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DSi XL: A Good Thing in a Not-as-Small Package

Bottom Line


I’ve been happy with the leap from the DS to the DSi XL. If this is your first entry into Nintendo’s gaming systems or you’re a collector of portable game devices, the larger screens and better speakers make this a solid purchase.

Review


DSi XL vs. DS Lite: Size Comparison

The DSi XL looks and feels extremely sturdy. The top half of the DSi XL snaps into place when opening, as an audible indication of the ideal viewing angle. The screens are tightly connected by a hinge that shows no signs of coming loose after extensive opening and closing. The extra weight of the unit adds to the feel of solid construction. Though the weight did not interfere with my ability to game, I would still be perfectly satisfied if it was a little lighter.

The front exterior of the burgundy model of the DSi XL features a glossy cover looks sexy but is prone to picking up fingering prints. The first of this portable’s two cameras is found on the lower right of the front cover. The back and sides of the device are textured for grip.

Both screens on the opened devices measure 4.3″ diagonally. According to their specs the screens are 93% larger than the DS Lite. The top has two speakers. The bottom has the power, directional, start, select and gaming buttons. The microphone and second camera are found between the two screens.

As with the DSi, the DSi XL does not include a Game Boy Advance cartridge slot and ergo loses any backwards compatibility with that library of games. It’s one of the larger faults of both systems and one of the two reasons why I skipped the last generation of the DSi.

In addition to the standard manuals, the DSi XL comes with an additional, larger stylus, a power adapter and three pre-installed titles – Brain Age Express: Math, Brain Age Express: Arts and Letters and Photo Clock.

The software interface for the device is similar to that of the Wii. The interface gives you access to the system settings and all software installed on the device. System settings for the device allow you to adjust brightness, connect to an existing wireless connection, calibrate the touch screen and adjust parental controls.

The DSi XL does come with a few interesting on-device utilities that make use of the camera, mic, music on your SD card and allows you to create flip books by drawing on your screen. The music player will only recognize files in the AAC format and will not play MP3s. You can also shop for downloadable titles from the Nintendo DSi Shop and browse the web.

While Nintendo’s strength is in cartridge-based games they’re, unfortunately, behind the curve in the when it comes to making it easy to access downloadable content for their portables. Loading of the Nintendo DSi Shop takes upwards of 30 seconds. The store’s interface is very slow, taking 3-5 seconds between screens. Only two titles appear on screen at a time, making it difficult to navigate through all of the titles. Shopping interfaces on other current gen portable gaming devices respond with near instantaneous results. But I’ve not found any noticeable difference in how long it takes to download and install a game between the DSi XL and other systems.

Purchases are not made directly with dollars. You purchase points. Point values are assigned to games. You can then download a game so long as the point value does not exceed the number of points you have purchased. To add to an already tedious shopping experience, if you decide you’d like to browse the games prior to adding points, you can’t add points directly from a game’s info screen. Other portable devices allow you to add money to your account on the spot. The DSi Shop requires you to exit to the main screen and add points via DSi Points card purchased from a retailer or via credit card. There is no external method to purchase points via credit card and have them applied to your account. Your CC number, expiration and security code must all be entered through your DSi and with your stylus, every single time.

Many of the games in the Nintendo DSi Shop are for casual gamers. There aren’t many headliners available for download. One of the non-game titles available is called, Flashlight and it perhaps it is a really great flashlight, but I don’t really understand why it exists or why I have scroll through it at a snail’s pace to get to titles I’d be more apt to spend money on.

I’ve been very critical of the Nintendo DSi Shop, but there are definitely enough titles worth going through the hassle of the shopping interface for. Check out Gamevil’s Zenonia. The game was excellent on the iPhone and holds up well on the DSi. It’s a more consistent port than the same downloadable game on Sony’s Playstation Network. Some classic Game & Watch titles are available. Also, while I have only purchased Soul of Darkness and their port of Earthworm Jim, Gameloft, has a solid track record on the iPhone.

I tested the DSi XL using 5 DS cartridges. The cartridge based games were The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings, Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword, Viewtiful Joe: Double Trouble! and Chrono Trigger. The increased screen size of the DSi XL does not come with an increase in resolution. I didn’t find this to be a deal breaker. The only game that suffered visually between the newer portable and the DS Lite was Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings, whose characters were extremely pixelated to begin with. Having more touch screen real estate made gaming easier, particularly with games that require you to click on small areas with accuracy. Obviously, games in which the characters are very tiny on screen were much easier to see.

I was pleasantly surprised by the sound of the DSi XL. It’s much fuller and louder sounding. I’m sure some of that has to do with the larger speakers. If Nintendo did anything else, big thumbs up.

The rechargeable battery life is great. I left the device on for an entire work day without having to plug it in for a charge. I should note that the unit was not set to the highest level of brightness—I’ve found that to be too strong for my eyes. At the highest level of brightness, the battery will last 4-5 hours.

The DSi XL’s larger screen and bump in sound quality make for a more engrossing gaming experience and eclipse the lack of increased screen resolution and bulk. If the lack of a Game Boy Advance cartridge slot is not factor for you and you don’t mind putting in a little work to get your DSiWare, then this is a good bridge between the current gen the upcoming 3DS release. You’d be missing out if you didn’t add this one to your collection

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