The name “Elder-Geek” was decided upon for several reasons. “Elder” was to signify that we wanted to focus on the largely-unfocused, over-21 market, and also to explain our perspective. Perhaps more relevant for this article is the word “Geek.” We’re called “Geek” instead of “Gamer” because we didn’t want to limit ourselves to just games. There is a large overlap of interests in the geek community, and one of the biggest overlaps is Tech.
So for our first tech review I’ve decided to stick close to home and review the newly released Nintendo DSi. Since the DS platform is over 5 years old, I will make the assumption that most readers are already familiar with the platform and I will focus on the differences and upgrades from the DS Lite to the DSi.
As most of you know DSi is the successor to Nintendo’s hit handheld platform Nintendo DS. Well… perhaps not a successor—more of an upgrade. Or is it? As a declaimer I would like to mention that this is actually my first DS, and I probably wouldn’t even have gotten a DSi if it weren’t for a set of peculiar circumstances. But I have still held and played several DS Lite’s extensively for work purposes. So I’m quite familiar with the platform.
At first glance you notice a couple of differences between the DS Lite and the DSi. It has a camera on the lower right corner. The battery and Wifi lights have been moved to the left. It’s missing the topside logo and now has a matte finish as opposed to its more glossy predecessor. You’ll also notice how there’s no GBA slot at all (we’ll get to that later) and how the volume slider has changed to simple click +/- buttons and moved from the front to the left side.
Upon opening, you’ll find another camera right next to the microphone between the two screens. The two screens are slightly bigger and the power button has been moved to lower left corner as opposed to the left side of the DS. All the buttons on the DSi are a lot less squishy and more responsive, especially the shoulder buttons.
These are all pretty minor upgrades, with the exception of the camera. And though the removal of the GBA slot is a setback, I have my doubts about how much it was really used. The real reason behind the upgrade and price hike is the camera and the internal memory and SD card slot. So that’s what I’ll focus on in this review.
The DSi camera is NOT a substitute for a real camera…or even a camera phone; it’s a tool to use for games, or a fun toy play with. To get a recognizable shot you have to be in a very well lit area and be holding it perfectly still. In the picture above I was in my kitchen and had turned every light I had on, plus I was steadying the DSi on a nearby speaker. The picture above is the absolute best quality picture I could get, and it’s still a little oversensitive to light—the black circle in the lower left corner is actually the glass window of my greyish microwave, and not some floating black hole in the blinding white light.
No, the DSi camera is not intended to be used as your holiday camera, but it is however intended to be used for games. Right now you can buy WarioWare for 500 DSi points. Since the DSi comes with 1000 points that shouldn’t be a burden for many users. In WarioWare you have to wave your hands and align your face in several different challenges. Once you’re done you can view the raw footage for a few giggles. It’s fun but the enjoyment factor is fleeting. You can also edit images (as I’ve done above) using several different tools. You can do everything from putting moustaches on faces or stretch and compress them till they’re just a big blurb. You can manipulate the image live, but the amusement is again short lived.
The DSi also has a sound recorder and manipulator; it’s pretty standard fare with a pitch changer and a few other presets. Much like the camera, it’s just a toy to play around with, and since the microphone was already featured in the DS Lite there’s not too much to talk about.
Because they increased the possessing power and RAM capacity with the DSi, you’ll now see the return of the Opera web browser, which was discontinued from the DS Lite a while back. It works much better now, but you’ll still be better off using any other portable web browsing device instead. You can download it for free through the “DS download play” application that comes with the DSi.
The Increased hardware stats also allow better games in the future, in particularly 3D games.
The second major feature is the internal memory and SD card slot. This is also the feature I appreciate the most. This is used to support the camera and sound recording features, but more importantly it makes DSiWare possible. DSiWare is the DS answer to WiiWare. The games available are bite-sized and some of them seem more like tech demos than games actually worth paying for. Those are just the games currently available. The future still looks very bright, and once third party publishers really start to focus on the platform, good things could happen. You also have plenty of free slots in the main menu free for future applications, much like the Wii channels.
These are all the major new features; the DSi also features a new menu system, but it’s just a superficial upgrade. Functionality is still largely the same. In conclusion the DSi is a great handheld gaming device with a lot of potential that right now is unrealized. If you already own a DS Lite it’s probably not worth the upgrade, and if you actually use the GBA slot it’s definitely not worth it. But if you don’t own a DS Lite or still drag around the DS phat I would say that it is indeed worth it. The price increase might seem steep, but the new features are worth it.