Nintendo DSi Hands-On

We spend some hands-on time with Nintendo's new DSi. Find out about the system's new features and see how the portable compares to the DS Lite!

by

Nintendo DSi

The Nintendo DSi will finally hit American soil. Japanese gamers got to play with the DSi last November, and they've been gobbling it up since. The DSi marks the third incarnation of the DS and is probably the most drastic change to date. Nintendo's upcoming handheld system includes new hardware functionality, new software, and an updated menu system, in addition to several physical design changes. The Nintendo DSi will arrive in black and blue flavors on April 5 with an MSRP of $169.99.

DS Lite (top) and DSi (bottom) Stacked bottom Stacked right Stacked top Stacked left

We'll start with the DSi's cosmetic changes, because that's what everyone will see before cracking the clamshell open. One significant change that doesn't pop out in photographs is the system's new paint job. Our matte black DSi has a grainy textured surface far different from the slick plastic exterior on the DS Lite. The material feels similar to the inside surface surrounding each screen on the DS Lite, but it's grittier.

The DSi is thinner than the DS Lite, but the new portable is also slightly longer and wider, so don't expect it to slide into your front pocket any easier. The top edge of the system reveals redesigned shoulder buttons and a new AC power adapter port shape, which instantly makes all of your backup power adapters obsolete. The DS Lite's shoulder buttons sit flush with the top of the system, but the DSi's buttons protrude out, making them easier to press.

DSi D pad DS Lite D pad DSi buttons DS Lite buttons

We noticed that the directional pad and buttons on our DSi sit lower compared to the controls on the DS Lite. We haven't spent enough time with the system to decide whether this is a good thing or a bad thing yet, but we did notice that the change made powersliding easier in Mario Kart because you don't need to press the D pad down as much while rocking left and right.

You'll find the new SD memory card slot on the right-hand side of the portable where the power slider used to be located. The SD card will be used to store pictures, AAC music files, and software downloaded from the online DSi Shop--basically anything that can't fit on the system's 256MB internal memory. Both SD and SDHC memory cards work on the DSi. The power button is now located inside the DSi near the lower-left area of the touch screen. The button is fairly stiff, so there's little risk of accidentally turning off the system midgame. Tapping the power button will take you back to the home menu, and holding it down will shut down the unit.

Voice Recording and Music Playback

We copied a few AAC songs onto an SD memory card to test out the DSi media player. The software lets you record and play around with voice recordings in addition to playing music from your SD card.

Menu application Voice recorder or SD playback Soundboard Speed and pitch Sound filters

The voice recorder lets you save up to 18 individual 10-second sound clips using the system's internal microphone. The program also lets you modify the audio during playback. One feature lets you speed up or slow down the playback and raise or lower the pitch in real time. Another applies separate noise filters to the audio output. For example, a parrot filter makes your voice sound like a parrot, a fan filter chops up the audio to make it sound like you're talking into a fan, a harmony filter makes it sound like there's more than one person talking, and a trumpet filter translates the recorded audio into trumpet notes. Tapping on each filter again activates other filter options. Hitting the parrot option a few times will reveal a robot voice and a helium voice.

The other half of the media program is dedicated to playing songs from the SD memory card. The audio visualizer runs across the top display. You can cycle through the visualization themes by pressing up and down on the D pad. The DSi also adds a few interactive elements to the music playback experience.

You can add your own sounds, such as drum beats, claps, or even Mario jumping noises, while listening to the music by hitting the left and right shoulder buttons. The music playback menu has several audio manipulation features similar to the ones we encountered with the voice recorder, such as the pitch and speed adjustment chart, as well as a collection of audio filters. The default music playback filters include a radio option that gives the music a hollow-radio sound, a karaoke option that attempts to remove any voices from the track, an echo option, and an 8-bit selection that translates the song into 8-bit gaming sounds. As with the voice recorder filters, you can tap the default selections to reveal more filter modes. The music playback has one additional menu option that lets you play back recordings saved to your personal soundboard while the music is playing.

DSi Power Interior camera Headset Volume Exterior camera and SD slot

The bottom of the DSi is quite clean with just a headset port. The volume slider has moved from the bottom of the case to the left side, and the interface has transformed into a two-button, volume-up volume-down mechanism. Adjusting the volume takes a little longer, but now you won't go deaf if you inadvertently bump the bottom edge of the system where the slider used to sit. The Game Boy Advance cartridge slot has also been retired, which means that the new system isn't backward-compatible with GBA games, and accessories that use the GBA slot no longer have a home. Hold on to your DS Lite if you're attached to that Guitar Hero: On Tour grip.

