Wiinja review, Special thanks to Futura-online.com 7th of February 2007
Welcome to my review of the Wiinja, the first Nintendo Wii Mod-chip. Here is the official statement (with my comments behind):
- Non Swap / Direct Boot; boot burned discs directly
- Boots Own Region WII Backups Directly; only your Wii's region is supported
- Boots Own Region Gamecube Backups Directly; only your Wii's region is supported (when booting directly)
- Boots Imports Gamecube Backups by SWAP; when using a swapping technique you can also run gamecube titles from different regions
- GameCube AudioFix; this is something I don't think matters, simply said GameCube titles run fine.
- MultiDisc/MultiGames; Multiple games on one DVD...?
- Easy Soldering & Remove / 5 Wires
- 35E Retail Price (Doesn't include taxes); this of course highly depends on your reseller
- Support DVD-R and DVD+R (Burn +R on DVDROM Booktype); personally only tested Imation DVD's
- Universal EUROPE/USA/JAPAN Wii Console Supported; the same chip can be used in every console
- Stealth Mode; (should be) undetectable by the Wii
- NOT Upgradeable / ON SALES NOW!!
The Wiinja is a small PIC chip that connects to the Wii's DVD drive. The exact workings of the chip are kown. This has resulted in for example YaoSIM As is clear from the official statement the chip only works for the region your Wii is (meaning it will only run backups from the same region as your Wii). However via a swap method (freeloader) you should be able to run import games (doesn't work for Wii games). The chip (should) also allow(s) running GameCube homebrew (by booting SDload from a DVD, which in turn can start an application/game that can read from the DVD drive) such as the MFE distro of GameCube linux (which requires a DVD). As with the GameCube however you will need good DVD media (or possibly tweak your POT if possible). Installation should be fairly simple (though disassembling your Nintendo Wii, and soldering to the small solder points, could prove a problem for unexperienced users) as it only requires soldering of 5 wires (see below). Let 's see how the chip performs!
The packaging consists of a small, red, plastic box that contains the PIC placed in a small bit of cloth. I think it's a bit too basic, especially considering the PIC itself costs next to nothing and your paying mainly for the development, boxing and shipping costs. What I do dislike is the high "Home printer" look of the sticker on the box. It really gives you the idea that this is a one man operation. All in all it isn't really special, but that isn't needed for a PIC.
The build quality is simply said great; I can't say much else about a standard PIC. Microcontrollers have been produced in this manner for many years now and it simply works. The only thing that one could possibly change (and I'm not even sure it would be better) would be to ship the Wiinja in a SOIC package rather then the current PDIP.
Also (especially if a SOIC package would be used) a bit of PCB with larger solder points could have been good (though the PIC isn't very hard to solder).
First let me excuse myself for not having more installation pictures. As the solder points are pretty small I was keeping all my attention to the solder job rather then the review itself, so I only remembered taking a picture after I was done.
- Most probably (some Wii's apparently got shipped out without tri-wing screws) a tri-wing screwdriver (only for two screws)
- The Wiinja
- A Wii
- A good soldering iron with a small tip
- Proper soldering tin (+possibly tin-leach)
- The proper wires; I didn't have any wires small enough lying around, and my local hardware store didn't carry them. Because of that I ended up salvaging them from an old PS/2 mouse by stripping its cable)
The first part of the installation (opening the Wii) isn't very hard. You only need to remove a relative low amount of parts; just keep track of where everything came from and you should be fine. There are many good guides online on how to open your Wii, so I won't explain how to do so here (just remember to get the proper tools and it should be a breeze, much easier then the GameCube).
What you need to gather before installing the Wiinja is:
The real installation of course only starts when you pick up your soldering iron, though getting the proper wires to solder are also a must. I found it to be easier to install the wires to the Wiinja before putting the Wiinja inside the drive (I did however check in advance what would be the best orientation of the wires). I'm no big fan of gluing something on my Wii so I used tape to install the Wiinja rather then glue. After getting the Wiinja in place it was time to start soldering to the DVD drive's board.
The two power connections (the bigger soldering spots) are relatively easy to do without much trouble (nor do you need much skill, a little experience is however advised). As for the smaller (Top Secret Serial Port) points, they do require some soldering skills and a steady hand. I choose not to put soldering tin on the points, but to use the original solder with slight additions which I made to the wires before soldering them on to the board (to make sure I didn't bridge any of the points). You can choose whatever you like, it probably doesn't matter much.
In the end installing the Wiinja isn't hard, but not for the inexperienced as the solder points are quite small; If this is your first solder job, don't bother. Also, I prefer to have wires rather then a direct connection, it would have however been nice to have the wires delivered WITH the Wiinja rather then having to salvage/buy them.
Using the Wiinja
A few things beforehand; My Wii is a PAL Wii (Europe). Any DVD's I had lying around did not work, so I had to go out and buy a few new ones. I ended up using Imation-r discs (read below). Apparently the Wii is pickier when it comes to DVD's then my GC. Also, I didn't do any kind of tweaking to the drive (no POT tweaking).
If you have correctly installed the chip your Wii now no longer checks if a DVD came from a press or from a DVD burner. Because of this you can burn your own DVD's which will then correctly be detected by the Wii. That means that you can run (and I'm only covering homebrew here) GameCube homebrew such as the Multi-Media-Frontend build of GameCube linux! Together with this ability it is very easy to use SDdload (as you can create and burn a bootable GameCube disc that contains SDload). The Wiinja delivers what it says it does, it allows you to burn your own DVD's and run them. Just to make sure no myths survive, this DOESN'T mean that your Wii will suddenly be able to play DVD movies. I've found a bootable GameCube image on the internet that boots SDload. Simply burn it to a proper disc and you're good to go (when you have an SD adapter + card set up properly).
As for DVD's, the ones I used on my GameCube didn't go well with my Wii. When I inserted one from the wrong region it would tell me that it couldn't read the disc (normal behavior). When I inserted a proper game DVD however my Wii would crash telling me to remove the disc and reset the Wii. I went out and bought Imation DVD-R discs and they seem to work fine though as I can nicely start SDload now.
The Wiinja is the first Wii modchip/drivechip to hit the market. Although it is very basic in all ways (packaging, the product itself and its use) it delivers what it says it will. Sadly no region unlocking is included though. This is (most probably) because that isn't determined in the DVD drive but on the mainboard of the Wii. In the same line of objections we find that the chip ISN'T upgradeable (meaning the Wiinja team won't release updates for sold units). One can wonder if that will ever be necessary though, as the DVD drive's firmware won't be updated on a system (only when a new revision Wii will be released this could/has happened). Once that new revision comes along there will probably be a release of a new Wiinja, but that doesn't affect your system.
In the end the Wiinja team did a nice job on releasing the chip and getting it into production (though it is less of a feat as it is only a PIC). Yes they could have been a bit more extravagant when it comes to the packaging, including the wires would have been nice for one, but that is about where problems with this unit end. You pay for the code, not the chip really.
|Overall rating for the Wiinja Wii drive-chip|
(out of 10)
Boxart, manual and product appeal
Hardware design, durability and features
Overall Homebrew and NDS game
(if applies) compatibility score
What this products future looks like
(Built in) extra features of the unit
I hope you all enjoyed my review and found it useful.
-Simon van de Berg