We here at Gamer Limit managed to get our hands on the Nintendo DSi. With all of the swirling comments on whether or not this would be worth the upgrade, which let’s be honest, happens every time Nintendo decides to release a new handheld regardless of what it is, we would like to throw our own two cents in.
The first noticeable detail on the DSi is its new, non shiny, matte color and design. Gone is the slippery smooth coating. While this is not a large change, it does make the DSi more rectangular, with sharper corners than the smoothed DS lite. We only managed to try out the black DSi, which looks great. The DSi is 12% thinner and slightly longer than the Lite, but it is not noticeable unless you are holding the two up next to one another.
The power button is no longer a slide on the outside of the unit, now a button near the lower left of the touch screen. The volume slider is also gone, replaced with very unobtrusive up and down buttons along the outer left side. The D-pad and the buttons themselves also feel much nicer than the Lite. They have a nice click to them (though they don’t actually make a click noise). Of course, the GBA Slot is gone, but some of the new features make do make up for it.
Of course, all those features are purely cosmetic, the real differences between the DSi and Lite are whats on the inside. Upon booting up the DSi, you are greeted with the stylish new interface. Gone is the simple play game, pictochat, or options screen. Now we have a brand new interface, similar to the Wii Channel system. Instead of the Wii’s ‘fridge’ appearance, the DSi channels are all along a horizontal bar that you navigate either by sliding it with the stylus or using the d-pad. The system is simple and clean, much more so than the ‘fridge’ layout.
Yes, the interface is nice and all, but that is not what is important. What is important is beyond the shiny… what lies underneath. I am talking about the programming; what Nintendo has to do to make the DSi different from the Lite. The first glaring additions are the cameras and their software. The two 0.3megapixel cameras, one located on the outer shell and one located on the internal hinge, where the microphone is located on the Lite. The cameras can be switched between by a simple press of the X button while using the software.
As most, I had though that these cameras were nothing more than a useless, low quality addition. After tooling around with them, taking pictures of other attendees, t-shirts, the Nintendo rep, and anything else I felt compelled to snap, I went in and tried out the picture software. The DSi can store over 400 pictures on its internal memory and those can be easily transferred to an SD card (you can see a printed DSi picture amongst the swag). The pictures can be manipulated, contorted, and twisted however you want similar to the old gameboy camera. The imaging software can also zoom in on the picture and still retain a surprising amount of quality.
Music playback support had been previously announced and had not been lauded by all. By denying the universally accepted MP3 format and forcing the AAC format, most gamers, including myself, though that this was a completely useless function. I still feel that this is a useless function, but what I did find interesting was not the playback, but ability to record clips. The DSi contains a simplistic sound recorder that can record up to eighteen seconds by means of the built in microphone. Sure it is not the greatest software, but its a nice little gimmick that could come in handy.
Before we get to the DSi’s main selling point, there are a few features left. As stated earlier, the DSi now has an SD card sot. It can support any standard, meaning not High Capacity, SD cards. In the Lite, when you inserted a game, the system had to be off or restarted in order for it to read the new cartridge. The DSi supports ‘hot-swapping ;’ when you insert your cartridge of choice, and it appears immediately on the menu. The games also boot a bit faster than on the Lite. Of course the best feature is if you simply tap the power button, it returns you to the menu screen instead of just powering down. The DSi also supports five brightness settings and improved speakers. WPA Internet Security is also supported for WiFi connectivity. The only downside to these new features is the lower battery life. The DSi can run between 9-14 hours, compared to the Lite at 15-19 hours. Pictochat and Download play remain unchanged.
The real selling feature of the DSi is the new DSi Shop channel. We could not actually test out this feature, since the units we had still did not have this enabled. What we did acquire was details. The DSi Shop functions just as the Wii Shop does. You can go on and browse through the DSiWare titles and Virtual Console games. We did receive conformation of retro portable games coming to the DSi Shop channel. The DSi Shop channel will use the newly branded Nintendo Points (previously Wii points) though once you activate points onto a system they cannot be used on the Wii. Similar to the Wii, all DSi Shop products are region locked, but the games on cartridges are still not. If you go on the channel before March 2010, Nintendo will reward you with a free 1000 ($10) points. The DSi Shop channel also ships with a free DSi browser app.
I, like everyone else, was incredibly skeptical about the DSi. It seemed like another GBA Micro. Thankfully, Nintendo has actually made a decent console. Sure the GBA slot is gone, but I never used it anyways. If I really want to play the old games that won’t be featured on the DSi Shop channel, it is not that big of a deal to me to go get my Lite.
After getting to test out the DSi, I am convinced. Sure myhomebrew flash cart won’t work on the DSi, so I’ll have to get my pocket physics craving still satisfied by the Lite, but I think the DSi Ware will make up for that. The price does seem a bit high, but I’ve come to expect that with Nintendo in light of recent events. I just wish everyone could see what a good system this actually is, only time will tell.
Be sure and register at Gamer Limit, as we’ll be attending many more events like this in the near future!