The Nintendo DS Lite looks beautiful. If Apple were ever to make a handheld gaming console it would look like this. In fact I can’t imagine that even Apple’s California design studio could come up with a machine that looks better than the DS Lite, it really is THAT cool. Although the DS Lite is available in different colours, it’s the lacquered white finish that shows Nintendo’s new baby off to best effect, hence the obvious Apple comparisons. I’ve only had my review sample a couple of days, but even now I find myself just holding the DS Lite in my hands, admiring the clean lines and smooth surface. However much Nintendo paid its designers to come up with the DS Lite, it wasn’t enough!
But the DS Lite’s beauty is far from skin deep. As I already mentioned, the dual screens in the original DS were pretty lacklustre, but Nintendo has addressed this issue. Not only are the screens far brighter in the DS Lite, but they look subjectively sharper, while the viewing angle is light years ahead of the older displays. The touch screen is especially impressive, considering how dull it was before, while the improvement in viewing angle is nothing short of staggering – the picture below shows how the touch screen looks like it’s switched off on the old DS.
You can set four levels of brightness for the screens, with level one being roughly equivalent to the original DS. Obviously the screen brightness has an effect on battery life, but even with the brightness set to maximum, you’re still looking at around eight hours of play time – that’s more than double what you could expect from a PSP. To be honest I actually found the top setting too bright, and was very happy with level three, or even two, so I’ll probably be looking at well over 10 hours battery life – that’s level three in the picture.
The buttons and controls have all undergone an overhaul as well. Despite being smaller, the D-pad on the DS Lite is far more tactile and offers far better control, especially if you’re trying to pull off something tricky. Conversely, the Y, X, A and B buttons are all slightly larger than on the original DS, but like the D-pad, there’s more travel than before, making the buttons feel more like a full size console controller.