Release Date: 11/21/2009
Colors: Burgundy, Black
The Good: Bigger, faster hardware, new DSiWare software is intuitive, pre-installed Brain Age games, bigger stylus, decent cameras, better speakers
The Bad: May be too big for some, the browser sucks, cameras could have been better, no GBA slot, can’t save games to SD slot, only comes in two colors
Nintendo is known for making several iterations of their handheld systems and the DS is no exception. With the original DS being launched on November 21, 2004, this makes the fourth model in 6 years. That’s 2 per year with a fifth model due out at the end of the year. I feel that this is what the DS should have originally been, but I guess the technology wasn’t quite there yet.
As always I’m going to go in depth on comparing few models. The DS has two processors the ARM9 and 7 which control each screen. The DSi XL has the same hardware as the DSi, but it’s significantly different than the DS Lite. The DSi hardware has the ARM9 running at 133 MHz which is twice as fast as the ones in the original DS and Lite which were at 66MHz. The processors are also smaller which in turn uses less power. The DSi has more RAM at 16 MB which is four times as much as previous models (DS Lite and the original only had 4MB). The upgraded hardware allows for smoother game play and games can look better and do more thanks to this.
The biggest thing about the XL is well…it’s bigger. It sports two 4.2″ screens which are 1.2″ inches larger than the original DS and Lite. Does this make a huge difference? Oh yes, you bet. The XL also has two 0.3 megapixel cameras that are on the DSi. There is also an SD storage slot that can hold up to 32GB cards. The DSi also has an internal flash of up to 256MB, unlike the first two models. This allows for downloads from the DSiWare store.
So this makes the DS a powerhouse compared to the last two models. The speakers are louder and are more clear and this is a huge steal at $190.
The XL doesn’t just have new looks on the outside, but on the inside as well. The new DSi firmware allows a Wii like a menu that allows you to select your games in a horizontal list. You can also press L or R to take pictures on the fly which is a nice touch. The first two DS models had a simple interface that allowed you to select your game and go into the options. In the DSi software you can press the power button the reset the DS and go back to the main menu, unlike the first two models. The power button is also on the inside, but thankfully, away from accidentally hitting it. The DSi also allows for updated internet security and a faster wi-fi chip.
Another thing you’ll notice is the larger pen sized stylus, but there is the mini toothpick built in as well. One major thing gone is the GBA slot, but this isn’t all so bad since you can buy any GBA model for under $20 now. This sacrifice had to made to fit the cameras, SD slot, and flash memory. You do have to realize, however, that the first two DS models had actual GBA hardware in it and wasn’t software emulated (downloadable GBA games anyone?)
Playing the DSi XL is sublime. I have fairly large hands so seeing the huge screens not only is easy on the eyes but also the hands. The longer larger frame of the console gives you more handle and control on what you’re doing. Using the pen sized stylus also helps and I feel I have more freedom. Everything looks bright and crisp on the excellent TFT LCD screens and the 4 different brightness settings help this a lot (unfortunately there is no button for this). The games sound sharp and even more clear than other models. When playing the same game on the DS Lite you notice sounds on the XL that you couldn’t hear before unless you had headphones.
I also have to mention the cameras. They aren’t great (lower end cell phone quality), but it’s pretty decent in good light. The browser also is not that good. Using the same Opera browser from the Wii the DSi browser is slow and doesn’t support Flash. It couldn’t even load this site very fast. The DSi browser is a good concept, but if you have a cell phone or laptop stick with that. Another thing that I was disappointed in was that you can’t save your game saves to the SD slot…maybe a future update will allow this.
The DSiWare store is easy to use and familiar if you have a Wii. Unfortunately there nothing but shovelware on the store (with a few slight exceptions), but hopefully some good games will follow. The system also comes pre-installed with two Brain Age games (reviews will follow soon). The battery seemed to last several hours for me as well even when playing system heavy games. The DSi XL is a perfect investment for anyone who has a DS. If you own any other models (even the DSi) trading that in towards an XL is probably the smartest thing you can do.