11 April 2009

Review: Nintendo DSi

Just trying to write a post on the blog from the DS itself. Obviously, typing isn't much fun, and although the DS has a camera I don't know if there's a way to upload a pic.

There is handwriting recognition but it is very slow although it does recognise 'natural' writing, rather than using glyphs like the Palm. Too tiring to continue...

Okay, so carrying on on the more normal format of the PC. Onto generalities first.

The new DSi is not as high, slightly wider and the same depth as the DS Lite and rather than the lacquered finish of its predecessor the DSi is matt black (or white, if you're a girl). The power button has been moved to the left side of the screen inside the clamshell, and the volume slider that was mounted on the front of the DS Lite is on the left side of the console. The power supply socket is different to the DS Lite's and it also won't get into your DS Lite case. I never used the Gameboy Advance slot in the front of the DS Lite, so I don't care that it's not on the DSi, but apparently those that like homebrew software for their DS are disappointed. The acekard 2i I just ordered apparently works just fine for this purpose (I bought it to play MP3s and read books, believe it or not).

The buttons are less raised (with the exception of the shoulder buttons that now stand proud of the console rather than being flush with the case as in the DS Lite. I'm not sure why this decision was taken as it makes the console less comfortable for these hads to hold, especially in Mario Kart. The buttons also now have an annoying micro-switch click meaning that late night gaming sessions in bed are annoyingly loud.

It is nice that you can hold down the select button and use the volume controls to raise and lower the brightness of the screen in-game, rather than having to turn the unit off to do so, and the quit hit of the power switch that returns you to the main menu is also appreciated.

The DSi has an updated interface that is far more "iPhone" than the DS Lite with icons you can swish around, and has three major new additions, one of which is the main reason for buying the DSi. These are a camera (or pair of them, one inside, one out), a sound tool and a web browser (that I used to post the start of this post). The browser is the same Opera-sourced browser as the Wii has, only rejigged a bit for the smaller screen real estate of the DSi. It has a column mode to read web pages adjusted to fit onto the two screens and scrolling up through them. Overview mode by contrast uses the top screen to show the whole page in miniature with a red box on it showing the area shown on the bottom screen.

The DSi shop is like the Wii shop on that console. The first reason to go there is to get the browser (free of charge) and to claim your 1,000 DSi points to spend on other software. You cannot limit access to the DSi shop meaning that small fingers can go there and download software without your wanting to. The Parental lock only affects what games can be played on the DSi, a serious oversight in my opinion. The DSi shop also uses its own "currency" DSi points, that don't seem to be interchangeable with Wii points or DS stars, resulting in a overcomplex system.

The built-in camera and sound software means that the DSi might get used less for playing actual games than playing around and both offer some nice features. I particularly liked the face tracking in the camera software to put a moustache or glasses on a face, and the sound playback altering pitch and duration always raises lots of giggles from Finn.

If it hadn't been for the ability to browse the web (using a WPA2 wifi connection) and use an SD card for storage I probably wouldn't have looked twice at the DSi. The DS Lite is a fantastic little game console and hard to improve upon. The DSi is not for everyone in my opinion, if all you want to do is play games then you don't need it. With the problems with the parental controls and buttons I can't give it more than 3/5.

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