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I’ve had the chance to spend a couple of weeks with Nintendo’s latest addition to the DS family, the DSi XL, and there aren’t too many surprises not immediately given away by the ‘XL’ in the name. I’m not going to go into too many details about the system, since it’s essentially a bigger version of the DSi, so feel free to check out my hands-on review of the DSi from last year if you’re not up to speed. Otherwise, you can find my thoughts on Nintendo’s ‘new’ system after the jump.
Nintendo boasts that the DSi XL’s displays are a full 93% bigger than those found on the DSi (and even larger than the ones on the DS Lite) and they are noticeably larger, but not so much that anyone would mistake the XL for something like a netbook when it came to screen real estate.
At 4.2 inches in size they’re both larger than even the iPhone’s display, but with a 256×192 pixel resolution each, even when combined there’s still less resolution than you get with the iPhone. And that’s probably the biggest downside to the XL. At times the blown up image can make certain graphics look soft, particularly when it comes to certain text. Nintendo’s made no attempt to increase the resolution of the larger displays, or add any kind of interpolation. But to be perfectly honest, I don’t think the average gamer will even notice, let alone care.
And even though the displays, and the entire unit, are noticeably larger than the DSi when you first pick it up, I found I actually got accustomed to the DSi XL’s size very quickly. It was only when the unit was sitting side-by-side with the DSi or DS Lite that you notice it’s put on a few ounces.
I particularly like the new stylus Nintendo has included with the DSi XL. (Pictured in the side-by-side shot above.) It’s unfortunate that it can’t be stashed within the unit like the standard stylus (which is still included) but it’s a lot more comfortable to hold. I’ve been using an old Handspring Visor stylus with my DS units over the years, which is quit a bit larger than the stock model, but the XL’s is even bigger, and is a welcome addition for those with large hands.
With the increased size, and a larger battery providing more play time between charges, also comes a bit of extra weight. And this is where I personally found the XL a bit hard to use. When closed and stashed in a bag or large pocket the extra weight isn’t that noticeable, particularly if you’re used to carrying an older DS. But when the screen was opened, I felt the whole thing had an odd center of balance in my hand, making it almost seem like it was better suited to gaming while sitting at a table, not while standing in a crowded subway. And based on some of the DSi XL marketing photos Nintendo originally released, that seems to be how they envisioned it being used most.
That just leaves the question as to who the DSi XL will appeal to. In recent years it’s pretty obvious that Nintendo has made some bold moves to draw in the casual gamer and tap into a large market that otherwise couldn’t care less about the kind of titles that make the Playstation and Xbox popular. And it’s also pretty obvious that effort has succeeded given it can still be difficult to find a Wii on store shelves.
So it takes no stretch of the imagination to assume that Nintendo designed the DSi XL to appeal to an older demographic who might enjoy a bit of brain training now and then, but don’t enjoy squinting at the DSi’s relatively small displays. Even if it hasn’t really been marketed that way here in North America. So if you think you might fall into that category, I’d definitely recommend the DSi XL over the DSi. But that doesn’t mean it won’t interest regular gamers as well.
Now if you already have a DSi or even a DS Lite, I don’t necessarily think you need to run out and upgrade to the DSi XL right away. Particularly with a genuine refresh of the DS hardware supposedly being unveiled at E3. But if you’re upgrading from the original DS, or just getting your first one altogether, the DSi XL is probably the best option if you picture yourself playing it with your feet up in a big easy chair, or even on your desk at work. However, if gaming on-the-go is one of your intentions for buying a DS, then you might want to opt for the DSi instead. The XL isn’t inconveniently large or anything, it’s just that those bigger displays do come with a bit of a trade-off when it comes to portability.
Nintendo DSi XL – $189.99 (CDN $199.99)
If you have any questions about the DSi XL you’d like answered, please feel free to leave them in the comments, and I’ll try to respond to them as best I can.
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