The third iteration of the Nintendo DS is upon us, adding new functionality, more power, and an extra vowel.
In 2004 Nintendo released the little dual-screen handheld that could, the Nintendo DS. Two years later they trimmed down the fat with the sleeker, shinier DS Lite. Now the third version of the handheld has made it to North America, and Nintendo fans all over the country are taking pictures of themselves with their new Nintendo DSi. With not one but two cameras, more power under the hood, and the ability to download games over the internet, the DSi offers handheld gamers quite a bit over the last version, but is it enough?
The assembled gaming hardware reviewers have stopped fooling with pictures of themselves long enough to give us their take.
Scratching the surface is probably the last thing you want to do though, because Nintendo has changed the finish on the DS' clamshell as well as tinkering with the innards. The DS used to be a shiny fingerprint magnet, but now it's got a matte finish that feels like rubbing wet cotton wool together. The DS used to collect greasy streaks on its outer shell, but now it accumulates dirt and scratches more easily instead.
The DSi keeps roughly the same dimensions as the DS Lite while slightly increasing the screen size (the new touchscreen measures about 1.96 inches by 2.59 inches; by comparison the DS Lite's touchscreen measures 1.81 by 2.4 inches). It has a slightly textured coating—an almost Lenovo ThinkPad-like rubbery-ish coating that makes the machine comfortable to touch.The new style puts the power button on the front face and moves the volume control to the side. All handy little changes, for sure. And it's good to finally see SDHC card support in this gaming handheld, as well. Thanks to these changes—and the removal of the GameBoy Advance backwards compatibility slot (which we'll get to in a second)—the DSi gets a hair thinner than the DS as a result.
Under the hood, the DSi has also received some hardware improvements. Here, the main processor has doubled, from the 67MHz found inside the DS Lite, to 133MHz. Its RAM has quadrupled, going from 4MB to 16MB. Don't let these numbers fool you, though. We didn't notice much, if any, difference in performance between systems when we played the exact same game. We imagine this upgrade was just necessary to satisfy the hardware demands of the cameras. That said, Nintendo has hinted at DSi "enhanced" games. These titles will perform on any DS, but may provide extra features when played on the DSi.
The Nintendo DSi doesn't break away from what's been working for the platform. Instead, the system adds functionalities that advance the platform and give it new capabilities that make sense. The cameras, for example, seem like a gimmick at first, but in the right hands they can open up brand new opportunities. While other systems have toyed with the camera idea for years, the DSI is the first gaming platform that includes cameras as standard. This means that developers can focus on its capabilities as a primary goal in their DSi titles instead of as an optional side project. The potential is there - it's a little disappointing that the Japanese system's been out for nearly four months and really only has Wario Ware Snapped! to show, but with the worldwide launch out of the way we're expecting big things out of the DSi's eyes in the near future.
Los Angeles Times
The bottom line is just that. Are the new features and cameras worth the extra $40 this unit costs compared with the previous model? For die-hard Nintendo fans, the answer will be a resounding yes. But for the DS Lite owners without a lot of disposable income in these rough economic times, you're not missing too much.
The DSi is a great new gadget from Nintendo, but I don't think there's quite enough there yet to warrant trading in your current DS for the new model. Until Nintendo drops a chunky, fun-to-play DSiWare title in their store or releases a full-on game that is designed specifically for the DSi, I would hold off on an upgrade. If you're in the market for a new portable, and don't own a DS yet, than I'd take the DSi plunge. Unless you really want to play GBA games on your portable.
I find it interesting that the more tech and game-based sites graded the DSi as an upgrade, while the Los Angeles Times graded it as if it were a standalone product.