February 10th, 2007, 11:06 Posted By: wraggster
Demand for a wireless sensor bar solution for the Wii has been strong since the day the console hit the streets. There are plenty of installation circumstances in which the standard hardwired Wii Sensor Bar doesn't make for a clean installation, like with wall mounted plasmas (like Casamassina) and front-projection systems (Me and Peer), or any arrangement that doesn't situate the Wii within 10 feet of the display. The official Wii Sensor Bar is also a little weak--the console's manual states that it is most effective when a user is no more than 8 feet away, and it begins to get really jittery beyond 20-feet.
Because the Wii Sensor Bar is nothing more than a pair of infrared diodes, developing a wireless version isn't terribly tricky. The first solution available was a decidedly homebrew product distributed by wirelesssensorbar.com (review). Though functional, the crude design didn't really blend in next to nice TVs. The big accessory manufacturers were, of course, on the wireless Sensor Bar case as well, and today we've got our hands on the first major release, the Nyko Wireless Sensor Bar.
Nyko's new product is decidedly more polished than the homebrew alternatives. It's packaged rather nicely in a cool plastic tube, and aesthetically its shiny black face and silver housing mimic the official Sensor Bar's styling closely. Surprisingly, the Nyko model is not that much bigger than the Nintendo version, despite the necessity of batteries, so it shouldn't look out of place near a nice TV. It also rests securely upon the Sensor Bar mounting bracket that comes with the Wii. The power button is situated on the top surface, and a blue LED shines on the front when powered on.
The unit is powered by 4 AA batteries (included) which Nyko states will allow up to 30 hours of use. Because the Wireless Sensor Bar doesn't know when the Wii is on or off, the potential for forgetting to shut it down after some Wii action is a concern. Nyko did their best to ameliorate the issue via a switch on the back of the Sensor Bar that allows users to set a specific time of operation of 1 or 2-hours before an audible warning (sounds like a microwave beeping) reminds that it is still on. Other than engineering some sort of wireless detection system that would let the Sensor Bar know when the Wii is on or off, which would certainly raise costs, we can't really think of better power-saving strategy than what Nyko has come up with, moderately clumsy though it may be.
The Nyko Wireless Sensor Bar claims a 25-foot range, and in our testing we concluded that it is indeed somewhat more powerful than the official Sensor Bar. Between 12 and 25-feet away from the Sensor Bar, we experienced comparatively less jittering with the Nyko model as opposed to the Nintendo issue. The difference wasn't extreme and twisting the Wiimote still produced quite a bit of jitter, yet we were able to conclude that the Nyko Wireless Sensor Bar gave us slightly better tracking ability at the 25-foot range.
Nyko's MSRP for the Wireless Sensor Bar is a pretty reasonable $19.99 and should appear at retail in March. Though there's unavoidable hassle associated with the necessity of turning it on and off independently from the Wii, gamers with entertainment setups that simply won't accommodate the official Nintendo Sensor Bar would do well to consider Nyko's solution.
Nyko's other premier Wii product are its HD-Link Component Cables. At launch the demand for component cables for the Wii far outstripped Nintendo's supply and many HDTV owners were left unable to take advantage of the Wii's 480p output capability. Availability is somewhat improved, but reports of sizable markups over MSRP have been reported at retail. Nyko's HD-Link may help improve the situation. The cable is relatively similar to the Nintendo release. Both cables are roughly 9-feet long, but Nyko's component cable is covered in a somewhat more attractive white coating, as opposed to Nintendo's grey. The connections are also somewhat higher quality looking. In our testing we noticed no image degradation associated with the Nyko cable as opposed to the Nintendo offering. MSRP for the Nyko HD-Link Component Cables will be $19.99, and the product should arrive at retail at the same time frame as the Wireless Sensor Bar, March.
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