Wii Premium Fitness Board

Review

posted 3/18/2011 by Ben Berry
other articles by Ben Berry
Platforms: Wii
 Third party hardware developers usually serve one of two purposes; they either mimic the functionality of the original vendor for a lower price, or they produce a higher end “Mercedes” level product. snakebyte USA went for the value option while still attempting to bring some new features to their Wii Premium Fitness Board. Can you really get everything you want, and for a budget price? Let’s find out.

snakebyte is relatively new to the US market, and as such they’re trying to cover different segments of the 3rd party peripheral hardware segment so as not to be pigeonholed in the budget hardware contingent. The problem with that strategy is that you can wind up with a product that is a bit all over the place. If someone asked me to describe the snakebyte Premium Fitness Board, that’s probably the best description I could give it, though it isn’t without its positive traits.

There are two big visual clues that differentiate the snakebyte board from the Nintendo board are two large strips of LED that line the sides of the board and light up blue when the board is active. Between the lights and some gray bumper materials for storing the board on its ends, the snakebyte board stands out enough that you wouldn’t mistake it for the Nintendo board. And that’s without even noticing the digital readout for the built in scale.
 

That built in scale is actually what made me reply to snakebyte’s email asking if I would be interested in reviewing the board initially. I, like many
gamers, am not just overweight, but obese. I’m active, so much so that I completed a half-Ironman triathlon last year (among several races I did). Yet I remain around 100 pounds overweight. Were I not blessed with a large frame and terrific genetics (all of my blood tests come back healthy), I could be in severe trouble. Even so, weight loss is something that’s important to me.

One of the ways I tested this board out is as part of a contest I held in December with our esteemed Editor in Chief. While he doesn’t have nearly the weight to lose than I do, slimmer means faster, and we can all stand to be faster, whether its for hockey or triathlon. Through a series of weekly weigh-ins we challenged each other to be healthier.

I used the board daily for my workouts in Wii Fit Plus. I weighed in daily, comparing the built in scale readout against the weight displayed. The scale display on the board was consistently the same as the Wii Fit Plus software. Further, I had a couple of doctors appointments in December, and both times I was weighed at the doctors, it was consistent with the snakebyte board.


Using the snakebyte board for playing the mini-games in Wii Fit Plus worked was where the game started to show some of the weaknesses of maybe trying to do too much in a product. The first thing I noticed is that the board was overly sensitive from front to back, and less sensitive from side to side. When the Wii Fit software asks you to “step on” and you’re waiting for it to recognize you’re on it, even a slight movement front to back will cause the board to error.

This problem is amplified whenever the batteries run low; which coincidentally seems to happen somewhat quicker than in my Nintendo board. I once spent 3 minutes just trying to get the board to recognize I was stepping on it. Eventually, I replaced the batteries, restarted, and it recognized me the first time.

While my board was not evenly sensitive in all directions, I will say that I was able to play all of the games without incident once I learned I had to lean less or more in a specific direction in order to get the desired level of motion. And if I kept a careful eye on the charge in the batteries, I was able to avoid the more severe connection problems, and by relaxing and holding my breath when I stepped on the board I was able to get the board to recognize me the first time each time I stepped on. One of the things I can say for sure is that the snakebyte board is built very solidly. It’s been dropped several times during rearrangement of our living room, and has continued to function at the same level as it did the day we got it.

It's tough to come to a conclusion on a peripheral like this one when I've gotten so much use out of it for just a single feature, but it doesn't excel at what should be it's core use. I guess the way I look at it is that's a value board that is solid in some ways, while lacking in others. That's pretty typical of most value peripherals, and this one is probably better than most. I know I'm going to keep using it long after this review, so that says something.

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