Nintendo recently updated the trial version of its Internet Channel to the full Opera-powered browser, but is it worth your time?
Console-based web browsers don't exactly have the best track record, not least because you have to do without the convenience of a mouse and keyboard. Of the browsers available on today's consoles, the PS3 browser is feature-packed but clunky, occasionally slow and suffers from poor compatibility with more complicated sites.
The PSP browser is much like its bigger brother only slower, and the DS browser, which is also provided by Opera, is agonisingly slow. Fortunately for Wii, Opera got its act together and has come up with a far better browser than we expected.
To start with, the advantages of browsing with the Wii Remote are clear - with the Remote's pointer functioning like a mouse, clicking your way through links is as easy as on a PC.
The one major problem with console browsers is typing with a control pad - when it takes you more than 20 seconds to tap in the URL for Google and search for "hardcore" (as you do), the 'moment' could easily have passed, as could your will to live.
Wii isn't compatible with USB keyboards, which is a shame (although a Wii keyboard is rumoured), but typing out words is made simple enough with the Opera browser's on-screen keyboard. There are two versions - a nine-button, mobile phone-style version and a full keyboard version, both with nice chunky buttons that make smashing words out with the Wii Remote a cinch.
Although the Wii browser is by no means a feature-backed application, it does boast several extra options and improvements to the trial version.
Saving and accessing bookmarks is easy - there's a button on the on-screen tool bar that brings up all your bookmarks in the form of nice little thumbnail pictures - and it's all easy on the eye. Adding and deleting Bookmarks is just as simple.
Page-zooming is also improved - where fonts used to go all messy before, now it retains its sharpness and structure as you tap the '+' button to zoom in.
Yes, the zoom works well with pictures too, lads.
But the new options include a couple of other nice touches, like the ability to assign the tool bar to 'always on', 'always off' or 'toggle on/off', which you do with the '1' button. You can also assign either Yahoo or Google as your default search engine, which is used when you type in the browser's built-in tool bar - it saves you having to navigate to the front page of the search engine first.
But most importantly, how compatible is it with web pages? Pretty damn good, actually. Google obviously works fine and is just as instantaneous as usual.
CVG.co.uk also loaded up snappily, and the tickers at the top of the homepage - which cause all sorts of problems on PS3 - function as they should do. We were also viewing screenshots on the site with no problem.
WMV videos don't work, unfortunately, but if you're all about watching people break bones and/or embarrass themselves in front of the world, you'll be glad to know the Opera browser is fully compatible with Flash-based video, which means YouTube is on.
Within a few seconds, and after a quick search, we were watching Sesame Street's The Cookie Monster singing 'C is for Cookie' in FULL SCREEN. The video downloads and plays just as fast as it does on our PC, making YouTube become YouTube TV.
Thankfully it's a nice surprise. The first console-based browser that works intuitively AND loads pages, images and Flash video quickly. Despite the lack of advanced features, like tabbed browsing for displaying multiple windows, and the incompatibility with certain plug-ins like WMV, the Wii Internet Channel works as it should do.
Just make sure you download it now while it's free, because Nintendo will be slapping a 500 Wii Point (£4) price tag on it at the end of June.