For a few years now I’ve thought that Nyko should just make “we do it better” their company motto. With very few exceptions, they offer 3rd
party hardware solutions that are certifiably better than what Microsoft, Nintendo or Sony are offering. One of the most persistent examples is Nyko’s line of rechargeable battery tech, particularly when it comes to Nintendo. While Nintendo’s handhelds have typically had very solid rechargeable internal battery packs (excluding the power-sucking 3DS), the big N has never offered recharge options for their home consoles until the Wii U.
Even then, Nintendo’s tech leaves a lot to be desired. The Wii U Gamepad will give you five hours of battery life if you’re lucky, and the average is more like three hours. Nintendo also never offered rechargeable batteries for the Wii Remote; over six years since the console launched, and only now are they asking customers if they’d even want something like that through corporate surveys. Meanwhile Nyko has been offering class-leading chargers and batteries for all Wii hardware and controllers pretty much from the word-go.
The Wii U is here and early-adopters are understandably tired of plugging in their GamePads every three hours. Like clockwork Nyko has some products to handle that, starting with the Uboost.
The Uboost is a battery pack that screws into the back of the GamePad, plugging into the same charging contacts the GamePad uses to charge itself on the standard Wii U charging cradle that comes in the deluxe bundle. In this way the Uboost acts as a pass-through of sorts. The unit itself is relatively small, lightweight and unobtrusive—very similar to the battery packs Nyko released for the similarly power-starved 3DS. It has two small pads that stick out from the back of the GamePad but these didn’t get in the way of my fingers.
A small portion of the Uboost—maybe two-thirds of an inch—juts out from below the bottom edge of the GamePad. This section has the Uboost’s power indicator LED and power button on it, and again I never had any issues with it interfering with my grip or general gameplay. In fact the Uboost is so out-of-the-way and so light that I didn’t even notice it; after a few minutes of playing Lego City Undercover, I forgot the battery pack was even there.
The way the Uboost functions is a little unconventional, but effective. Instead of a second battery, it acts as a recharge pack. When the GamePad has exhausted its 3-5 hour battery life, you simply hit the power button on the Uboost and it will charge the GamePad’s battery while you play, adding approximately 5 more hours of playtime. It’s kind of like playing while the GamePad sits in the charging cradle, except portable and not incredibly awkward to hold. In any case, if you prefer playing Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate with the GamePad the Uboost will make your life a lot easier, as it’s not hard to dump dozens of hours into Monster Hunter once you get into it.
When both the GamePad and Uboost are spent, you can just drop them into the standard Wii U charge cradle, and both will charge up simultaneously. The Uboost’s power indicator glows orange when it’s charging, just like the GamePad’s light, and then glows green when it’s fully charged. All in all the Uboost is an effective life extender for the power hungry GamePad and pretty affordable at around $25.
The Charge Station U is another Nyko product that follows their track record from the past few years. It’s a close descendant of the Wii Remote charge stations they’ve been making since the Wii was released back in 2006. In fact it’s a sort of hybrid between the standard GamePad charge cradle and the legacy Nyko Wiimote chargers. It has a stand on the front that docks the GamePad and charges it in the exact same fashion as the Nintendo brand one that comes with the Wii U deluxe bundle. However the Charge Station U also has two slots on the back for charging either Wiimotes or the Nyko alternative, the Wand.
In that regard the Charge Station U is compatible with the same battery packs Nyko has been making since their first Wiimote charge base set the standard for the industry. It has the same soft-spring contacts that lightly touch the receiving contacts peeking through the padded Nyko battery doors on the Wiimotes. The Charge Station U includes two rechargeable Wiimote battery packs and their corresponding battery doors, and if you previously bought any Nyko Wiimote batteries, those are fully compatible too. It’s the same design they’ve been using for years and it still works just fine, so I’m glad Nyko didn’t fix something that isn’t broken.
In practice I’ve found that the Charge Station U powers up a dead Wiimote in about the same time that the old chargers did—about two and a half hours. The GamePad charges in around the same time, putting the Charge Station U at least on par with the standard Nintendo charging cradle. In terms of design and ergonomics the Charge Station U is bigger and bulkier than the Nintendo one, to accommodate the Wiimote slots, but remarkably light—the extra size seems to be there to support Wiimotes and a GamePad all charging at once.
In any case, it looks pretty cool; two small LEDs on either side glow orange when Wiimotes are charging and turn blue when fully charged, and an illuminated bar in the center of the unit does the same when the GamePad is charging. The unit also has a small tilting back stand for the GamePad, so it can be charged and displayed at different angles. I’m really not sure why they added this feature but it’s a nice aesthetic bonus.
The Charge Station U doesn’t come with its own AC adapter; instead, it uses the same one that comes with the Wii U, the cable that plugs into the standard Nintendo charging cradle, or straight into the GamePad if you only got the basic bundle. At $35 the Charge Station U is also pricier than the $20 Nintendo one, but with the included Wiimote charging ability and two rechargeable Wiimote batteries too, the extra 15 bucks is well worth it.
While the Uboost and Charge Station U are both fully functional on their own, strangely enough they are not compatible with each other. The size and shape of the Uboost prevents it from pressing down on the Charge Station’s switch—it simply cannot fit. This is particularly puzzling because the Uboost fits perfectly into the regular Nintendo cradle, and the GamePad fits snugly into the Charge Station U. This can be a bit of an issue if you have both pieces of Nyko tech, but real estate on your entertainment center is at a premium; it forces you to keep the original Nintendo cradle on hand to charge up the Uboost, but also keep the Charge Station ready when your Wiimotes are dry. If this is your setup, you’ll find yourself swapping the AC cable between your Charge Station and Nintendo cradle depending on what needs charged at the time.
Despite this unfortunate compatibility issue, both the Uboost and Charge Station U are very solid new pieces of tech and competitively priced. The Wii U GamePad was in desperate need of battery solutions and as always Nyko delivered. They even have a replacement battery in the works—the Wii U Power Pak—that supposedly triples the GamePad’s life. Once that comes out I’d be interested to see what kind of combinations I could produce; maybe a GamePad with both the Uboost and Power Pak for a truly epic battery life, or at least an extended life GamePad that could fit in the Charge Station U.
As it stands, however, the Uboost and Charge Station U are a good deal and a godsend for gamers frustrated by the Wii U GamePad’s weak battery life. I give both a solid 8 out of 10.