Opening up the case reveals the DSi's two upgraded LCD screens. The new screens measure 3.25 inches across diagonally compared to 3 inches for the DS Lite and the original DS. The screens also come with a fifth brightness setting that reduces battery life down to three to four hours according to Nintendo. The DSi actually has fewer hours of battery life at all brightness levels--likely due to the larger screens and a smaller internal battery. The DSi has only an 840mAh battery compared to 1,000mAh for the DS Lite.

For the folks who forget to recharge their consoles, you'll be able to change brightness settings to increase battery life without having to reset the console anymore. With the original DS and DS Lite, you'd have to restart the console to access the brightness setting. The DSi lets you quickly increase or decrease the brightness of the screens by holding down select and hitting the volume buttons.

The Cameras and Picture Editing

The Nintendo DSi comes with two built-in cameras. One camera, located in the top cover, is designed to point outward, while the second camera, sitting on the inner hinge next to the microphone, points right at you. The DSi comes with new camera software that lets you take and save pictures on your system. The resolution for both cameras isn't very high at 640x480, but it's enough for the DSi display screens.

Hitting the left or right shoulder buttons from the menu screen takes you into snapshot mode, where you can take pictures. A button in the lower right corner of the touch screen lets you swap between the inward- and outward-facing cameras. You can also take pictures from within the camera software.

Chris loves Call of Duty Shanker loves Kobe Kaleidoscope Kitty Yu! Distortion lens

The software gives you several photo editing options that can make manipulating images even more fun than taking them. The editing options run along the top of the screen, making it easy to jump to each effects menu while working on a picture. The draw option lets you free-write on pictures and add premade graphics, such as hearts, stars, or chat bubbles.

Other menu options allow you to distort the image, add a Mario mask, adjust the tint, and add kaleidoscope effects. The software can also locate faces automatically. One feature lets you add graphics, such as a mustache, cat ears (with whiskers), or sunglasses, on a face that will track the subject as he or she moves around the screen. A second option lets you take pictures of two people and morph them together. However, the morphing effect looks more like a dissolve wipe video cut than an actual A-to-B morphing sequence.

DS card Camera DSiShop DS Download Play PictoChat

The DSi's new menu system considerably improves on the original. By default you'll boot into the menu screen, and from there you'll initially be able to choose between Settings, DS card, Camera, Music, DSi Shop, Network, and PictoChat. You can use the touch screen to scroll left or right along the menu and rearrange the layout by dragging around the icons with the stylus. System menus and programs each get their own spot on the menu bar similar to how programs get their own Wii channel slots on the Wii. New programs will appear on the menu as they're installed. The menu comes populated with Settings, DS card, Camera, Music, DSi Shop, Network, and PictoChat. Swapping games in and out is also easier now because you don't have to power off the system. New games will automatically appear in the DS card area in the system menu. The DSi supports both WEP and WPA security over Wi-Fi.

DSi Shop

Inside of the DSi Shop you'll find DSi Ware. DSi Ware encompasses both software and games for the Nintendo DSi. At launch, Nintendo will have five games in the DSi Shop: WarioWare: Snapped, Bird & Beans, Brain Age Express: Math, Master of Illusion Express: Funny Face, and Art Style: AQUIA. Nintendo will also have the Nintendo DSi Web browser powered by Opera available as a free download.

DSi Shop Shop Menu Free! 200 Points 500 Points 800+ Points Buy Points

You can purchase DSi Ware titles by using Nintendo DSi points. Nintendo DSi point cards will be sold in increments of 2,000 points with an MSRP of $19.99. Credit card users will be able to purchase points directly from the DSi Shop. All users will be given 1,000 free points if they log on to the DSi Shop by October 5, 2009. Software titles in the DSi Shop will be free or will cost 200, 500, or 800-plus points.

AQUIA WarioWare Master of Illuision Web Browser

At the 2009 Game Developers Conference, Nintendo let it slip that the company might release games specifically tailored to the DSi and allow developers to add extra functionality to games. Nintendo has already incorporated the use of the camera in the DSi Shop title WarioWare: Snapped. Whether the company will introduce DSi-specific advancements via DS cartridge-based games has yet to be seen.

