March 30, 2010 - When the Nintendo DSi was announced many gamers thought it wasn't worth the upgrade. Everyone was happy with the DS Lite, so why purchase a new gadget that's almost the same, except for the dual camera? Of course, time has proven them wrong, as the DSi's vast array of features goes well beyond the cameras. With bigger screens, SD Card support, downloadable software, pre-installed web browser, picture, and sound editor, etc., there's a lot to like about the DSi.
Now, just a couple months after it was announced, the Nintendo DSi XL has hit store shelves, waiting for new adopters to get their hands on it. Everyone knows it has 93% larger screens than the DS Lite, but other than that, how does it compare to the DSi and even other popular gadgets?
Screen: The DSi XL screens measure up to 4.2" diagonally. Compared to the iPhone (3.5"), the original DSi (3.2"), and the DS Lite (3"), the DSi XL offers the most gaming real estate in the handheld market. However, the PSP screen measures 4.3", so it's slightly bigger. Then again, with the DSi you get two screens, which is tough to beat. The bigger screens are easy on the eyes, and the games look just as good or better on it, since they were designed at higher resolutions than you would think when playing on a DS Lite or a DSi. The improved viewing angle is also a great advantage. With the XL, other people can watch someone play and become part of the fun. Of course, don't cheat and try to take all the credit in Brain Age if you have an audience!
Size and Controls: The DSi XL doesn't have bigger buttons than the DS or the DSi, but they are placed further apart from each other, as the handheld itself is a lot bigger. Gamers who have big hands will find this a lot more comfortable, as their hands will be less cramped. On the other hand, (or should I say smaller hands?), people like me might not find it as restful, since they'll have to stretch their fingers slightly in order to get a good grip, and to top it off, the handheld is heavier. The two stylus sizes the DSi XL includes are nice. The bigger one leads to a solid pen-and-paper experience, plus it's more difficult to lose. The PSP has always caused slight hand-cramping due to its original weight and size, and you could say the DSi XL suffers from the same syndrome. I guess bigger is not always better, but it is a matter of taste.
Software: How good is a gaming device if it doesn't have good software? Luckily, the DSi XL has a huge library of games. With well over 1,200 existing titles designed for the DS family of handhelds, plus the Internet-driven DSiWare service, which keeps on adding downloadable titles every week, players of all kinds should be able to find something they dig. The iPhone / iPod Touch has over 13,000 of them, but most of the games you can play on the DS are of higher-quality, providing a deeper gaming experience. Titles such as The Legend of Zelda: The Spirit Tracks, Mario Kart DS, Advance Wars: Days of Ruin, the Professor Layton series, New Super Mario Bros., and many others are true must-haves no one should miss. In addition, it comes preloaded with Brain Age Express: Math, Brain Age Express: Arts & Letters, the Web Browser, Flipnote Studio, and the Photo Clock, so that's a good start. The PSP has a few hundred titles available as well, but they're not quite as fitting for casual gaming on-the-go.
Features: The DSi XL allows you to take pictures, edit them, record and edit sound, download games from DSiWare, browse the web, play .AAC music files, store and view pictures from the SD card, upload them to Facebook, etc. You can do all of this with the DSi as well, but the XL stands out when it comes to web browsing and picture viewing, simply because of its size. Nintendo also plans to release in June a game cartridge containing 100 classic books for DS/DSi. Readers will be able to adjust the size of the text, place bookmarks, and download new content over Wi-Fi. Whether it'll be able to compete with Amazon's Kindle or Apple's upcoming iPad is a whole different story, but at least it'll be a compelling feature for those who own the DSi XL.