Wii Upscaler Review: Can The Wii Really Do High Definition?

When we first heard about VDIGI's new VD-W3 Wii upscaler, a product that promised it could bring high definition graphics to the Wii, it sounded too good to be true. "Better review it, then" we thought. Just to be sure.

The VD-W3 is hardly a new idea - standalone "upscalers" have been around for years, primarily for DVD players - but it is the first we've seen solely dedicated to the Nintendo Wii. It works in much the same way an expensive TV, DVD player (or even HD console) does when trying to display standard definition content on a high definition TV set, by attempting to smooth out lines and present a cleaner image than the raw, SD feed could manage.

Some of these devices are pretty good. Others, not so good. And most completely irrelevant, since many TV sets and console already do the upscaling for you. How then does the VD-W3 fare?

LOVED

Easy To Install - The VD-W3 simply replaces the Wii's standard AV plug. So slot it into the back of the Wii, plug it into your HDTV, and you're good to go. It's also powered through one of the Wii's USB slots, saving you precious space on your powerboard.

It...Sort Of Works - In some areas, you'll definitely notice a difference. Perhaps because the VD-W3 works via HDMI (or, if you're using a monitor, DVI), colours were richer and better defined, as you can see in the comparison shots below. In-game menu shots were also cleaner, with pop-outs and text much improved over their usual appearance.

HATED

It...Doesn't Work Too Well - The colours and menus are nice, but this is a $US75 unit that's promising to display Wii graphics in HD resolution. And at this, it fails. As you can see below (I chose the SMG save screen because it had a great "jaggy" view around my noggin), jaggies are as pronounced as ever. Indeed, over the three games I extensively tested the device on, I only noticed a few areas where the actual in-game textures were improved.

Too Fiddly - The VD-W3 had a little trouble with GameCube games, with some menu screens, intros and even the odd in-game load troubling its upscaling processor, resulting in lock-ups and distorted images. You can fix this by fiddling with the unit's settings, but these settings are tiny, tiny switches on the underside of the unit, which are difficult to even get to, let alone move into the correct position.

Were this a universal upscaler (ie something that worked for your DVD player) that also worked on the Wii, I might recommend the VD-W3, seeing as it does a good job with colours and menus. But it's not. The unit only works on the Wii, and since it, well, doesn't really work that well on the Wii, it's tough justifying spending $US75 on it.

For the record, I reviewed the unit on my Pioneer PDP-LX509A. No allowances were made on the TV's settings for the "regular" comparison shots. Shots were taken on the same camera on the same settings under the same conditions. "HD" shots were taken using the VD-W3 connected via HDMI, while "regular" shots were taken using the Wii's standard component connection. The pictures are at an angle because from front-on the glare from my lights makes pictures useless. The VD-W3 also works on monitors via a DVI connection, but I was unable to test this, as I'm actually "between" displays right now.

The VD-W3 Wii upscaler is produced and distributed by VDIGI. Retails for USD$75. A unit was sent to us by the manufacturer for review purposes. Reviewed testing Zack & Wiki, Super Mario Galaxy & Wind Waker (GC), while Twilight Princess, Ikaruga (GC) and Super Paper Mario were also tested briefly.

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Comments

    If you want the Wii to really do high definition, you need to use the Dolphin emulator. It's completely legal too as you just use your purchased Wii Discs in a compatible dvd reader.

    I played Mario Galaxy in 720p 3D using Nvidia 3D Vision and Dolphin. Now that's a sight to behold!

      I have to disagree with it being legal considering it allows you to play pirated games and totally circumvents all the TPMs that exist in the Wii hardware.

        I don't want to start an argument over this, but just because something enables you to do something illegal, it doesn't make itself illegal - want an example? The internet. Dolphin doesn't use any code from Nintendo so it *is* legal.

    I'd like to see it with a game with real graphics.

    Graphics that are industry standard for 2010. Not graphics that you would find on the Nintendo 64.

    Super Mario Galaxy would be a great example actually.
    This upscaler is pretty pointless for half (or 80%) of the Wii games anyway - cause even though they could still be classed as "HD" with the device... the graphics of the games aren't "pretty" enough to be able see it as HD or detailed at the most.

      Glad i wasn't the only one to think this. Luke, please post some screen comparisons of REAL games, like SMG or SSBB in game

      The comparisons might be more accurate and convincing if they used the likes of Twilight Princess and Metriod Prime 3.

      Granted, Twilight Princess is a GC port to the Wii but I can't think of any other realistic looking games (I constrain myself to games I own and have played so I don't get my facts wrong).

    Use the Dolphin emulator with 8X AA and you will be amazed at what upscalers can do. Muramasa can only be appreciated with this, ironically.

    And no this isn't illegal. That is of course if you own the game heh.

    Upscaling is a waste of time - It's the same premise as resizing a 640x480 jpeg to 1280x960 and saying it looks better... it's resized, not "HD" - you can't create resolution that's not there in the original sample...

      There is a difference between upscaling and resizing. As its name implies, resizing mean to adjust the dimensions of a source and leave it at that.

      If I remember right, upscaling is resizing which is immediately followed by filtering so that distoritions are corrected. For example, a filter could be used to help blur the edges of lines so that don't become jaggered after the resizing.

    Judging for the photos standard 480P over component looks like it does a much better job than the VD-W3 upscaler. I figured this would be the case to be honest.

    I'm wondering though, will differences be different depending on what kind of internal scaler your TV has?

    Because either way, the image is being scaled to HD when you see it. the difference is that this device uses a dedicated chip to do it, the assumption being that the chip on this device is better than the chip in your TV.

    If you have a particularly good TV, with a good internal scaler, than this device wont be as effective.. but if you have an average HDTV, with a mediocre scale, will this device give you a much better improvement?

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