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Nintendo DSi

>> Friday, October 16, 2009

Nintendo DSi is the third iteration of the DS, which was originally released in November 2004. In June 2006, the company refreshed the system in the form of the DS Lite, which dramatically changed the device's overall design and vastly improved screen performance. Rumors of a second redesign proved to be a reality when Nintendo announced the most recent, and what we believe to be the final rehash of the system, Nintendo DSi. This upgrade adds two small resolution cameras to the portable, slightly larger screens, and an SD card slot.

The Game Boy Advance slot found in both previous versions has been removed. While current DS Lite owners may want to think twice about upgrading, Nintendo DSi does offer plenty of innovative media features and online functionality that may warrant a purchase. Those who still have the original DS should definitely consider the step up as well but if you've been holding out on a DS purchase up until now, Nintendo DSi is certainly the way go. If you own or have held a DS Lite, the first thing you'll notice about Nintendo DSi is its sturdiness.

It definitely feels more robust than Nintendo DSi Lite. That said, you'll find it isn't any heavier as both weigh just under half a pound. While Nintendo DSi Lite is coated in a shinny plastic, Nintendo DSi is covered in a matte, almost rubberized outer layer. While we didn't scuff it up during our testing, it appears this covering will be more prone to such cosmetic scratches. Size wise, Nintendo DSi is only about 4 millimeters thinner than the Lite and just 5 millimeters wider.

Side by side, you won't notice much of a different in appearance. The two LED lights found on the right hinge of the Lite are gone, replaced by a set of three on the left hinge of Nintendo DSi. They're also labeled this time around, with symbols for power, charging, and Wi-Fi activity. Every button on the system has been changed as Nintendo has opted for buttons that click more, as opposed to the softer experience had with the Lite. The X, A, B, and Y buttons aren't as deep, thus they require less of a pressing motion. The same can be said for the L and R rear buttons, too they are now much more springy, and require much less of an effort to engage.

Even the select and start buttons have gotten a similar treatment we found them especially difficult to press with Nintendo DSi Lite. Moving along to the D-pad, we experienced the same sort of click responsiveness. The DS Lite's D-pad, a carbon copy of the one found on a Wii remote, was a bit looser. The power button has been moved to the bottom left of the lower touch screen. A long tap will power the device on and off, while a short tap (when Nintendo DSi is on) with give you a soft reset, something you could not do on any other DS.

Microphone placement remains the same, although the internal camera is now centered with the mic just to its right. Nintendo DSi's two screens are noticeably larger, especially when switching back and forth between systems. That said, we could not really detect huge improvements in overall brightness and color performance. The unit's two stereo speakers, located on either side of the top screen, seem to have been lowered about half an inch. On the outside of Nintendo DSi you'll find a few more noticeable changes.

First off, the Game Boy Advance slot has been removed, so fans of that handheld platform are out of luck. While we believe this omission helped shrink the device's thickness, we wish it had survived the update. We'd gladly give up the 4 millimeters to be able to play any Game Boy Advance game. The headphone jack remains in the same spot, but the volume slider found on the Lite's front left edge has been moved and converted into a push button format on the left side.

We'll agree with the movement of the controls, but we definitely prefer a slider as opposed to buttons. It's much easier to mute the device by sliding your thumb compared with holding down a button for a few seconds. The device's SD card slot is located on the right edge. As mentioned earlier, Nintendo DSi has two 0.3 megapixel cameras : one located on the inner hinge, the other on the outside front cover. A pink LED light glows when the outer camera is active. The outer casing also abandons the vertical square DS logo modeled in the plastic found on the DS Lite. The included stylus is mounted in the same rear location as the DS Lite, and Nintendo supplies you with a spare.

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