XL gaming: Nintendo’s new DSi a giant among portable consoles

Good things (think diamond rings) come in small packages, and it’s a theme Nintendo has run with in recent years, with each new DS console release seemingly slimmer and more compact than the last. As the latest addition to the company’s portable gaming device family, though, the DSi XL executes a complete reverse turn, sporting a far larger body and a screen that is 93 percent larger than Nintendo’s uber-popular DS Lite. It goes onsale in Australia on 15 April and will be offered in burgundy and bronze finishes.

A giant-sized portable gaming device doesn’t make a lot of sense until you consider that Nintendo needs to expand its audience of potential buyers beyond kids and teens. The recent series of Brain Training games, plus recipes and digital books for the DS, indicate an interest in capturing a more mature buyer, and while the company doesn’t expressly say so, the XL’s larger screen and chunkier form factor will better cater for users who are – fairly or unfairly – categorised as being poorer-of-sight and more-arthritic-of-knuckle.

We don’t qualify as either of these (we think), but have enjoyed playing with the larger DSi anyway. It’s easier for two people to view the screens at once, for starters, even though the resolution hasn’t actually improved on the DS Lite. The screen is larger, but there are no more pixels to work with, meaning visuals appear less sharp and less detailed than they do on DS Lite’s smaller screen.

With a pair of 4.2 inch screens, the XL is larger and heavier than previous iterations. And since everything about the XL is bigger, Nintendo has included a longer stylus. Nintendo claims the XL offers longer battery life and improved sound, plus it comes with a number of pre-installed software applications. These include a range of classic card games, Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training: Arts Edition game, a photo display and alarm clock function, plus Flipnote Studio, a memo pad-like application that allows multi-page animations. It is compatible with all DS games and support all DSi functions, including DSi Camera, Shop and Sound.

The Nintendo lineup
From top to bottom: Nintendo DSi XL, Nintendo DSi, Nintendo DS Lite, Nintendo DS (original), GameBoy Micro.

Like the Nintendo DSi, though, some games that take advantage of the older GameBoy Advance slot aren’t supported by the XL. (Titles that require an accessory, such as Guitar Hero, won’t work with any DSi console because that port has been removed. Nintendo DS and DS Lite consoles are unaffected by this.) Such titles are few and far between, however, but it’s worth noting.

As for the price, indications are that the Nintendo DSi XL will sit at the same price of the standard DSi. Each has an RRP of $299.95 in this country, with some retailers offering either for $269. At least it seems you won’t pay a premium for the larger screen, something American customers look like having to do.

Will you replace your current DSi with the XL?

Apart from the larger screen, the XL offers no real enhancements on the feature-set of the DSi. It weighs more and, being larger, is theoretically less portable. To boot, a 3D version of the DSi looks set to be announced at E3 in Los Angeles in June this year, with a to-market date of 2011.

All up, then, the XL is not an upgrade existing DSi users are likely to chase. Their mammas will love it, though.