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Nintendo DSi Handheld Games Console review



Our Score


Review Price £99.99

Four years after the launch of Nintendo's DS, it's hard to remember that, at the time, its success felt anything but inevitable. While tech sites and gadget mags were drooling all over Sony's PSP (us included), the DS has us mystified. What was the point of the dual screens? Why the touch-screen and not a more conventional analogue control? Was it really wise to launch a system so behind the PSP in 3D horsepower? Yet now it seems clear that Nintendo made all the right choices, eventually matching its innovative hardware with equally innovative software that would draw in whole new audiences to video gaming. I can't really blame ourselves or anyone else for underestimating the DS. Back in 2005, without the software to show off Nintendo's new direction, it was impossible to see what was to come. Nintendo was thinking out of the box, and we were still stuck inside it.

I'm reminded of this now while looking at the brand-new DSi. My immediate verdict is that Nintendo's third-generation DSi is too expensive, too gimmicky and too limited an upgrade over the deeply lovable DS Lite to be worth buying, yet my gut feeling is that I might be making the same mistake I did with the DS. To explain why, let's look at the new model in more detail.

The first surprise is that, physically, the DSi doesn't stray too far from the DS Lite. It's a few millimetres wider and longer and very slightly thinner. Open it up, and the screens are a quarter-inch larger. The volume control has been moved from a slider on the front to a rocket on the left-hand-side and the power slider on the right-side has now become a button to the left of the bottom screen beneath the D-Pad. The L and R shoulder buttons are slightly smaller. The gloss finish of the DS Lite has been swapped for a matt surface, and the speaker grilles on either side of the top screen have been replaced by two tiny apertures. The DS logo on the lid has disappeared. Nintendo has talked about the DSi as an evolution of the DS Lite, and you can see that everywhere you look and everywhere you touch.

The major changes are three additions and one subtraction. The first you'll notice is the arrival of a lens pointing out of the top lid, indicating the presence of one of the DSi's two VGA cameras. You'll find the other when you open up the clamshell, neatly tucked away in the hinge. On the right hand side, meanwhile, you'll now find an SD memory card slot that's also SDHC compliant. Finally, the GBA slot has made its way to the knacker's yard; clearly Nintendo is now confident that compatibility with its last-generation of hardware is no longer an issue worth bothering with, and hammered the last nail in the coffin of the classic Game Boy line.

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April 4, 2009, 7:43 am

Was that a review? I felt I was just getting a list of specs and other information that I could have garnered from Nintendo's press site. How about images of the DSi actually in use with a game for instance. Or a video review, which this hardware would be perfect for.

I'd have expected a mention about build quality, differences between the ds lite screen and the new screen, and whether for instance, the image looks stretched to accomodate the larger screen, or simply that it's not a concern.


April 4, 2009, 3:44 pm

What irks me about it is the price more than anything. They could have dropped the DS Lite to 䀆 and this to 𧴰/𧴺 I would have bought it straight away. The 𧵎 just seems like a lot too much money, dearer than a PSP and an xbox 360!

Do you know if the extra processing power would make current games that have slowdown run more smoothly or is it not that simple?

Ben 3

April 4, 2009, 4:15 pm

Does the DSi support WPA for it's WiFi connection?


April 4, 2009, 5:43 pm

I like the concept of the DS. Like the Wii, Nintendo seems to have a knack for fooling everyone with a gleeful disregard for raw horsepower, and then coming out in poll position with the actual games.

But my big criticism remains the same as last time - it just looks so old fashioned. Now it's a nasty dated old grey box to replace that cheap plasticky white one. Shallow maybe, but at 150 quid a pop, looks count.


April 4, 2009, 8:19 pm

Would be interested to know how much time Stuart spent with the device prior to writing the review. Would hope a pre-release device was provided as I don't think its fair to write a review after 1 day. On the otherhand it would explain, as per darkspark88's comment, why this reads like a manual re-write rather than a review.


April 4, 2009, 10:24 pm

I haven't bought a DS in any form yet but have been seriously considering it lately. I was hoping one of two things would happen - the DSi would have been cheaper and/or it would push the price of the DS Lite down. I guess time will tell on the later...


April 5, 2009, 12:04 am

Looks? These are just fine. Conservative, but all the way trusted gray, simple buttons. Just as perfect as DS can be.


April 5, 2009, 12:31 pm

I just don't see why I should upgrade from my DS Lite to the DSi. Maybe a case can be made if I didn't already have a DS but really, the DS Lite is very good and plays more games because of the GBA slot.


April 5, 2009, 8:37 pm

To answer the questions, I've had the device for several weeks now. I actually think I did cover aspects like the differences between the DS Lite and the DSi in terms of build and screen quality (see the start of page 2), but the general picture is that the screen is a little bigger and a little better, but not the sort of thing that's worth an extra 㿞 over the DS Lite. There's certainly no sign of stretching, mostly because it's running at exactly the same resolution.

The usual approach I'd take to writing a console review is to look at the hardware and the initial batch of software, but the problem with the DSi is that the only software it's launching with is on the DSi Shop, and that this only opened on Friday (I have been checking daily since I first had the handheld in my paws). It's also important to remember that this is really early days, so the stuff on there at the moment isn't (hopefully) representative of what will be on there in a few months time. That's partly why I tried to give an overview of the device, the differences, and where it all fits in with what seems to be Nintendo's current strategy for the DS Lite, DSi and Wii. As I tried to make clear in the review, I think there is currently very little reason at all to buy a DSi over a DS Lite, but that's something that could easily change in six months time. After all, if somebody had told me five years ago that I'd be playing with a DS on a regular basis while my PSP would spend most of its time gathering dust, I'd have been gobsmacked.



April 5, 2009, 8:48 pm

Apologies. Two more points to clear up. Firstly, the DSi does include WPA support, but apparently it only works with DSi specific software, meaning it's still WEP only if you're playing existing DS games. Secondly, my understanding on the CPU is that it's actually throttled back when running DS games, so it's doubtful that you'll see much improvement in slow-running titles. Certainly, nothing I've seen makes me believe that demanding DS games will run any faster on the DSi.


April 6, 2009, 3:08 am

Ummm... the screens' resolutions are 256 × 192, not 320 × 240.

Also, another reason to keep the DS Lite over the DSi is that you can no longer run homebrew on it - a casualty of Nintendo's war on the pirates (that and the fact that the tremendous rumble pak has lost it's home - the GBA slot).


April 6, 2009, 3:20 pm

Nicely spotted, Ryan - I jotted down the wrong figure from my notes. I'll ask Hugo if he can change the review to save me further embarrassment.

Needless to say, Nintendo's hardline stance on homebrew with the DSi is a good reason not to buy it if you're into that scene. However, that's exactly the way they want it. For them, the homebrew scene and piracy are too closely linked, and I believe that they hope the DSi Shop will provide a legitimate outlet for that sort of thing.


April 6, 2009, 3:25 pm

Thanks Ryan - fixed.


April 8, 2009, 5:07 pm

abit of a rip of if u ask me.

im not paying an extra 㿞 for two 0.3 megapixel camerea haha

DSI!! WOO lol ha


September 18, 2010, 2:40 am

All the talk of specs is interesting but! The real test is the users. I've watched a child working their way around the DSlite and they attack the thing in a way I never could. Same child on a DSi and it's a different ball park, from just this observation the DSi is a far more versatile piece of kit and as Stuart says the idea is fun!

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