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Nintendo DSi XL Review

Highs

  • Larger screen size
  • Still very portable
  • New matte finish offers better grip
  • Compatible with DS cartridges

Rating

Our Score 7
User Score 7

Lows

  • Weak and overpriced titles
  • Same screen resolution as the DSi and DS Lite
  • Small number of preinstalled titles
Nintendo’s blown-up DSi XL offers a more immersive experience, but may not be worth the upgrade for existing DS owners.

Introduction

If you subscribe to the belief that bigger is better, then you’ll be plenty happy to wrap your hands around the new Nintendo DSi XL.

As you might’ve guessed, the XL stands for “extra large” because Nintendo’s new portable gaming system, which sells for $189.99, features two huge 4.2-inch screens, each 93 percent larger than those on the Nintendo DS Lite.

Background

With more than 125 million Nintendo DS units sold worldwide to date, which makes it the best-selling video game platform on the planet, why would Nintendo supersize the system now? According to Nintendo, gamers simply asked for bigger screens, plus the improved wider viewing angle means friends can better see the action or play together (for example, the upcoming Photo Dojo game lets two players battle together on the same machine).

The regular Nintendo DS Lite ($129.99) and Nintendo DSi ($169.99) are still available, too, so consider the Nintendo DSi XL as a supplement, rather than a replacement, for Nintendo’s older hardware.

Bigger Screen, Same Resolution

While the two screens are much bigger, Nintendo didn’t upgrade the screen quality, therefore the Nintendo DSi XL has the same so-so resolution as the Nintendo DSi and Nintendo DS Lite before that (256 x 192 pixel resolution; 260,000 colors).

In fact, this is the same resolution as the original silver Nintendo DS that launched in 2004.

Perhaps it’s because upgrading the resolution means the machine wouldn’t be compatible with existing games, but it’s too bad Nintendo couldn’t at least match the quality of the Sony PlayStation Portable (480 x 272 pixels; 16.77 million colors).

Testing and Usage

As with its best-selling predecessors, the bottom display remains touch-sensitive, allowing you to use your fingertip or the bundled stylus pens to interact with the digital content. One stylus is small enough to fit into the back of the system, while a larger one found in the box is the size of a thick ballpoint.

Despite its larger size — 6.3 inches wide by 3.6 inches long by 0.8 inches tall – this handheld system is still svelte enough to bring virtually anywhere, plus a new matte finish on the bottom results in a better grip. That said, the Nintendo DSi XL won’t likely fit into the pocket of kids’ jeans, and because of the extra size and weight (now 11.08 ounces, compared to the Nintendo DSi’s 7.5 ounces), younger players might opt to place it on a table or lap for extended play.

Playing games on the larger screens makes a big difference, whether it’s on the just-launched Warioware: D.I.Y. or The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks or with Nintendo’s new “lifestyle” titles that aren’t games at all. This includes the new America’s Test Kitchen: Let’s Get Cooking (300 recipes and video tutorials) and the upcoming 100 Classic Books due out in June (timeless literature from the public domain, including works from William Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Jane Austen and Jules Verne). Yes, the Nintendo DSi XL will soon be an e-book reader of sorts, too.

As with the Nintendo DSi, this extra-large model also features two cameras (one to snap your friends and one pointing at you), a voice recorder (with fun effects studio) and the ability to play your digital music collection stored on optional SD memory cards (AACs instead of MP3s, however).

The Nintendo DSi XL still takes the Nintendo DS game cartridges (this is where parents breathe a sigh of relief), plus the Wi-Fi-enabled system also allows you to digitally download games and other software from the DSi Shop. Problem is, there isn’t much here yet worth your time, and what is available is overpriced (in comparison to, say, Apple’s online App Store). Most titles at the DSi Shop are either 500 or 800 Nintendo DSi Points ($5 or $8), compared to thousands of quality games you can buy for the iPod touch at $1 to $3.

While Nintendo has added some preinstalled titles to entice shoppers, they really haven’t gone above and beyond here. This includes a Brain Age sampler (Brain Age Express: Math and Brain Age Express: Arts & Letters) and two pieces of software that are free to download anyway: the Nintendo DSi Browser and Flipnote Studio. Even one full game would’ve been nice.

Conclusion

Here’s the bottom line: the Nintendo DSi XL is probably not worth the upgrade if you already own a Nintendo DSi, because it’s essentially the same machine but, er, bigger. On the flipside, the DSi XL is only $20 more than the DSi, so if you’re in the market for a new gaming device for the kids (or for kids at heart, like mom and dad), be sure to reach for this supersized model.

Highs:

  • Larger screen size
  • Still very portable
  • New matte finish offers better grip
  • Compatible with DS cartridges

Lows:

  • Weak and overpriced titles
  • Same screen resolution as the DSi and DS Lite
  • Small number of preinstalled titles