The Nintendo handheld is back and bigger than ever; say hello to the DSi XL……………….
The handheld gaming market is really starting to heat up: Apple have stated their desire to see the iPhone as a games-oriented device and plan similar things for the iPad; Sony have uncharacteristically made a boob with the PSPGo; and now, finally, Nintendo has given the DSi XL a welcome UK release.
Available from around the £150 mark, the new DSi has been touted by Nintendo as for a more mature audience – and with a bigger screen, wider viewing angles and grown-up wine-red or dark brown colours, it’s easy to see why.
However, there’s no doubt that part of the DS‘s success over the years has been from its ability to pick up custom from traditionally non-gaming circles – games such as Nintendogs managed to pull in huge sales from young girls, particularly when combine with a pink DS.
So how is the DSi XL going to perform now it has switched its sights to a more all-encompassing target? We’ve grabbed hold of one to find out………
Open up the packaging and you’ll be left in no doubt that the DSi XL is far bigger than its predecessors, offering a 4.2″ dual-screen as opposed to the 3.25″ found on the older DS models, and this really makes for a much more enjoyable gaming experience. However, the larger bulk and weight do compromise some of the DS’s portability – particularly for the younger users out there, who could find the XL just too big and heavy.
The larger size really signifies that Nintendo have aimed at an older market – the handheld just feels so much more comfortable in the hand than the older models. The colours certainly achieve the aim of satisfying an older audience for the DSi XL as well – we’ve got our hands on the wine-red version – and you can certainly see someone in the over-35 bracket being more attracted to this, rather than the less-discreet lime green DS, for example.
The device feels solid in the hand and its well constructed hinges open and close with just the right amount of resistance. The outer shell is glossy, which may pick up fingerprints, but underneath you’ll find the DSi XL has a rough, matt finish which makes setting it down and playing from a flat surface an absolute doddle, with no worries about slipping thanks to a nice grip. The grip also helps you prevent potential dropping nightmares when you’re carrying the DSi XL in your hands.
The difference between the XL and the DS/DSi really boils down to the screen size. But is it that much better? In short, yes. That extra inch in each screen really makes the experience of playing games a much better one and makes a refreshing change; until now, the trend in handheld gaming has seemingly been about getting smaller and smaller, and the impact of a bigger screen is something to behold.
In terms of picture quality, the XL does lose some definition, due to using the same 256 x 192 resolution as its forebears, but in all honesty, although you may notice the slightly bigger pixels, you will really have to be looking for them to effect your experience. The bigger screen does give you increased brightness and more vivid colours than before and everything seems much slicker as a result. Don’t expect much outside in the sun, though – there’s still a considerable amount of screen glare to contend with.
The bigger screen also makes the touchscreen capability much better, too; I always found the old DS touchscreens far too cramped for certain games, but now I find scribbling away easier than ever before. And as an added bonus for us shovel-handed folk, Nintendo have supplied a “proper” pen-sized stylus for drawing and swiping away on the touchscreen. Excellent stuff, indeed.
There’s not much that differentiates the XL to its direct predecessor in terms of power and performance, as it uses exactly the same software and a 133MHz processor with 16MB of RAM. There’s 256MB of internal storage, which you can expand by using SDHC cards of up to 32GB which again, is business as usual. Battery life is improved slightly, and we were overjoyed to experience the highly unusual occurence of the battery actually lasting longer at full brightness than the 5 hours Nintendo claimed.
Similar to the DSi, the DSi XL houses two built-in 0.3 megapixel cameras which have not been improved at all, and when combined with the bigger screen actually look worse, due to increased visibility of imperfections. I can’t help but feel that Nintendo have missed a trick here, as some added investment to the XL as a half decent camera could have led to some interesting results.
Internet access is OK – good for a handheld console and certainly better than the PSPGo‘s facility – but if Nintendo want to stave off the challenge from Apple and the iPhone‘s excellent connectivity, they are really going to have to up their game in this area.
The one area of performance that the XL really leaps ahead of its ancestors is audio. For such a small device, you get a large amount of sound coming from it that will surprise you and may even persuade you not to bother with headphones. Sound quality is crisp, distinct and clear, with a depth in the bass ranges and no real distortion issues when pushed at the higher levels, either.
The Nintendo DSi XL is a well constructed, excellently finished handheld console that benefits greatly from a larger screen, larger stylus and restrained, more mature design that will net Nintendo a much bigger adult audience. Despite the fact that there’s no real evolution in performance, the DSi XL still feels like a new experience with a bolder, more vibrant display offering more excitement, fun and detail.
I’m not sure if I’d be tempted to purchase an XL if I already owned a DSi, but would thoroughly recommend it to those of you wanting to experience the best in handheld gaming who may own an older model, or indeed none at all.