Without a doubt, if someone asked you what your favorite gaming handheld was the majority of answers you’d get would be the Nintendo DS. That answer would come with good reason; over 100 million units have been sold since its debut. It’s a safe bet that Nintendo can rest easy, knowing they’ve practically got the entire handheld market safely tucked away in their pocket. Then again, that isn’t the way they do things. Like the various updates to their products dating all the way back to the Game Boy, it’s all about giving the people what they want, or in some cases, what they wouldn’t expect. Because of this, we’ve seen the birth of the Nintendo DSi, Nintendo’s newest handheld darling, which combines the stylish aesthetics of the previous iteration with minor additions and improvements overall. The question must be asked, however – is it truly worth your hard-earned cash to upgrade?
At first glance, there isn’t much to differentiate the DSi from the Lite models. But upon closer inspection, you’ll notice the DSi is actually a bit thinner, yet wider and longer (only by a few millimeters) compared to the DS Lite. The dimension changes are subtle but the hardware changes are more than obvious on the outside. Nintendo ups the ante with richly-textured buttons, two integrated cameras, an SD slot that’s capable of reading up to 32GB SDHC cards, and a screen that’s actually enlarged by 0.25”. One aspect you will note as missing is the venerable Game Boy Advance cartridge bay, a distinct tradeoff in lieu of this handheld other features. If gloss wasn’t your thing, the DSi does away with the slick, fingerprint magnet of the past surfaces and offers a matte finish that feels more utilitarian in texture but is now much easier to keep a grip on.
The changes inside are substantial as well, as an updated 133MHz ARM9E CPU replaces the original 66MHz CPU while sporting 16MB of RAM. This translates into a minimal boost in processing power, this is all for the better as the entire interface of the DSi has received a complete overhaul that now displays a long row of icons (mostly empty) to navigate through, brightness adjustment settings (hold select and press volume button), and revised DS card swapping and soft reset features. Of course, these new additions come at the expense of the original DS Lite’s supreme battery life, which seems to have lost roughly 6 hours off its maximum charge. This is compromising but still more than adequate considering how far a single charge can take you.
With plenty of empty spots to fill, this also means you’ll be using the wireless functionality a lot more since you look forward to content from the “DSi Shop” to hopefully fill the void. The DSi sports 256MB of internal memory for downloading although chances are you’ll need to pick up an external SD card if you plan on amassing a larger library. Also like its bigger cousin the Wii, you can spend your Nintendo Points on the go and receive purchase rewards if you’re a Club Nintendo member. That’s at least one reason they omitted that coveted GBA slot.
The camera features on the DSi won’t replace your smartphone but they don’t disappoint with expectations in check either. You can take snapshots of yourself or other things thanks to dual cameras, and they can later be altered or manipulated to your liking – as tastefully or as immature as you want. Despite being able to effectively transfer your photo outside of the DSi itself (with an SD card) the 0.3 megapixel resolution doesn’t allow for much imagination in dimly-lit places and active shots. It’s certainly far from ideal if you’re expecting high-quality, but that clearly wasn’t the intended purpose of the DSi.
The sound features are also a high point in regards to random enjoyment, because for some reason recording either yourself or your friends and editing to your liking is quite entertaining. It also serves as a competent music player with modest sound quality to boot, just as long as you have an SD card and a song collection of the predominately iPod-inclusive AAC audio format, because for some reason it doesn’t support the widespread MP3 format.
So after spending a week with the Nintendo DSi, I have to say that it’s the same dog with a whole new bag of tricks despite the lack of backwards compatibility via the GBA slot and limited camera functionally. However, The question remains if this latest portable iteration should replace your current DS simply because additional tweaks and the debut of the DSi shop doesn’t exactly mean a fulfilled promise of digital content either. Right now it probably isn’t necessary to trade in just yet unless you can justify the means to do so. By itself, this is a mostly well-done evolution in an already excellent long line of Nintendo handhelds, but you might have to convince yourself if it’s a worthy purchase for potential – and possibly current users – to choose over the previous models.
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