Snakebyte Premium Remote XL+
Budget remote brings charging to the MotionPlus party
Posted November 7, 2010
Inside of the window box you get the Premium Remote XL+, a pair of rechargeable batteries, a pair of wrist straps, a USB charging cable, and a mini-screwdriver (for undoing the back of the Wii-mote.) The USB cord is mini-USB, so you never have to worry about losing it (since you likely have 15 more around your house), while the batteries are rechargeable Energizer 1300mAh AAs, not the usual budget batteries used for pack-ins. These should last a while and hold a charge well, and will be easy to replace when they eventually wear down, unlike many rechargeable battery packs. Including the screwdriver was a nice touch, but it doesnít make up for the decision to make the back screwed-down, rather than a click latch, like most Wii-motes.
A quick look will tell you the materials are not up to the quality of the original Wii-mote, as the off-white plastic looks a bit thin and ďoffĒ in comparison to the official controller (you can see the LED lights through the sides and bottom of the controller, though the lights are admittedly brighter than the original Wii-moteís.) It looks a bit like what happens to many light-colored plastics with time (though not as extreme as the old SNES issue.) The mold used is almost exactly the same as the original Wii-mote, differing slightly in a few ways but more obviously in others, including an LED charging indicator at the bottom, a curve of four round indicator lights (instead of a straight row of square lights), an odd debossing around the button area, a slightly less rounded face on the A button and a shape change for the 1 and 2 buttons, as well as the addition of the charging port and external sync button. The only real change to how the controller is put together is a shift from the hard plastic power, -, + and home buttons to soft rubber, which is actually pretty nice, though that material wouldnít fly with the action buttons. Unlike on the original Wii-mote, whereís itís almost recessed, The power button is raised above the face of the remote, making it a touch easier to just hit, which could possibly be a problem for some when holding the remote horizontally like a classic NES controller, though it wasnít a real issue during testing.
The controller might be just slightly heavier than the original controller, but youíd really have to be looking for a difference to notice it. When I did a blind test to see if I knew which controller I was holding, between a standard Wii-mote, a standard Wii-mote with a rechargeable battery pack and the XL+, I ranked the standard Wii-mote and the XL+ as weighing the same. Unfortunately, SnakeByte hasnít addressed the original Wii-mote issue almost every third-party controller or battery pack has tackled since, and thatís the ultra-smooth back of the controller. Sure, you could use a remote jacket, like Nintendo tells you to, but thatís not my way.
Despite the thin plastic, overall, the XL+ feels rather study, The fact that a second wrist strap is included, as a bonus, wonít help assuage any fears that it might not stop your Wi-mote from becoming a deadly projectile though. I gave the anchoring thread some hard tugs and spun it around like a lasso to see what would happen, but they held tight. The strap, which is stark white versus the official gray color, is actually a bit thicker and softer, though that really doesnít result in any benefit during gameplay.
Putting the XL+ through its paces next to a standard Wii-mote with the MotionPlus attachment revealed no noticeable differences in performance, as the console picked-up my movements the same way with both remotes. The D-pad was just as responsive with the XL+, as were the button presses. There wasnít an action where the XL+ felt like a different experience, though obviously the more compact shape (shared with the Wand+ and the Wii Remote +) felt much better than the add-on MotionPlus ever felt.
Where the XL+ fell short is in the realm of sound and vibration. The best Wii developers have taken full advantage of the speaker on the Wii-mote and the vibration inside it, but the XL+ is a disappointment here. The vibration makes more of an impact aurally than youíll ever feel, as you hear the motor spin more than you feel any vibration. It wouldnít be a stretch to say itís as close to imperceptible as it could be without actually being imperceptible. Sure, youíll feel a small buzz, but itís nothing like what you get with the official remote. Itís almost as if the remote is concerned about bothering you.
On the other hand, the speaker is way more powerful than the official remoteís, which actually reveals a problem with the speaker. The sound through it was almost like hearing a walkie-talkie, complete with the fuzzy noise and instant cut-out. The Wii-mote speaker has never been exactly Bose-quality, but here itís nearly off-putting. The odd thing is, I pumped up the volume on a standard Wii-mote and listened closely, and these negatives are there too, but since the volume doesnít go as high, they arenít obvious unless you listen for them.
The addition of an external sync button is a nice addition, since hiding it inside of the battery chamber makes it a minor inconvenience when you need to sync, but in trying it out, I realized I canít remember the last time I syncíd a Wii-mote. Perhaps if youíre taking your own controller to play on other peopleís systems often this is of value, but for most people itís a solution to a rare problem. The charging set-up is a great addition through, as having a mini-USB port just under the Nunchuk port is an excellent way to shoehorn in a charger, and the one included charges your controller pretty quick. This eliminates the need for a dock, and opens up a world of other chargers built around mini-USB. This kind of universal tech needs to be embraced over proprietary systems.
And In The End...
The $10 you save off the price of the official Wii-mote will be the deciding factor for almost anyone choosing between the XL+ and the Wii Remote Plus, as they perform equally as well. Obviously, the recharging capabilities help make this more attractive financially and economically, especially since thereís no need for a dock. But the official remote simply looks better and offers better vibration and speaker performance (oddly, the result of the XL+ís more powerful speaker.) If your budget is your deciding point, you will want the XL+ and its cost and recharging benefits, but if money is no object, getting the official Wii Remote plus is the way to go.
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