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Is Bigger always Better?
Nintendo DSi XL
Member Name: Drewster_Rooster
Nintendo DSi XL
Advantages: Larger Screens, Better Stylus, New Features
Disadvantages: none really but the system is heavier than the DS Lite
For Christmas 09 I surprised my wife by buying her a Nintendo DS Lite console, for someone who isn't much of a 'gamer' but enjoys puzzles and word searches I thought it would be ideal for her to while away a few hours when we are away from home at our caravan. To that end the present was a great success and I must admit to borrowing it on more than a few occasions when I discovered the world of Professor Layton, seeing an opportunity and wanting to make a claim back on her own console my wife ended up buying me my own DS console for Christmas last year but rather than buy another DS Lite she went one better and bought me the latest incarnation of the console; the DSi XL.
I enjoy playing games on my system and that it what it is exclusively used for although there are many features on this console which are not included on the DS Lite. For the purpose of making this a comprehensive review I mention the different features it offers as well as giving my own opinion on how they perform.
**The Bigger the Better?**
First things first though and undoubtedly the main difference between the DSi XL and DS Lite is the size of the actual console itself and the screens on which you play. Impressively, the screens on the XL are 93% larger than the DS Lite and the difference between the two is quite remarkable and very obvious when it comes to playing a game. This is the one aspect which appealed to me the most and as I can spend hours and hours playing a game the fact that they are easier to see means that I no longer get the headaches I used to get when playing on my wife's DS Lite. I half expected the image quality to have been compromised or for there to be obvious pixilations in the resolution but to my eye there is absolutely no difference whatsoever. Images are clearly and brightly presented on the DS XL and the fact that you can see more detail makes 'point and click' puzzle games that much easier to play. Games such as Professor Layton are beautifully rendered in bright, exquisite detail which makes the portable gaming experience that much better and an improvement to the consoles sound delivery makes it clearer to be heard and much more involving to me as a player.
There are improvements to the stylus with the DSi XL, as well as being provided with a stick stylus the same as with the DS Lite the XL also comes complete with a fatter stylus which has a pen-like appearance to it. This is far easier to hold especially when it comes to extended game playing and is a lot more comfortable between the fingers and thumb, the only downside with this new addition is the fact that it cannot be incorporated into the console the same as the original stick can so this does stand a very real chance of being lost rather quickly especially if you are buying this console for a younger player. Fortunately you are still provided with the original stylus anyway should you need to fall back on it which can safely be housed into the body of the console itself.
Bigger screens inevitably mean a bigger console overall and there is a considerable difference to holding a DS Lite and XL in your hands. I'm in two minds about this in all honesty as the appeal of the Lite to me is that it is easy to pick up and play whenever I want and whilst I can still do this with the XL the fact it is larger and therefore bulkier means that after a while it does become uncomfortable to hold especially during a long game playing session. The payoff is obviously with the screens itself so it's a difficult aspect to actually criticize but I would be lying if I said there was no difference between the two and as appealing as the larger screens actually are you do pay the price for this by having a bigger console to hold and try and make comfortable in your hands.
Other features which are new to the DSi XL are the inclusion of 2 cameras on the console itself one inward pointing and the other outward. These are a great little addition which will no doubt appeal to younger owners of the console and the fact that you have access to software to manipulate images you capture makes this an enjoyable feature that can provide a few chuckles. Images are surprisingly clear and much better than I thought they would be with the camera, you can store them onto the systems internal memory or insert a SD memory card and store them that way. This isn't a feature I use much I have to admit, I did have a play around with the cameras on Christmas Day but the novelty did soon wear off for me, however I can see that other people would certainly enjoy the fun this could offer them and credit to Nintendo for actually including this onto the system in the first place.
A sound recorder is also included which allows you to manipulate the pitch and pace of what you capture and again whilst this isn't really something I use myself I can see it being great fun to younger owners of this system and another amusing addition. If you have access to Wi-Fi then the console can be connected to the internet and games can be downloaded from the DSi store online, as we don't have a wireless internet connection at home I can't actually comment on this feature as I haven't been able to try it out for myself. Reading other reviews it would appear that the connection speed and the systems browser is dependent on how quick your internet provider is so this is something that will be different for everyone.
There are a couple of pre-installed pieces of software, "A little bit of Brain Training: Arts Edition" and a 6-in-1 dictionary, these along with the other features are accessible from the consoles 'dashboard' when it is first switched on and using the supplied stylus you simply click on what you want to access. As already stated I use my DSi XL for game playing and it's just a case of me inserting the game cartridge into the slot at the back of the console, switching it on and selecting the game from the dashboard, it really is as easy as that.
Supplied with the console is a charging lead which is of decent length and this slots into a little jack connector on the back of the system itself so doesn't get in the way when in use, I find that I can get a good 6 hours continuous game play before the indicator light turns red (this acts as a visual warning that the batteries are getting low and require charging) and once plugged allows me to continue playing whilst charging away. I can't say how long a full charge takes as I tend to leave mine overnight so that it is ready to be picked up and played the next day, I would imagine this would only be a matter of a few hours though even from empty but haven't actually timed it myself.
The console as a whole appears to be made from robust materials which have a quality feel to them, the coloured casing has a sheen to it which gives it an expensive look and internally the two screens are surrounded by a matt finish. The buttons on the console themselves are of a size which makes them easy to press but are not too large so they are obtrusive and as the majority of games require the stylus to be used anyway they are seldom utilised. Despite my concerns about the weight of the console when held in one hand (my other hand holds the stylus) I do consider the DSi XL to be a fantastic system which has given me plenty of hours of game play. The improvements to the sound delivery and of course the larger screens and easier to hold pen stylus makes playing DS games a lot easier on this system and the fact that there are additional features including 2 cameras and an internal web browser makes the DSi XL a lot more than just something to play games on.
My DSi XL is wine-red in colour but there are other options to choose from including black and green and unlike the garishly coloured DS Lite's the DSi XLs are quite muted in comparison. In December 2010 my system cost £139.99 and included in the bundle deal my wife went for were 2 additional games plus a protective case and accessories including a spare pen stylus. Whilst this is undoubtedly a considered purchase it is one that I would highly recommend even though the launch of the soon to be released Nintendo DS 3D may limit its desirability somewhat although saying that it wouldn't surprise me if Nintendo end up reducing the price of this incarnation of the console when it is superseded by the newer model.
Due to the weight of the DSi XL I would question its suitability for very young players as holding it for a long period of time may be uncomfortable for small hands, older players and adults shouldn't have that many problems with it though but be aware that if you are switching from a DS Lite to this you will notice a big difference.
I conclusion then I should award a perfect, five star score for the DSi XL really as it has made a vast improvement to playing DS games for me, however the weight and size of the console does make it ever so slightly cumbersome and not as comfortable to hold as the DS Lite was so I am going to deduct a star from my final score. I do highly recommend it though and my four star score still represents an overall excellent rating from me and given the choice between my DSi XL and my wife's DS Lite I would reach for the XL every time.
Thanks for reading my review.
Summary: Nintendo DSi XL