When other companies bob, Nintendo weaves. As its rivals attempt to make their handheld game machines smaller and more portable, Nintendo hits us with the DSi XL, a supersized version of its pocket player.
DSi XL, currently available in Japan and set to be released in America in the first quarter of 2010, is the size of a paperback book. It’s also about 30 percent heavier than the DS Lite. Why? Because the unit’s two screens are much, much larger — 4.2 inches diagonally, compared to the DS Lite’s 3.25-inches.
Why did they supersize it? Nintendo says the massive screens (with wider viewing angles) are in part aimed at senior citizens who don’t want to squint while playing Sudoku. But granny typically plays from home, where portability isn’t really a concern. If you do the bulk of your DS playing on your couch instead of on the bus, you likely won’t mind the tradeoff.
The larger screen isn’t just some frivolous purchase — it’s completely awesome. Seriously, we can’t imagine going back to smaller screened DSi. The screens have the same resolution as previous models, but the blown-up images look fantastic. It’s much easier on the eyes, even if finely detailed 2-D art does look a bit pixelized on occasion. It’s less obvious with 3-D graphics.
Beyond pure visual splendor, it’s also easier to interact with the DSi’s touchscreen. And although it features a standard stylus that stores inside the unit, DSi XL also comes with a comfortable pen-sized stylus that’s much easier to hold. (There’s nowhere to store it, though.)
At all of its five levels of screen brightness, XL has better battery life than the regular DSi: an additional one to three hours, depending on the setting, for a total of four to 17 hours. That’s still not quite as good as the older DS Lite’s five to 19 hours, though.
In terms of functionality, the XL isn’t different from the standard DSi: Besides playing games, you can download games from the DSi Shop, browse the web, listen to music and take pictures with the unit’s dual front- and rear-facing cameras.
When it’s released in the United States in early 2010, the DSi XL will come pre-loaded with downloadable apps. Nintendo hasn’t said which, but the Japanese version comes with a web browser, an animation program called Moving Memo, two bite-sized Brain Age games and a dictionary.
Getting a few apps for free should help to soften the sticker shock: At roughly $200, DSi XL is the most expensive model in Nintendo’s portable lineup.
If you haven’t yet traded up from a DS Lite to the DSi, you might want to wait until the XL comes out. If you’ve already upgraded, the benefits are less obvious at first — but we bet that once you try XL for yourself, you’ll want one too.