DSi vs. DS Lite Load Times

A quick test of the DSi and DS Lite showed that the Lite boots games slightly faster than the DSi when coming from a fully powered-off state. We suspect that the added hardware and software requirements of the DSi give it a few more things to do. Since the DSi now supports the ability to hot swap cartridges, the cold boot time figure is pretty much thrown out the window. Loading from the DSi's menu screen almost cut the load time in half for Mario Kart DS, and shaved off a fair amount in GTA Chinatown Wars.

The Nintendo DSi brings an adequate blend of improvements and new features that deserve a look. Many of the minor improvements add up to make the DSi a worthy successor to the DS Lite. We've seen only the beginning for the DSi Shop, and its prospects seem bright. Through it, Nintendo could breathe life into many older games in much the same way WiiWare does for the Wii. Keep an eye out for the console on April 5.

Discussion

860 comments
regix416_basic
regix416_basic

If only the DS Store would evolve into something more like PSN so you could buy older DS titles that you can't find anymore online. Now THAT would be awesome.

ppshterror827
ppshterror827

Gonna get one for Christmas. I'm going to piss off everyone on the bus when I screw up their photos.

ale_gamr
ale_gamr

decided to get this for my birthday, I've never tried a ds, always had a psp so yah. December seems to be sooooo far. =[

zarro360
zarro360

dsi is great but would be better if they had miis

Grimmson2
Grimmson2

I'm going to be going to college soon, and I was wondering if anyone knew wether or not you can set a password so no one can ascess your DSi? Please answer!!!

MoonLightBASS
MoonLightBASS

how do I put music on my DSI or how do i convert my mp3 to aac to play on my DSI?..

coolicolo
coolicolo

This looks like it rocks, I just have to wait for my birthday (so far away I feel so cold......so.....col...d)

izdan
izdan

dsi points are not interchangeable with wii points

f4t4lfury
f4t4lfury

Does anyone know if DSi Points a separate thing from Wii Points or if they are interchangeable like Microsoft Points (Xbox/Zune)?

indstrlmunky
indstrlmunky

I have a DS Lite, and have loved playing it. I think, however, I would enjoy the DSi more because all the new functions, as well as, being able to switch cartridges while on. The DSiWare feature seems really cool. I want one!

trw534
trw534

i still have the orginal ds, but if it breaks then i will definitly consider getting a dsi.

ojeaca
ojeaca

you should buy it if you dont have dslite

horgen
horgen moderator

Imo it would be perfect if it still had the GBA slot :(

Linkman0714
Linkman0714

i have a DSlite and my girlfriend bought a DSI. Sorry Nintendo but these cosmetic changes dont justify me spending another $170 on ANOTHER DS. Besides ill just play my girlfriend's.

PSgamer99
PSgamer99

i love it more than my PSP, which is a feat, as you can probably tell by my screen name btw, i would like to see a world of goo port go to the DSi store, that would be awesome

jashwin
jashwin

iam quite happy with my psp.

Asuran_Oberoth
Asuran_Oberoth

I'm happy with my DSi, it feels much easier to hold for me and the different screen brightness settings are great. I'm a little disappointed about the fact that current DS games don't work with the WPA2 encryption which means I'm still using the USB adapter.

RocketZ99
RocketZ99

I'm honestly happy with the original DS. I know the Lite has a brighter screen and longer battery life, and the DSi has all these brand-new updated features, but when you think about it, the Lite is too small for some people (like myself), and the DSi's battery won't last nearly as long. Add to that the fact that the DSi removes the GBA slot (what will happen to Guitar Hero?), and I've concluded that neither are worth buying to me right now.

VXLbeast
VXLbeast

At first I thought it wasn't enough difference than my original DS to invest in, but how wrong I was!

