As much as I’d like to be a hip, edgy early adopter, I’ve come to accept that that’s not really who I am at heart. My inherent thriftiness prevents me from splurging on the newest thing for its own sake, so I’m usually left wistfully admiring the cool gadgets of others. The DSi is no exception – I bought a DS Lite a couple of years ago (after much hand-wringing) and had no plans to upgrade, especially given the DSi’s $169 price tag. But it just so happened that I received one as a gift, and therefore I am able to give you the Scrooge McDuck review of Nintendo’s newest hand-held gadget.
Updates: First, let’s see what’s different – and the same – compared to the DS Lite. The dimensions and weight are virtually identical, but the DSi has a rubberized, matte finish as opposed to the DS Lite’s shiny plastic. This is intended to prevent those greasy fingerprint marks that show up on the smooth plastic, but I find the feel of the matte plastic a bit creepy and prefer the old finish. The screen is 3.25 inches, compared to 3 inches on the Lite. The power button has been moved from the right side of the device to the bottom left of the lower touch screen; a long tap will power the device on and off, while a short tap (when the DSi is on) gives you a soft reset, which you can’t do on the DS Lite. The headphone jack is in the same spot, but the volume slider found on the Lite's front left edge has been moved and turned into a push-button format on the left side; it’s different, but easier to adjust in single increments than the slider. The device's SD card slot is located on the right edge. The included stylus clicks into the back, in the same place as the DS Lite, and a spare stylus comes in the box. Notably, the DSi does not have a Game Boy Advance card slot, as its predecessors did, so you can no longer play your GBA games on the DSi (although you can still play regular DS games).
And here’s some tech specs for you: internal 256MB of storage; 133MHz main processor (doubled from the 67MHz found inside the DS Lite); 16MB RAM (quadruple the amount in the DS Lite). I understand that nine colors exist total, but only four are available in the U.S. – white, black, hot pink, and electric blue. Mine is white, although the matte finish makes it a dull color and I suspect that dirt smudges will show quickly and unattractively.
Power: The DSi has less stamina than the DS Lite. Here’s a guide to battery life based on brightness settings:
lowest brightness (9-14 hrs)
low brightness (8-12 hours)
medium brightness (6-9 hours)
high brightness (4-6 hours)
highest brightness(3-4 hours)
Charging time is approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes, though I usually just plug mine in and leave it overnight. An AC adapter is included in the box, slightly smaller and lighter than the Lite’s charger. I keep mine on medium brightness setting and haven’t noticed a huge difference between the DSi and the DS Lite, but I don’t play with it daily, so I may not be the best judge. I get the sense that it lasts about 8 playing hours between charges, which seems adequate for several gaming sessions to me.
Games: The DSi can, of course, play DS games, using small cards that pop into the back of the device. But this new model is strongly encouraging users to download games and applications directly to the device using its wi-fi connection; these items will appear in an on-screen menu much like the Wii. As of October 2009, according to Nintendo’s website, there are 1,011 DS games, including 191 DS Wi-Fi Connection games. DSiWare games and applications are available at a range of values, starting at 200 points (100 points = $1).
Camera: One of the big changes from the DS Lite is the addition of two 0.3-megapixel digital cameras, capable of displaying 260,000 colors. When the DSi is open, one lens is looking at you for self-portraits, and the other is pointed outward; touching the screen allows you to toggle back and forth and stealthily take pictures of others. The DSi has 256MB of internal memory, or you can pop in an SD card and transfer your photos. A built-in calendar organizes the photos taken each day, and you can scribble in memos to yourself. You can also mobile-upload photos to your Facebook profile by tapping the Facebook icon while viewing your photo album, then logging in to Facebook (this requires a free download widget and wi-fi access). The photos will show up on your Facebook profile in an album called "Photos from Nintendo DSi."
The camera isn’t particularly dazzling, but takes acceptable cameraphone-quality pictures. The really fun part is the photo-editing software, which allows you to distort the image by dragging it with your stylus, or rendering a mirror image or kaleidoscope feature. You can draw directly onto the image MS Paint-style, stamp it with hearts and stars, or add novelty frames (I enhanced my self-portrait with a long pink wig, rainbow scribbles in the background, and pawprint stamps). Facial-recognition software allows the DSi to plunk a mustache on your face or hearts over your eyes quite accurately. You can choose a slideshow display with cheesy instrumental music to amaze friends with your photo-enhancing skills, and swap photos to a friend’s DSi via wi-fi.
Sounds: I don’t know that I would ever make the DSi my go-to music player, but it does have that functionality when you insert music-laden SD cards. For song files in AAC format, you can play with them, adjusting speed and pitch, adding distortion filters, or recording your own sound clips and playing them over the music (sadly, these creations cannot be saved for posterity). You can listen to your playlist as is, shuffle, cue visualizations on the top screen, or insert headphones and close the DSi to preserve battery life. I find that the speaker sound is a bit tinny and gets screechy and a little distorted and fuzzed-out on “s” sounds, so the audio quality isn’t the best, but if you were traveling and wanted to just take one all-in-one gadget, it might make sense.
Overall, this has all of the compact cuteness and smart design of the DS Lite, along with a few fun new extras for added amusement. If you already have a DS Lite, I don’t think the new features are enough incentive to upgrade, but if you don’t have a DS yet and you’re exploring your options, you may as well spend the extra $40-ish bucks for the improved storage, dual digital cameras and photo-editing tools, and MP3-player ability. Between games, music, photos, and wi-fi Internet connection, this is a pretty versatile entertainment tool for travel or on the go.
Read all 44 Reviews
Write a Review