Portable console gaming has always been a fiercely fought-over market (ah, how we mourned the passing of the Sega Megadrive!), usually with just one or two emerging as front runners. Nintendo’s original DS proved an instant hit in 2004, has proved a worthy opponent of Sony’s PSP and is now enjoying its fourth incarnation as the DSi XL.
The main selling point of the original DSi over the previous DS Lite was the addition of two interactive cameras which encouraged more members of the family to interact. With this much larger version, there seems to be a two-fold intention to expand the appeal to older members of the family and to enable more people to participate on one console at the same time.
The physical changes are obvious and dramatic. The DSi XL comes in two colours – dark brown and wine red – that wouldn’t look out of place next to household furniture and would therefore be attractive to more mature players who don’t necessarily want vibrant white or flashy shades.
In essence this is still the former DSi writ large. The dimensions have grown to 91.4 x 161 x 21.2mm and the weight has increased from 214g to 314g, yet despite the size it’s still comfortable to slip into a bag or backpack. Where you begin to appreciate the XL aspect, though, is in the new twin, 4.2-inch, 256 x 192-pixel screens which are 93 percent larger than on the DS Lite.
As well as the increase in viewing surface, you also have a wide viewing angle, which is a further enticement for extra players to join in ‘over your shoulder’. Perhaps surprisingly, the control buttons and D-pad have remained the same size but the standard stylus has been lengthened and there’s an additional extra fat pen stylus which will be especially welcomed by those wanting a firmer grip.
What this means in practice is that games look brighter and better defined and it’s much easier to move round the screen. We also tested out an eBook collection and the clarity of the pages was excellent; this could open up a new world to those who want to try electronic reading.
All the other functions that you enjoyed on the basic DSi – such as SD card slot, Wi-Fi connection, DSi Shop and PictoChat – remain in place and you still have 256MB of built-in memory, but battery life is marginally better at around 15 hours. To get you started, Nintendo also throws in a couple of software titles; Dictionary 6 in 1 (which cleverly uses the camera as a means of word recognition) and A Little Bit of Brain Training to stimulate those little grey cells.
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