When I first held a Nintendo DSi in my hands, I was impressed – it's a cute little system, a cute little system with two cameras and a microphone. Oh sure, the battery life wasn't fantastic and the speakers not terribly loud, but it was undeniably fun and clever. After extended play however there were some things that definitely bothered me, the chief of which was the fact that to hold the unit comfortably I repeatedly hit the volume button. Sometimes I would increase the volume, which wasn't horrible except if I had headphones on in which case I was rendered momentarily deaf, and sometimes I would decrease the volume, which, while it didn't physically harm me, was annoying to say the least. With the latest iteration of the DS, the Nintendo DSi XL, I no longer have that problem.
Nintendo's newest handheld console, which is being released March 28 in North America, is 16.5 mm longer front to back than the DSi, and for me, that's the difference between hitting the volume toggle and not hitting it. It is also 24 mm wider, which, again, for my hands is far more comfortable. No longer when I'm playing a DSi game do I feel as though I'm using a child's handheld console, and while it's true that the DSi XL weighs more – 100 grams more – than a DSi, that really doesn't make a massive difference.
The difference, of course, that Nintendo is touting, is that the screen is a larger one. The DSi boasts two 4.2 inch diagonal screens whereas the DSi only has 3.25 inch screens and the DS Lite even more puny 3 inch screens. The larger screens do, sort of, make for easier viewing. The issue is this – the DSi XL only boasts the same screen resolution as the DSi, which means that, essentially, though the screen is larger it has the same number of pixels, and that could lead to a blockier, less smooth, image.
In a completely unscientific test, Blogcritics Gaming had more than one person compare the same title on DSi and DSi XL, and we didn't limit ourselves to geeks and those in the know either. Some of the people preferred the look of the game on the XL, noting that it was easier to see everyone's favorite plumber and read text that accompanied him. Others definitely argued that the smaller screen featured a sharper, more clear, more defined image (still others just cared about hunting Bowser irregardless of the screen, but we discounted those responses).
No one in our sample however accepted one of the reasons that Nintendo has put forth for a larger screen – it makes it fun for more than just the player to look at the game taking place as those sitting next to the player will be able to see better (wider viewing angle). Those we talked to agreed that it was easier to see what was taking place while sitting next to someone playing an XL rather than a DSi, but no one seemed to think that it was a fun thing to do (arguments were made about just playing on a home console).
Available at launch in Burgundy and Bronze, both colors of the DSi XL feature a glossy top that can contain an impressive number of fingerprints. The XL also features both a normal (though longer) stylus and more of a pen-style one, which is really nice to hold but doesn't actually fit within the DSi XL's body for storage as the normal stylus does.
There are, simply put, a number of things which simply don't make a lot of sense about the DSi XL – the screen resolution, both styli types not fitting into the body for storage, Nintendo's quiet announcement this past week – the week before the DSi XL launched in North America – that they'll be releasing a 3D version of the DS (one that doesn't require glasses) in the near future. Yes, that's right, there's going to be a 3D version, which is scheduled to "succeed" the current generation next year.
And yet, despite any of the oddities of the DSi XL and whatever system Nintendo may or may not be releasing next year, the DSi XL works, and, despite the larger screen boasts better battery life than its predecessor. It has the feel of a system designed to suit adults more than children, and it's based on an already successful device, running what appears to be the exact same system software that the DSi sports. The XL also comes with the same software the DSi has as well as two Brain Age Express titles and Photo Clock. The buttons and D-pad have a good, neither too mushy nor too stiff, feel, and it uses the same charger as the DSi. Plus, it even fit in my jeans' back pocket.
Though we see no reason to upgrade from a DSi to a DSi XL, were we in the market for a new handheld console from Nintendo we would opt for the XL (and we certainly would not hold out for the 3D console). We might even opt for the XL were we buying for a younger child as, should they require help in a game, the wider viewer angle would then come into play.
The XL is a solid new entry into the DS lineup and absolutely worth considering despite any of the oddities that come along with it.