When the original Nintendo DS came out in 2005, I was instantly hooked. The Wii was nowhere in sight and the thought of motion sensitive controls were like an art house dream. I bought the silver brick in July 05, alongside Mario 64 and have never thought of it as an unjustified purchase. It’s still my favourite travelling video game companion and I’ve had many hours of content from an engaging game library.
However, four years down the line and it looks a little worse for ware. In comparison to the DS Lite it looks particularly ugly. I’ve looked after my touch screen with particular care, but you can still see some marks from a feverish boss battle in The World Ends With You, or guiding my Nintendog like a trainer deranged. The Nintendo DS also doubles up as my alarm clock, so I frequently lash out at it in the morning and send it spiralling to the floor. As a result, the speakers can sometimes sound a little… tinny.
Anyway, because of the above I think I’m ready for a hand held upgrade. I’ve held off on the DS Lite because of the rumour of a third hardware update, sending my imagination into overdrive about possible new features or design. Finally, the DSi has been released in Japan and is almost ready for UK shores (it should be released around April, right?). When I look at the price tag though, I’ve noticed that the DSi is going to be quite expensive. Not only that, but it looks like the Lite isn’t going to be discontinued or receive some kind of price drop. Which has me wondering, what is so special about the DSi and is it worth investing over the DS Lite?
Firstly, lets take a look at the screens. The brightness was significantly improved after the original DS, so both the DS Lite and DSi can now handle up to 260,000 colours. Nice, but doesn’t really push one above the other. However, the big difference this time around is the size of the screens. The DSi boats 3.25 inches, whilst the DS Lite has a regular 3. This may not sound like a dramatic improvement, but looking in screenshots I was actually surprised how much of a difference it makes. Bigger screens, closer to the PSP resolution is definitely a plus in my book, so the DSi gets to tick this box.
In terms of size and weight, there isn’t a lot in it to be honest. The DS Lite shed as much weight as possible from the original, so the DSi is only really a nudge in the right direction. 214g over 218g and a thickness of 18.9mm over 21.5mm isn’t much to write home about. If it fits better in my pocket though, I guess it’s a plus. The charging time has seen a step up too, with the Nintendo DSi managing to go from flat to full power in 2.5 hours, rather than the Lite’s 3. I’ve never been in too much of a rush to see charging time as an issue, but it’s good to know that they’re constantly updating these features. If I accidently leave it on overnight, it’s not going to be too much of a problem to get it running again in the morning.
The battery life is another issue entirely. Unlike the DS that I own, the DS Lite and DSi have multiple brightness settings that effect the duration of the battery. Take a look below:
Nintendo DSi: The lowest brightness (9-14 hrs), low brightness (8-12 hours), medium brightness (6-9 hours), high brightness (4-6 hours), highest brightness(3-4 hours)
Nintendo DS Lite: The lowest brightness (15-19 hrs), low brightness (10-15 hours), high brightness (7-11 hours), highest brightness(5-8 hours)
So the DSi is actually worse than the DS Lite. This is probably because of the bigger screens and clarity issues, but it’s still a little disappointing that Nintendo didn’t match up to the predecessor. I think the Lite takes this one…
Software. Right, this is going to be a little tricky. One of the biggest changes for the Nintendo DSi is that the Gameboy Advance slot has gone. I think this is a crying shame, because the Gameboy Advance still has an incredibly impressive library that many gamers still like to play on their Nintendo DS’. Can you imagine what it would be like to play them now on bigger screens and improved brightness settings? Not all is lost though, because instead of the GBA compatibility, we get an SD card slot. This opens up a whole host of new features. You can store pictures that you’ve taken with the one of the two new 0.3 megapixel cameras, play music (which annoyingly has to be in AAC format) or play downloaded software. Yep, downloadable software means that soon Nintendo are going to be setting up a system rather like the Xbox Live Arcade. There are currently 24 games on the Japan store, as well as a few applications like a software browser.
Now this sounds really cool, but it depends how far they take these new DSiWare games. I’ll be honest and admit that I’m never going to use the camera’s or music playback for anything practical. That’s what I use my iPod and mobile phone for. However if they really went to town with downloadable games, maybe even started re-releasing classics from the Gameboy colour or pocket… I might be hooked. As it stands though, I’m not sure if these new features beat the well established Gameboy Advance library that I already own. Finally there’s the price difference. In the UK, the DS Lite is priced at £99, while the DSi is set to retail at £149. I thought that if the DSi was meant to be eclipsing the DS Lite, maybe the Lite would see a significant price drop. Yet at the moment that doesn’t seem to be the case. In Europe at least, Nintendo wants to support them side by side. Is the extra £50 worth it, for what are essentially larger screens and a downloadable game service? I’m just not sure, though the thought of having the most recent system is compelling me, perhaps the Lite is the better choice after all.