Review: Nintendo Wii Gets (Very) Beta Online Video Streaming Service

PlayOn for WiiVideo streaming service PlayOn from Media Mall Technologies recently added support for the Wii, which owners of Nintendo’s phenomenally popular video game console can use to watch Hulu, CNN and other selected channels online. It’s about time: The Wii excels at games, but when it comes to offering great online content, it’s running a distant third to Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s Playstation 3. That in mind, I gave PlayOn for Wii a quick spin today. Instant verdict: Not a bad video streaming alternative for long format videos, but not yet ready for everyday couch surfing.

You first need to install the PlayOn program on a computer running on the the same network your Wii uses for Internet connectivity. (Instructions here; follow those closely before even turning on your Wii or downloading the client, or you may end up with hours of aggravation and confusion, like me.) Once PlayOn’s launched on your PC, just point your Wii’s web browser to “playon.tv,” and you’re in.

PlayOn’s Wii starting screen presents you with the available channels to choose from, including Netflix and Amazon, though you need to register your account info in the PC client, to access those services. Video quality is not bad, at least on my console — slightly better than the average YouTube video, but a notch or two below Hulu. PlayOn for Wii seems to stream long format videos well; I was able to watch an extended 60 Minutes segment without any sputtering. Overall, however, it is still very beta. For instance, many of Hulu’s listings don’t even have show/subject titles. (I only found Daily Show episodes after much digging, and got a 404 error for my pains.) YouTube videos don’t seem to come with a rewind or replay button. At the moment, channel navigation and content search is so kludgey and time-consuming, it’s not a very good solution for random viewing.

Final summary for Wii owners? Instead of using the 14-day free trial offer now, I’d wait a month or two (or three) in hopes the folks at Media Mall Technologies can work out the worst kinks, and only then give it a whirl before deciding if you want to plunk $39.99 down for a full license.

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