Should you spend $169 for the Nintendo DSi? Or will your current DS or DS Lite still do the trick? (Even better: Maybe you can win one. Click here to enter our drawing.)
The new handheld console is slightly smaller and lighter than the DS and DS Lite. It doesn’t come in a rainbow of colors (yet), just blue and black. The surface is matte, slightly grainy, not soft and smooth. That’s supposed to prevent fingerprints.
But it doesn’t look as sleek as, say, a white DS Lite with a glossy finish. The LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) screen is a bit larger (by a quarter inch) and much sharper, too. You’ll notice that improvement right away.
That brightness comes at a bit of a price. While the battery lasts between nine and 14 hours, it doesn’t give you as much playing time as the DS Lite, which has up to 19 hours of battery power. Your DSi battery will last through about 500 full charges.
If you need a handheld device that does more than play games, this could be a good buy for you. First, you can use it as an MP3 player by loading one of those tiny SD (Secure Digital) cards in a slot on the right side. You can play tons of your favorite music—up to 32 gigabytes worth. But only iTunes type music and nothing else.
The small speakers are crisper and clearer than before. But they’re not that powerful. So use your headphones for the best experience.
By finding a WiFi hotspot and downloading a free Web browser, you can surf online. Unfortunately, the speed is pretty slow. Plus, you can’t view videos or play online games, at least right now. But it sure is useful for checking e-mail and news.
The DSi sports two 0.3 megapixel cameras. The one on the outside of the case lets the DSi act like a camera for outings, travel and candid snapshots. The second camera, visible when you open the device, is used more for funny apps and playing games. Sure, the camera is fun. But couldn’t Nintendo have added at least the standard 1.3 megapixels to one of the two? What they’ve given you in camera resolution is so ’90s.
The system comes with a couple of software apps that let you change your photo in kooky ways. By manipulating the picture with your stylus, you can make your face funny, like you’re viewing it in one of those fun-house mirrors. You can also make the photo into kaleidoscope. Then, you can share it with your friends who have DSis. Another neat aspect of the photos is the ability to upload them wirelessly to the Wii Photo Channel.
You’ll also use the camera in small, inexpensive games in the DSi Shop online, in particular during a $5 Wario game. These are like the WiiWare games you might have purchased already via your Wii. They download in a minute or two. You’ll hear some pleasant music and watch Mario and Princess Peach fill a glass of water while you wait. There’s a lot more storage space in the DSi for games, too, four times as much as the DS Lite, a very nice 16 megabytes.
The DSi comes with 1,000 free points, which you can use in the shop for two or three games that range from 200 to 800 points each. When you buy points, 100 points equal $1. No game is over $10.
THE GAMES IN THE SHOP
Right now, the games are O.K. or above average. Aqua is like Tetris with an underwater diver theme. But you don’t use the touch screen to play. It’s definitely sweet, but the instructions are kind of hard to find.
WarioWare: Snapped looks like the best so far. It makes use of the DSi camera. The problem here is that my face wasn’t recognized by the camera because my walls are white, the same color as my face. When I tried this against a green wall, it also failed. Hmmm.
NO GAME BOY GAMES
The one huge negative about the DSi is that there’s no slot for your Guitar Hero World Tour peripheral, which used the Game Boy slot. It also means you can’t play old Game Boy games. That means no Pokemon, a big loss for gamers.
Nintendo feels that the old games aren’t being played as much anymore. If you still want that option, you’ll have to hang on to your DS Lite or DS. My guess is that Nintendo will begin re-releasing the old Game Boy games as DSi Ware so they can make more money on them.
While the DSi has a lot of enjoyable bells and whistles, you might already have some of these in your MP3 player or cell phone. The Internet and online options for the DSi are the true selling points of this system.
Maybe by the holidays, there will be a greater variety of DSi Shop games that work better than they do now. Unless you’re the kind of person who needs the newest thing right now — or unless you win a DSi from a cool Website like scoutlife.org — the holidays might be a better time to consider buying the DSi.
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