Nintendo made a great console with the Wii, but one major mistake made was that the Wiimotes run on two standard AA batteries. This means that they require replacing on a regular basis. It’s a pain if they die in the middle of a game,‚ creating much frustration if there are no batteries to replace them with. For a while I used rechargeable AA batteries but that still requires swapping them each time they die.
There have been multiple companies that have come out with different battery pack solutions to deal with this problem. The thing that they all fail at is working with Nintendo, or third party, “Wii condoms” (the unofficial name for the silicon shells people put on their Wiimotes). In all, newer games Nintendo recommends you use a Wii condom. They have swapped the graphics of the Wiimotes in game to show using their condom. With most charging stations on the market, you have to take the Wii condom off to charge the Wiimotes. This means you either don’t use the Wii condom at all, or you end up forgetting to charge them, and get dead batteries.
Teknocreations has come out with a solution that solves both of these issues. The InCharge uses the same technology that is in some electric toothbrushes. It’s the same technology that MIT was advertising recently to run a light bulb wirelessly across the room. This is same technology that makes electric magnets possible. Surprisingly, it’s actually just basic high school physics behind it. It’s not used regularly because the amount of electricity lost using this method is many times greater than the amount used.
Physics says that a changing electric current will create a magnetic current. An electric magnet just is a wire wrapped around a metal rod so it moves around in the same direction creating a fixed magnetic field. The interesting and important part of this is that the reverse holds true too: a changing magnet field will cause an electric current.
The InCharge uses this idea to have an electric magnet create currents in the base station that cause an electric charge in the batteries. This is not the most efficient way to charge your Wii batteries since electricity is being wasted converting from electrical to magnetic, then back to electrical. Luckily, the batteries in the Wiimotes are small enough that the amount of energy that is required to charge them this way as opposed to the metal contact methods won’t be noticed by most people. To put in perspective, the power adapters for most of your electronics waste almost as much converting from 110 volts to the voltage the device uses.
The batteries held up well under my tests, though they did have the same problems of all other Lithium batteries. If left unused for any length of time they will slowly lose their charge, but only over long periods of time. This would mostly account for the discrepancy that they claimed 24 hours of charge time. I only managed to get a little more than 12 hours over a two-week period. This should be still more than enough when you consider that you should place the Wiimotes back on their charge station when not in use. So the biggest question on battery life is how long you will sit playing the Wii in one sitting, since the charger is able to easily charge them back up for you over night.
I did find that the meter on the Wii wasn’t accurate on these batteries though. The meter seemed to work fine on other batteries I’ve tested in the past. On the InCharge, the Wii still said half charge when they started to run out of power, and shutoff while playing games. So if you don’t place the remotes on their base station, you shouldn’t trust this meter.
The big benefit though is the fact that now you can leave your Wiimotes in their Wii condoms while charging. I tried a couple different Wii condoms to see that they each kept the Wiimote close enough to charge. The Wiimotes will still charge as long as they are within about one centimeter away from the base station. So now you can have different colored Wii condoms to tell your Wiimotes apart and still use a battery pack to charge them.
The other nice thing for families with small kids is the contacts are no longer exposed so you can’t get any gunk on them stopping the batteries from charging. Though personally the worst I’ve ever had from the contacts is a little rust that can be sandpapered off, it’s still nice to have one less thing to worry about.
One concern I’d raise about this is that the InCharge, because it uses a magnetic field, is like a microwave oven. I wouldn’t sit it next to your computer, or any electronics. Teknocreations says that the magnetic radiation isn’t harmful, but a computer too close may still have negative side effects.
Overall, I think the InCharge is a great device. It still has the trouble that if you have‚ three or‚ four people in your family it requires two InCharges since they only charge two Wiimotes each. On the other hand, if you only have two people playing the Wii, which seems more common, there will be no issue‚ and you won’t have extra wasted parts.