Of the trio of current-generation video game consoles, only the Nintendo Wii lacks a first-party recharging solution for its controllers. If you don't want to go through an endless stream of AA batteries, that means you'll be turning to one of the increasing number of third-party charging accessories becoming available. We're still very happy with our Nyko Charging Base that can simultaneously power up to two Wii remotes and adds a nice rubber grip to the back of the controllers as well. But the 4X Quad Charge Station from Penguin United ups the ante: now you can simultaneously charge up to four remotes at once. The added capacity plus some smart design decisions makes the Penguin a contender for the best Wii controller charger to date.
The Quad Charge Station is a circular base that won't go sliding away thanks to its rubber feet. The four Wii remote docking slots are arranged in a cross-shaped pattern on the unit's topside, which is sloped upward. The bright blue LEDs under each docking slot aren't the tackiest thing we've ever come across, but in a dark room they may become distracting. Unfortunately, there's no way to turn these lights off once the charging base is plugged in, but the AC adapter cable is detachable from the base itself.
The Quad Charge Station ships with four rechargeable battery packs that snap into the battery compartment of any standard Wii remote. These battery/cover combinations are actually lighter than the standard AA batteries and battery cover they replace, and the result is a Wii controller with a slightly different weight. We detected no change in gameplay experience, but hardcore Wii fans might need awhile to adjust to the new feel.
We also though that the addition of a recessed sync button built into the back of each controller cover was a great idea, as anyone with a Wii is certainly aware that the controllers can occasionally lose their connection. While Nyko added a nice rubberized grip to the back of their battery covers, the Penguin covers feature a rigged plastic. While it's not as slippery as the original Nintendo cover, the Nyko rubber covers perform a lot better. Feel free to use the rubber Nintendo sleeves with the Penguin covers, but be warned you'll have to remove them upon charging. Wrist straps, by contrast, can be easily tucked to the side so that the charging contacts can touch.
Penguin United claims that charging four remotes simultaneously can take up to 4 hours on the Quad Charge Station. This estimate was on the money, and in our testing we were able to charge a single remote in about 2 hours. In terms of play time, Penguin says each lithium Ion battery will provide 13 hours of use. The remote fits very snugly into the charger--in fact, the base makes for a great way to store your remotes when not in use.
The actual contacts on the base feel a bit flimsy-- they're just a loop of thin wire. We never had any issues in our testing, but we question their durability over the long term. We really liked the charge indicators in front of each charging dock. Four green LEDs represent 25 percent increments of the battery's charge. This also comes in very handy when you just want to quickly see how much juice is left in a remote.
Overall we liked the Penguin 4X Quad Charge Station for its capability to power up four Wii remotes simultaneously, its visual charge progress indicator, and the convenience of having the batteries built into the covers. Priced at $45, it should be the only charging solution you'll ever need to buy. That said, if grip is among the most important details to you, and you don't plan on using more than two Wii remotes, you may want to stick with the Nyko Charging Base, as those grip covers are among the best we've used to date.