Pros: Double screen, thin body, 4 brightness settings
Cons: Shorter battery life
Nintendo, often revered for the venerable N64 system, has not made one of the all-powerful (and all-expensive) game systems out there, but has instead chosen to focus more on innovation. With that mentality they created the Wii. This platform has been wildly popular and has been difficult to buy since it first came out in 2006. This particular brand of innovation also applies to the smaller gaming consoles from Nintendo. The DS was a far cry from the PSP, Game Gear, and even the Game Boy. If for nothing else, the DS was the only system to have two screens split onto two parts of a clamshell. The innovation from Nintendo that came up with the DS did not stop there - they chose to reform and refine the DS and to improve it until a needed a new name: the DS Lite. While the second part of that name is often a feared qualifier, and often one that means scaled down and cheaper, in this particular case this second incarnation is smaller yes, but certainly not cheaper. It is an improvement in every way over the last player. And while the improvements may not be world changing, they are substantive. Although not worth the cost to upgrade if you already have the DS, in and of itself, the DS Lite is a system with more value than its predecessor.
The first feature that one notices with the DS Lite is that it is in fact smaller and lighter than the DS. This is mostly accomplished through slimming down the older console and making all the components inside that much smaller. The shape of the Lite has also been improved in that it no longer has the look of a child in need of a good orthodontist. While the first console had an asymmetrical body size with the bottom half far larger than the top, the newer model now has equal halves. To further upgrade the younger version, the edges are now tapered and rounded to make the complete unit far more visually appealing. These changes also serve to make the Lite more conducive to travel in that it will now fit more easily into a pocket. I find that even when I am wearing jeans, I can easily fit the Lite in there without looking like I'm walking out with half store in my pocket. I have no doubt that there are those wondering what has become of those delightful little screens Nintendo had in the original; never fear - they remain the exact same size without a nip or a tuck of reduction.
As for the interior parts, there have been some changes made. The game pad on the left part of the console is slightly smaller than they older model, but, just like the older model, it has a good solid feel and is easy to get used to and play around with. The buttons on the opposite side from the game pad, the four action buttons, seem to have undergone the least amount of change. They also share the same solid tactility that the game pad does and while an upgrade might have been nice, there was nothing wrong and perhaps no need to fix them. The speakers on the Lite have shrunk from those on the DS but the sound that they produce has not. In fact, while I can't be certain, I think the newer speakers may even a squeeze a bit more pep out of their diminution than the old ones were able to muster.
One of the biggest changes in terms of the buttons is the new layout for the start, select, and power buttons. The old location of the power button was immediately adjacent to the game pad. As you might imagine, this led to its fair share of power-off mistakes. That particular button has been moved to the right side, and has so far proven to be a less accident-inducing location. The start and select buttons, also modified, were not only moved, but their shape was altered as well. Rather than each being half a button on the top of the screen, they are now each a whole button at the bottom. While this may not have had much effect on their use or misuse, it does add a bit more balance to the overall aesthetic.
The front of the system is essentially unchanged. The volume controls, game slot, and headphone port are all in the same place. The sole change here is that the microphone was moved from its former location and has now become a part of the hinge. I thought at first that this might impair the pickup from the microphone, but it seems that it is just as sensitive as before and perhaps even better at screening out any wind that once had free range over the front of the unit and the microphone.
One of the other much appreciated changes is to the screen itself. As I said earlier, the screens are indeed the same size, but they can now boast some extra power. The screen is far brighter than it ever was before. Also, Nintendo has given the user more control over the brightness by adding two extra brightness settings to the two already there in the original DS. At its brightest, I think the Lite may actually compete with the screen of the PSP. Certainly, the newer screens are bright enough to allow for play in the outdoors and in anything but the most direct sunlight.
Because of the added brightness of the screen, the battery does discharge a bit faster than the older model. Whereas the original DS was supposed to last just short of 7 hours with a full battery, the Lite will only last about 5 hours. Of course, this is all with an enhanced appreciation for the game. Also, one must remember that this is continuous play time. If one is partially in and partially outside, and if the user is adjusting the brightness of the screen accordingly, one can easily get over 7 hours on the Lite. I have personally exceeded 8 hours of play time with the Lite just by taking extreme care to lower the brightness to the minimum necessary to see clearly.
The games for the Lite are made in much the same vein as the console itself. While the graphics and complexity are nowhere near those of the PS3, Xbox, or even the PSP, their value in innovation far outweighs that of the other consoles. No other system has the advantage of the second screen to vary the options for game play. Having the second screen bridges the divide between the game console and the personal computer - although it does clearly still remain far closer to the gaming console. With the popularity of the Nintendo Wii and the Lite not showing any signs of slowing, game developers have been eager to add more of their innovative titles to the Lite catalog. As more games are adapted to take advantage of the second screen, the user can look forward to some truly revolutionary games that will provide entirely new types of enjoyment.
The DS Lite is nothing like the PSP and really doesn't even try. It is a console unto its own and the only things it can try to be better than is itself. The Lite has accomplished that by taking the good parts of the DS and then making them even better. While the upgrades might not be quite enough to merit upgrading if you already have a DS, they certainly do make it an attractive alternative to most of the other small gaming consoles out there. This system looks good, plays well, and has a burgeoning catalog of games that will keep the user happy for some time to come.