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Wii U External USB Storage Reviews

Wii U External USB Storage Reviews
J Casalino
  • On July 23, 2013
  • http://purenintendo.com

When Nintendo first announced that they were planning on adding external Hard Disk Drive (HDD) support to the Wii U, we wanted to find out exactly which drives will work with the Wii U console, and which ones perform best.

Nintendo has published an official list of supported External USB Storage devices, but it doesn’t give you an idea of exactly how each of these drives compare to each other or how they interoperate with the Wii U console.

Nintendo also outlines on their external storage FAQ that your external storage device should use a dedicated power supply. Nintendo also states in the FAQ that they do not recommend using USB thumb drives because of their limited read/write cycles, but they do not outright state that it won’t work.

So, we contacted several manufacturers, including a couple of those not listed on the Supported Device list to see if they would be interested in submitting drives for review.  As of press time, only one manufacturer agreed to send us sample units.  We will update this article as additional manufacturers supply us with sample units.

Methodology and Setup

Testing Methodology

We chose to test several common scenarios that an individual might run through when attaching external storage to their Wii U. These scenarios included formatting of the storage, moving data to and from the Wii U console, and starting up games and applications.

We used the Stopwatch within the Android Clock app on a Galaxy S III. We pressed “Start” at the same time as we selected the icon on the Wii U GamePad.

Per Nintendo’s requirements, we connected and disconnected each device only when the Wii U was off.  Only one device was connected at a time, to avoid any possible crosstalk or USB bus impact by having multiple devices connected.

Testing Equipment Setup

Each drive was tested individually against a Wii U 32GB Deluxe console with v3.01U firmware.  The Wii U was connected via HDMI to a Yamaha RX-A3000 receiver, which is in turn connected to a Panasonic Viera TC-P65VT30 plasma TV via HDMI.

Tested Games and Apps

Generally, external storage will be used for expansion once your Wii U begins to run low on internal storage. This is likely to occur due to full games and apps downloaded from the eShop. As such, we decided to exclusively test electronically downloaded content.

  • Trine 2: Director’s Cut
  • Kirby’s Adventure
  • Yoshi
  • Netflix
  • New Super Luigi U

Total data among all five of these titles was approximately 3.0GB in size.

The Contenders
LaCie
2TB Porsche Design Desktop Drive P'9233

http://www.lacie.com/us/products/product.htm?id=10587

The LaCie P’9233 is a very well-designed and thought out product.  It is simple and easy to use, and the unboxing experience is unlike many other USB drives I’ve worked with in the past.

1TB Rugged Mini

http://www.lacie.com/us/products/product.htm?id=10564

The Rugged Mini is just that – rugged.  The drive is surrounded with a durable, rubbery silicon case, similar to what you might find in high-end cell phone cases.



Corsair

8GB Corsair Flash Voyager USB 3.0 Thumb Drive

Just to see if we could, we also tested an 8GB Corsair Flash Voyager USB 3.0 Thumb Drive which we just happened to have lying around.


The Tests

The Format Test

In this test, we attached an unformatted device to the Wii U and used its internal format routine.

LaCie 1TB Rugged Mini

Result: FAIL

Nintendo’s recommendation for external storage with its own power supply rang true with the LaCie Rugged Mini. When we connected the LaCie Rugged Mini, the Wii U reported “The device could not be formatted.” The hard drive spun up, stayed running for a second, then spun down repeatedly. We wondered if the drive was faulty, so we attempted to connect it to several different Windows PCs, on which it worked just fine. I suspect the reason for Nintendo’s recommendation is because they are not providing enough voltage across the USB ports to power a single standalone 2.5″ drive.  It would be interesting to put a multimeter on the Wii U’s USB ports to find out exactly how much voltage is being provided and even more interesting to find out why Nintendo chose not to go with a standard USB-spec port.

LaCie 2TB Porsche Design Desktop Drive P'9233

Result: PASS

The LaCie 2TB Porsche Design Desktop Drive P’9233 completed its format in 4.59 seconds. No anomalies occurred during the format.

Corsair 8GB Flash Voyager USB 3.0

Result: PASS

The Corsair 8GB Flash Voyager completed formatting in 3.32 seconds, which is not surprising considering its relatively diminutive size compared to the LaCie 2TB drive.

Moving data from Wii U internal storage to external storage

In this test, we used the Wii U data transfer utility to move data from the Wii U internal storage to the external storage device.

LaCie 1TB Rugged Mini

Result: Not tested

Because the LaCie Rugged Mini could not be formatted when attached to the Wii U, no further tests could be performed on it.

LaCie 2TB Porsche Design Desktop Drive P'9233

Result: COMPLETE, 4 minutes 06 seconds

The 3GB of data moved from internal Wii U storage to LaCie 2TB Porsche Design Desktop Drive P’9233 in four minutes and six seconds.

