Review: Nintendo DSi

April 11, 2009 at 1:49 pm Leave a comment

Having had about a week to mess around with Nintendo’s DSi handheld, I decided to go ahead and post my thoughts on the system.  However, it’s difficult to give a final verdict on the product, considering it’s a re-design of an existing product.  So, I’ll try and approach it from different perspectives.

The first thing that people may notice are the cameras.  They’re low-resolution (taking cell phone-quality pics at 640×480 res), with one facing you on the inside, and another facing out, on the outer lid.  Do they work?  Yes.  Do they work well?  Usually, no.  Aside from my old Canon A95 digital camera, the only digital still camera I have is the one on my Razr V3 cell phone, which is a terrible phone camera.  The DSi’s cameras are better, but not by much.  They do need a lot of light, and if the only light you have is indoor lighting, you’ll have to take pictures near the light source.  However, outside even in overcast conditions, the cameras work fine.  Once taken, the images can be stored either on the system’s memory, or on an SD card to be used on a computer.  There’s a limited selection of photo editing options on the system, and some are quite fun, but don’t expect Photoshop.  That being said, I’ve used the camera quite a bit, primarily because photos stored onto the system’s memory can be randomly selected and displayed in the system’s start-up menu.  I don’t know why I like this feature, I just do.

Here are some photos I snapped with the DSi:

There’s an audio player and editor, as well.  It can play and edit AAC-formatted music, as well as record 10-second audio clips using the system’s microphone.  I haven’t had a chance to try out the music player, because I don’t feel like formatting some MP3’s to AAC.  But, the audio recorder is kinda fun.  I’ve taken multiple audio clips and messed with them; applying slow-mo, fast-mo, robot, and chipmunk sounds to voice is a fun little distraction.  There are also several other effects that can be applied (12 in all).  Best use of the recorder: I took a recording of my voice to be used on someone’s voicemail, and the effect I applied with the low-synth voice (which sounds creepy).  I called up my girlfriend and left a very disturbing voicemail, which made her laugh because it sounded like I was demanding ransom from her.  Anyway, the recorder and player aren’t great, but they don’t hurt the system any.

The DSiWare store is where it’s at.  So far, there are only a handful of games available, but Nintendo does give 1000 points for free to every DSi owner ($10 worth).  The best use of points that I’ve seen are the games Birds and Beans (200 points) and ArtStyle: Aquia (500 points).  Birds and Beans was originally part of the WarioWare GBA games, now available in a quick, arcade-style game that requires you to catch beans falling from the sky.  Aquia is a Tetris- and Meteos-style game, that is incredibly addicting and well worth the 500 points.  Get those, and still have 300 points left over for more games in the coming weeks.

It’ll take a while for the DSiWare store to catch up to the WiiWare store, or even the App Store for the iPhone/iPod Touch, but I have high hopes for it.  The free web browser is nice, but it’s only good for viewing mobile-enhanced websites and not full-page sites. There’s not enough memory in the DSi to display on the graphics, video, flash, etc on normal websites, so don’t try and have this replace a laptop or something.

There are quite a few shortcomings, though.  The biggest issue I have is the internal memory and SD card.  There’s 256MB of built-in memory, which is half of the Wii’s internal memory, and quite small.  To supplement that, there’s the SD card which can support SD and SDHC cards.  But, and this is a big ‘but’, you can’t load things off of the card.  Just like the Wii’s memory problem (which was finally fixed last month), you can store games to the card, but you can’t load them, meaning they have to be installed onto the DSi in order for you to play the.

What.  The.  Hell.

Sure, the DSiWare games are very small in size, but I don’t want developers to be consigned to developing games with concern for space.  I don’t have an issue buying an SD card in order to store more games, as long as I can load them from the card.  As of now, I have a spare 64mb card that seems to be more than enough space, but I’d like to make full use of it.  C’mon, Nintendo, release a patch, let us use the SD card slot.

In the end, I don’t regret my purchase at all.  I sold my DS Lite the same day I purchased this, and I still have a GBA SP and GBA Micro, so I can still play older Game Boy Advance games.  Plus, in the future, there will be DSi-specific games that won’t work on a DS Lite, and of course, all DS games work with the DSi.  I’d recommend the upgrade specifically for the DSiWare store, as I hope that the library will expand considerably in the next few months.  While I understand why someone would want to keep their Lite over the DSi, I think that the DSi is an upgrade in every single way; it does everything the Lite does and more.  If you still have a DS Phat, get rid of it and grab this.  If you have a DS Lite, consider this just for the online store.

Here’s why: you’re not losing anything with this upgrade.  The only thing you won’t be able to use is the GBA port, which rules out GBA games and DS games that use the GBA port.  Guitar Hero: On Tour and Decades won’t be functional, plus games that use the optional rumble pak like Metroid Prime Hunters and Air Traffic Chaos can still be played, just without the rumble.

Here’s what you get: 99% of the DS library (which is already incredible), DSiWare downloadable games, two cameras, an audio recorder, and music player.  Are the last three great?  Not really, but again, they don’t affect how the system works, and the cameras’ resolution is more than enough for the DSi’s screens.

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