Nyko sent us its new Wireless Sensor Bar and a Charge Station for the Nintendo Wii, so I took it home for the weekend and gave it a spin. This is only a first look, but the results for both devices were very promising.
The Nyko Charge Station is an all-in-one battery dock for Wii controllers. It comes with two rechargeable battery packs, two rubberized covers, and a two-slot charging dock for the Wiimotes to sit in. The battery packs replace the AAs that normally charge the Wii remotes, and the covers have a small hole in them so the batteries' electrodes can make contact with the charging dock. I didn't time how long the batteries last, but the packs seemed to work well, and the charging station is a great place to keep your Wiimotes when they're not in use. The rubberized battery covers can also help keep the Wiimote from slipping out of your hand and destroying your television, though you should still use a wrist strap.
I noticed two potential problems with the Charge Station. The charging dock has only two slots, so if you have four Wiis and want them all to enjoy the battery pack goodness, you'll need to get two Charge Stations. Second, the battery pack must be inside a Wiimote to charge, and you can't play with it while it's charging. If both battery packs run down, you'll have to either swap in some old-fashioned AAs or stop playing for a bit. This isn't a big deal for 'casual gamers,' but if you plan on having a marathon Wii party, you'll need to have a backup ready.
The Wii sensor bar is a misnomer, as it doesn't actually sense anything. Rather, two diodes emit invisible infrared light which sensors in the Wiimote use to determine where it's pointing. Still, "sensor bar" is easier to understand than "IR-emitting diode bar." The Wii's sensor bar takes power from the Wii itself, running a long, thin cord from the Wii to the bar.
Nyko's Wireless Sensor Bar works just like the Wii's sensor bar, only without getting power from the Wii. Rather than staying tethered to the console, the Wireless Sensor Bar runs on four AA batteries that Nyko claims can last up to 30 hours. The sensor bar is a bit bulkier than the original, but that just makes it feel significantly more durable than the fragile piece of plastic bundled with the Wii. When turned on, the sensor bar shines a blue light that matches the Charge Station's charging lights and the Wii's own glowing disc drive. The bar stays on by default, though a switch in the back can set it to turn off automatically after an hour or two. The bar worked quite well, and if anything made the pointer slightly more accurate in my horribly lit apartment. Of course, this is just an initial impression and not based on any scientific tests.
Nyko's new Wii accessories seem pretty nice. The Charge Station gives you two sets of chargeable battery packs, and a nice dock for your Wiimotes so they stay charged and don't get lost under the couch. The Wireless Sensor Bar might seem stupid for smaller living rooms, but for huge home theaters with large screens or projectors, I could see it as really useful. Even better, you can power it with the AA's you just took out of your Wiimotes for the Charge Station. The Nyko Wireless Sensor Bar and Charge Station will both ship in early spring, with suggested retail prices of $20 and $30, respectively.