Last night, or rather at midnight, the BBC iPlayer channel was released for the Nintendo Wii.
The iPlayer has been usable in the past using the Opera-powered browser channel, but has been of limited quality and, well, not very easy to use. Now we have a very specific channel just for iPlayer. And it’s been a long time coming – the BBC have been talking about it for a year and a half.
However, I can only assume they’ve spent this time time on development and testing because the end result is superb.
The download is quick and quite compact (I wonder if it’s using components of the browser – e.g. Flash – I didn’t have time to check if this was the case). It’s slick in use (although there is a delay each time you start it) and very polished. Most importantly, programmes are easy to find and, best of all, show in full screen without any obvious problems. Considering the Wii only has 512MB of memory and no hard drive, I thought that buffering would suffer and there would be delays during playback. During the (admittedly limited) time I had to test it this morning, I didn’t see any such problems.
I headed towards last Saturdays Doctor Who episode – it looks good. A little grainy, but no obvious over-compression during fast moving sequences (such as the opening titles). Hey, it’s not HD quality, but then the Wii isn’t an HD console!
As I watch more on it, I’ll report back if I do come across any problems with stuttering or compression artefacts.
Overall, I’m damn impressed. I can see the Wii being used even more now – my wife and I missed a BBC programme at the weekend, and will be watching it on the Wii iPlayer tonight. Now we just need the other channels to do something similar…
Update: My wife used the Wii iPlayer during the day to watch a half hour show – 20 minutes in it stated “insufficient bandwidth” and wouldn’t proceed. This even we watched another half hour show and it froze 6 times during playback. There were also some sound sync issues as well. So, not so good. My broadband isn’t too bad either – usually about 2-3 meg and the wireless router is about 2 metres away from the Wii.