Corsair 8GB Flash Voyager USB 3.0

Result: COMPLETE, 7 minutes and 06 seconds

The Corsair 8GB Flash Voyager was much slower than the LaCie 2TB drive. This is likely due to the slower write speed and lack of internal cache on the thumb drive compared to the LaCie drive.

Moving data from external storage back to the Wii U internal storage

In this test, we used the Wii U data transfer utility to move data from the external storage device back onto the Wii U internal storage.

LaCie 1TB Rugged Mini

Result: Not tested

Because the LaCie Rugged Mini could not be formatted when attached to the Wii U, no further tests could be performed on it.

LaCie 2TB Porsche Design Desktop Drive P'9233

Result: COMPLETE, 6 minutes and 27 seconds

The LaCie 2TB Porsche Design Desktop Drive P’9233 moved the 3GB of data back to the Wii U internal storage in six minutes and twenty-seven seconds.  This is an interesting result, because it begins to illustrate a bias of reads to writes in the Wii U internal storage. Is this as fast as the Wii U can write data to its internal memory via USB?

Corsair 8GB Flash Voyager USB 3.0

Result: COMPLETE, 7 minutes and 23 seconds

Another interesting result. We never expect USB thumb drives to be that fast, but we were surprised that it took an additional 56 seconds to complete the 3GB data move back to Wii U internal storage. This is likely a result of limited read speed from the Corsair Flash Voyager.

Starting a title to its first user-interactive screen

In this test, we launched a title from the Wii U GamePad and timed how long it took to get to the first user-interactive part of the game, such as a “Press + to start” screen.  The times below include fully playing through any introductory title screens without interruption.  Each test was performed three times to make sure we had consistent data.

New Super Luigi U

We tried to find a way to time New Super Luigi U starting up, but because it is tightly integrated with New Super Mario Bros. U, we were unable to test properly.  Our NSMBU copy is disc-based, and the experience to get into NSLU is simply choosing the “Switch to New Super Luigi U” button at the top of the NSMBU menu screen. Therefore, we only used this title to assist in the data transfer tests.

Trine 2: Director's Cut

[easychart type=”horizbar” title=”Trine 2: Director’s Cut Startup Times” groupnames=”Wii U Internal,LaCie P’9233,Corsair Flash Voyager” groupcolors=”000000,229944,0066CC” valuenames=”Run 1,Run 2,Run 3,Average” group1values=”56.78,51.5,54.08,54.12″ group2values=”40.84,41.68,43.43,41.98″ group3values=”42.79,42.48,40.44,41.90″ ]

Kirby's Adventure (Virtual Console)

[easychart type=”horizbar” title=”Kirby’s Adventure Startup Times” groupnames=”Wii U Internal,LaCie P’9233,Corsair Flash Voyager” groupcolors=”000000,229944,0066CC” valuenames=”Run 1,Run 2,Run 3,Average” group1values=”14.87,13.64,14.73,14.41″ group2values=”10.8,12.03,11.13,11.32″ group3values=”10.23,10.67,11.43,10.78″ ]

Yoshi (Virtual Console)

[easychart type=”horizbar” title=”Yoshi Startup Times” groupnames=”Wii U Internal,LaCie P’9233,Corsair Flash Voyager” groupcolors=”000000,229944,0066CC” valuenames=”Run 1,Run 2,Run 3,Average” group1values=”13.89,13.49,16.42,14.6″ group2values=”10.87,10.84,10.26,10.66″ group3values=”11.1,11.07,10.31,10.83″ ]

Netflix

[easychart type=”horizbar” title=”Netflix Startup Times” groupnames=”Wii U Internal,LaCie P’9233,Corsair Flash Voyager” groupcolors=”000000,229944,0066CC” valuenames=”Run 1,Run 2,Run 3,Average” group1values=”23.71,22.57,22.33,22.87″ group2values=”17.39,18.41,19.1,18.3″ group3values=”17.18,18.51,18.66,18.12″ ]

Conclusions

We have some very interesting results here. It’s obvious that the Wii U storage performance is not anywhere near where we think it should be for flash-based storage. Obviously since Nintendo doesn’t officially support using USB thumb drives we can’t declare a winner.

We have to call out Nintendo to work on improving performance of the Wii U internal storage. We’re not sure what exactly the performance specs are for the internal storage, but it’s obvious that when a $15 retail thumb drive can outperform a $350 next-gen console, there is a serious issue to be addressed.

If you’d like to see any other comparison tests performed, please leave a comment in the section below.

Review and tests performed by J. Casalino (j@purenintendo.com, Twitter:@J_Casalino)

If you’re an external storage device manufacturer and you’d like us to test your device and add it to the above review, please contact us via e-mail or Twitter to make arrangements.

  • Ventilator

    I use a old Maxtor 320.GB which works perfect on Wii U. I would guess that any external HD brand would work. If its a brand that dont work, it must be Iomega. Iomega drives even struggle to work with PC.