DarKnite32
DarKnite32

dsi vs. ds lite/orginal ds? i had my hands-on feel and look and experience on the dsi from my cousin, who owns it, and i was a tid bit impressed. i looked all around, and felt the dsi. i think this system has no change other than the new apps. there are some good things about the dsi. one of those things are the new features added on the dsi such as the two cameras, voice recognition/music, nintendo ds shop.im especially impressed with the ds shop. now, in my opinion, there may not be anymore R-4's to redistribute. the camera. another thing is that the screen is much bigger and wider.many people can not see the good quality it has now. the last good thing is the power button is not a slider anymore and is located at the lower left of the touch screen. i never liked those sliders. anything can happen. the bad thing is the power button is too small, is no gba slot. most of the good games are on the gba.... why take that out nintendo. now pokemon fans cannot get magby or elekid anymore since the gba slot is gone, unless you could buy leafgreen and firered on the ds store. and for the power button, its too small my fingers cant turn it on. its like for small handed people. all in all, i think that the dsi is for people who do not have a wii and not planning to buy one because of the ds store.... thats what i think.

mada362005
mada362005

i didnt buy any of the ds or ds lites, so today i desided to get a dsi and man im really happy with it :D definitly not knocking the old ones but if you dont have any def get the DSi

eternalblade
eternalblade

The only reason I may consider buying a DSi would be for the new games that incorporate the "fancy" camera(s). Other than that, it just looks like another money making brick for Nintendo. If it could boast a processing power and graphical capabilities equal to a PSP then by all means buy it. Otherwise, fanboys should just be happy with their Lite, or Chunky DS.

fabz_95
fabz_95

The DSI looks like an interesting console but I think most people will be just as happy with their DS Lite.

meowww
meowww

I m happy with my original DS

trw534
trw534

i still have the orginal ds when it first came out. but the new one looks cool

v8_m8
v8_m8

These new features suck really, the only good thing about the DSi is the screens.

circile
circile

Now that I'm looking at the DSi I'm starting to like it. A lot.

ekolite
ekolite

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

jhuuueee
jhuuueee

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

dahf1123
dahf1123

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

freakbabyblues-
freakbabyblues-

The DSi can receive software updates, an upgrade won't be necessary for a LONG time.

Cradleofbodom
Cradleofbodom

the only thing that im going to worry about is teh boosted ram and processor, because that means it will be able to handle more in gaming. people are already saying they are going to put zelda OoT and zelda MM on the line and it should be able to with 16mb ram. the only reason i would really even bother getting this is to mod the hell out of it xD but im happy with my crimson black lite and my original silver i got first release, i think i can wait awhile before ill need to bother getting this and by that time teh price will fall and a new ds will be out fixign the things this one should of fixed and added but they always need something for the next release to make it at least APPEAL to be more - Camra: pfft, who doesnt have a cell, and it goes higher res - wii shop thinger?: cool but you've been able to do that with certain cards for years on normal ds's, and they play mp3's not just those crappy itune formats. just doesnt seem like i should bother because theres just going to be another one in a year or two, might as well wait for the better and hope its BETTER

mookiegamer1220
mookiegamer1220

I think the new DS has improve and is cool of how they upgrade the DS to the [DSI] which is great.

ducky386
ducky386

OK, I see everyone's point. To the cell phone comment, you will pay 300 to 400 for a cell plus the fees pre month to the cell company. So this is a cheaper alternative to that. Yes, it freezing but every new system has it bugs. You can surf the internet, for quick thing. I'm going on a trip i really don't want to lug my laptop around to be just checking email and surfing the internet. I upgraded from the old (fat ds) to this one and i'm very happy.

freakbabyblues-
freakbabyblues-

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Roa33
Roa33

Generally I consider Nintendo innovative, but with this I would have to say it's nothing amazing. Most cell phones have internet, camera, and/or music playability. The small modifications you can do to media is limited and really isn't worth the \\$170 dollars it costs in the United States. Maybe the shop will show some enlightenment for me, but as it stands its not worth upgrading if a DS I already have lasts longer in battery life and still plays DS games (which is what you buy a gaming system for) freakbabyblues-- "So far I've yet to see an unsatisfied customer" thedragon99-- "i agree with MasterKarl i mean i got mine yesterday and its like a rubish pc that keeps freezing i can play games but use the internet i dont think so come on nintendo the DS was better than this" I would have to say that you didn't read lower freakbabyblues. :D

J-man45
J-man45

I will pass on this one. I am happy with my fancy crimson-and-black DS Lite.

freakbabyblues-
freakbabyblues-

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

mollerdriver
mollerdriver

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

b3yondstupidity
b3yondstupidity

Ain't it like £130?? That's a huge bump, you might as well just buy a Next-Gen console.

Raven1504
Raven1504

@KieranCottrell: the worst part is that many people will be fool enough to buy this