sturdy enough to travel.

After reading your PC specs (say, 4GB of RAM, 320GB hard drive, and a 3.0GHz CPU), you might not come away impressed with the Wii game console. But remember, this unit has only one role in life: to support gaming. That makes even its modest-sounding 88MB internal memory, 512MB flash storage, and 729MHz PowerPC CPU sound a little more impressive.

The connectivity options are robust, too. You can connect up to four Wii Remote controllers wirelessly using the built-in Bluetooth support. For those who already own a Nintendo GameCube (the Wii's predecessor), the four physical ports will be appreciated, as well. The SD card slot makes displaying images and video a snap and, thanks to the ever increasing storage capacity of the cards, very handy for storing games and more.

Throw in 2 USB ports and Dolby Pro stereo and you've got a game console that can offer outstanding sound. Sadly, the graphics features don't quite match the Xbox or PS3, but the 3D motion-sensor wireless remote control makes up for a lot. Still, with progressive scan 480p, the graphics are still quite good, the equal of a clean-looking DVD on a high-end set from only a few years back.

The operating system software makes all that keen hardware a breeze to use. Arranged around 'channels', the user visually selects from large rectangles using the hand-held Wiimote's pointing capability.

The six primary channels (Disc, Mii, Photo, Shop, Forecast, and News) provide plenty to explore right out of the box. But the channels are just the gateway to thousands more fun things. Those are supplemented by an ever-expanding array of games available via optical discs or online, with many classic Nintendo games available via the Virtual Console and hundreds more from Wii Shop online.

You can play GameCube games on the Wii and insert Gamecube discs, memory cards, and controllers. Since the console allows you to plug in additional controllers like the Nunchuk and the Classic Controller, and third party controllers like the Nyko Wireless, this unit is extremely flexible.

Thanks to the console's ability to wirelessly accept Nintendo DS right out of the box, users can take advantage of the touchscreen feature and microphone support without effort.

Price-wise the Nintendo Wii can't be beat. But you don't sacrifice features to get that savings. Millions of adults have now become avid gamers because of the ease-of-use of this system, and the excellently designed console is a major part of that well-deserved success.

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