I’ll make no bones about it – I love my DS. I was on board as early as the first ungainly clamshell model, and it’s been awesome to watch Nintendo evolve their product design and make handheld consoles that are as stylish as they are fun. Their latest entry in the insanely popular DS line, however, took some people by surprise. 2010 is all about bigger – witness the success of the iPad – so here’s the DSi XL, boasting a pair of 4.2 inch LCD screens (compared to the DSi’s 3.25 inches).How does it measure up? Let’s get down to the nitty gritty.
First and foremost, the DSi XL doesn’t mark as significant an upgrade from the vanilla DSi as that box did from the DS. That system introduced a host of new features that brought the little two-screen box into the future of handheld gaming – a pair of .3 megapixel cameras, the ability to store data on SD cards, and the introduction of DSiWare, downloadable titles that can only be played on the new system. It took a while for me to come to terms with all this new stuff – especially when you factor in the loss of backwards compatibility for GBA games – but with Warioware DIY becoming essentially a killer app for the system, I can’t see owning anything but a DSi.
So why trade up for a DSi XL? There’s a few reasons. The bigger screen is certainly an improvement – it’s sharper, clearer and has a wider angle of view, so you don’t necessarily need to be face-on while you play. The only downside is that, to be frank, some games don’t look quite as good on the larger screen. Certain titles, especially those that use the DS’s primitive 3D functionality like Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, get a little chunky from the upscaling. This is a minor qualm (this is a portable system, after all), but it’s noticeable. The other major improvement with the XL is the sound. Portable gaming sound has, without exception, been best enjoyed through headphones. The DSi XL finally bucks that trend, with the absolute best speakers I have ever experienced on a portable console. They’re warm, loud and have great presence. The battery life is also excellent, with a solid five hours of constant use with the screen at maximum brightness before a recharge is mandated.
The only real negative I can come up with for the DSi XL is the case colors – why Nintendo went for burgundy and bronze as the launch colors, as opposed to something a little less earth-toned, is beyond me. Ah well – that’s why we have cases and decals.