Memorex recently sent over two Wii gizmos for me to test out. One of them is good, one of them, well…not so much.
First let me open with the positive. Memorex’s Wireless Wii Sensor Bar is a very solid product, improving upon the stock sensor bar that comes packaged with all Wii consoles in every way possible.
First and foremost, it is wireless. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always hated the long, thin wire of the Wii’s sensor bar, as it always seems to get twisted and tangled behind my TV more than other wires. Powered by four AA batteries, Memorex’s replacement sensor bar is completely wireless, and it instantly syncs up with the Wii system and remote without delay or interference. Just pop in the batteries, set it above or below your TV, flip on the power switch, and you’re ready to waggle like you’ve never waggled before. The packaging also says the sensor can be charged via USB without batteries, but that is egregious false advertisement because no such feature exists.
As you can see in the provided pictures I’ve uploaded at the bottom of this page, the design of the sensor is MUCH different. The wireless sensor bar is two to three times taller than Nintendo’s sensor bar, and its curved edges give it an additional inch or so of added length on each side.
These differences in form factor are important for a number of reasons. First, the larger sensor size equates to more accurate motion tracking, both in terms of the sensor being able to track the Wii Remote from further away and in a wider space. Since using the wireless sensor, I have noticed smoother aiming in FPS and light gun shooter titles and fewer dropped signals when pointing the remote too far off of the screen to the left or right. It’s a subtle improvement, but it is noticeable.
If you have your Wii hooked up to a flat panel TV, the sleeker shape also rests atop the set more naturally – and it blends in with the décor of an entertainment center much nicer. The top of my TV has little lipped edges on the front and back with a shallow valley in between, and with the old sensor bar I actually have to tilt it up and rest it on the front lip for it to work, otherwise it sits down in the valley behind the lip and doesn’t track particularly well. The wireless sensor, however, fits perfectly between the ledges and stands up above to provide a clear, unimpeded signal.
The only thing I’m not too fond of is the forced sleep timer. Having a sleep timer is very much appreciated – I have forgotten to turn the power switch off a couple times during testing, and the auto shut-off has really saved my bacon – but I don’t like that you have to have the timer on in order to use it. Even when you have the power switch flipped on, the sensor will not work until you click the sleep button on top to set the timer for either one hour or two hours. I generally don’t play my Wii for long sessions like that, but in a couple instances I played beyond the time limit and the sensor turned off on me while I was in the middle of a game.
Other than that (and the deceptive package listing of USB charge functionality), the Memorex Wireless Wii Sensor Bar is a solid upgrade over the existing sensor bar and a great buy at only $15.
Memorex’s Wii charging stations, however, aren’t so hot. I was provided with the Quad Controller Charging Kit capable of holding and charging four Wii Remotes at once (a Dual Controller Charging Kit is also available for two remotes), and from the moment I took it out of the box I was very underwhelmed. The build quality feels rather cheap, and with the unit I received the LED indicator lights seem to have faulty wiring or something because a couple of them randomly flicker or turn off when they aren’t supposed to. And overall, I’ve found the charging indicators to be less than reliable – sometimes the light will tell me a battery is charged and ready to go, but when I go to play the remote doesn’t have enough juice and shuts off.
I’ve also had trouble with the included rechargeable battery packs. You get four of them (or two with the Dual charger), which is great. But they don’t seem to charge consistently. They require an initial charge right out of the box, and when I first set them up the initial charge time took a few hours. After that first charge, though, the battery drained down very quickly, and within a couple hours of gaming I had to recharge it again. However, after switching around to different batteries and recharging multiple times, my current battery has lasted for going on two weeks now – and it’s still at two bars according to the Wii battery indicator.
The Quad and Dual Charging Kits are inductive chargers as well, meaning there is no direct connection linking the remotes to the station. You simply lay a remote in one of the slots and it begins charging up like magic. The technology is cool, but personally, I prefer having a docking station with a physical connection between the charger and the battery. I don’t know; I just don’t trust that I’m always getting a good charge with inductive units, because any little bump can knock the alignment off, and sometimes the two devices don’t seem to sync up properly.
One neat benefit to the inductive charging, though, is that you can leave your Wii Remote in its protective sleeve and it will recharge right through the material. I think that is pretty handy. I also like the design of the battery packs. The battery is built directly into its own cover plate which snaps into the back of the Wii Remote flush with the rest of the controller casing. The plate even has a tiny hole in it so, if needed, you can access the sync button without taking the battery cover off.
Unfortunately, those are about the only handy things the Quad Controller Charging Kit has to offer, and at $45 (the Dual charger costs $30) it’s simply not worth the money. You’re better off sticking with rechargeable AAs.
Source: Retail units of the Wii Wireless Sensor Bar and Quad Controller Charging Kit were provided by Memorex for review purposes.