I scored a Nintendo Wii a few weekends ago. Between Wii Sports Boxing sessions with Paige, my 3 year old (we each won a match), and throwing out my neck driving and putting in Super Swing Golf, I realized that I could use the Wii to send my digital music collection to the living room stereo. We’d been missing music upstairs in the kitchen/dining/living room area. I had even been considering getting a second Airport Express, especially since their price reduction, to handle music in the living room.
To my surprise the Wii can stream music through its Internet Channel. A buddy at my day job recommended Wii Transfer by Riverfold Software to handle this task. Wii Transfer gives you access to both your iTunes music library and iPhoto albums through the Wii’s Opera browser. It can also transcode video files to a format the Wii can understand when copied onto an SD card and viewed through the Photo Channel, and backs up game saves.
Wii Transfer works as advertised though it has some annoying limitations (though some may be the Wii’s limitations):
- Delay between songs: Wii Transfer has to transcode AAC music tracks into MP3s that the Wii can play through its Opera browser. The process causes a longish (5-10 seconds) delay between songs. On the upside songs start playing before they are fully streamed to the Wii.
- Can’t listen and navigate at the same time: If you want to browse to another album, artist, playlist or track the current song stops playing (because you’ve left page, maybe the player could live in an iframe with a library sidebar, though this will crowd the Wii’s limited screen real estate).
- Low Sound Quality: This, unfortunately, is just the nature of the beast. As mentioned Wii Transfer transcodes (and re-compresses) my already lossy AAC music files into 128 kbit MP3s (this may be improved in future versions with a quality slider) (MP3 files are sent as is, damn my 90% AAC iTunes library!). To compound the low quality of the source tracks, I have the Wii routed through my TV’s audio then to a cheap Onkyo stereo receiver hooked up to old Mirage Omnipolar surround speakers on the shelf above the TV with only ten inches between them. It is not a hi-fi setup with any stereo separation or frequency extension. This is a case of 99.9% convenience and 0.1% quality (I mean audio hardware quality here, I don’t blame Wii Transfer for my lame secondary system). At least we have background “music” upstairs.
- Wii Transfer stops working after long periods of inactivity: The app is light enough that I thought I could just leave it running on my Mac Mini but the next time I rev up the Wii it can’t find the Wii Transfer bookmark. I have to quit and launch the app to get it going.
I like Wii Transfer. For $14 it is a great tool to add limited media center capabilities to Nintendo’s Wii. This review only tackles the system’s audio features and performance which are good enough for casual, background listening. I have not tried converting movies yet (no SD card for the Wii). The shareware app definitely beats out MyTunes RSS which has a terrible interface on the Wii (even with a custom CSS file)