The first thing you notice compared to the DS Lite is the DSi’s matte finish, which makes it easier to hide those troublesome fingerprints. Although you could say it looks a little dull compared to the shiny glory of the DS Lite, the upside is that it felt much more comfortable and will no doubt be less slippery in those sweaty-palmed gaming moments we all face.
The DSi’s other big trait compared to the DS Lite is the size of the machine and its screens. As the console is considerably slimmer than its counterpart it feels quite a bit lighter; the jump isn’t quite as far as it was between the original DS and DS Lite, but it’s still a welcome improvement. As the machine is a tad smaller it also emphasises the newly enlarged screens: on paper a 17% increase in visible screen size doesn’t mean a lot, but when you see the machine running it translates to much improved clarity even over the already crystal clear DS Lite.
You switch the machine on with a light tap of the power button now located at the front of the console – a godsend for me, as I’m forever switching my Lite off accidentally – and are first met by a huge health and safety warning that dwarfs the old text on the DS before heading into the new DSi menu. The menu is very different to anything they’ve previously produced, being a simple scrolling bar along which your games, cameras, sound player and other content is accessed. It’s most similar to Sony’s Cross Media Bar in terms of its horizontal alignment, although far simpler to use as you would expect from Nintendo. Your recent images are displayed along the top along with a date and time, making it quite a nice greeting (or an ugly one, depending on what you choose to photograph with your DSi.)
I didn’t get chance to play with all the new features, but I did manage a quick go on an existing DS game to see how it looked across the new screens, and I was impressed by how little stretching or decrease in visual quality there was. The screens seemed no brighter than the DS Lite but still impressed with their clarity, and appeared much bigger in the context of the newly slimmed-down DSi.
Having played a little New Super Mario Bros. I tapped the power button to return to the menu (another simple but welcome addition) and sadly had to wave goodbye to the DSi for at least another couple of weeks. Having had a little hands-on time with the machine I came away very impressed by the machine’s improved aesthetics, as well as some of the new features. I still have my doubts over how many DSi owners will regularly use the two cameras and the sound manipulation feature, but the new machine’s capabilities will certainly impress newcomers to the machine as well as DS veterans. When the console receives its first exclusive titles I predict Nintendo will have another success on its hands, so expect the DSi to top wish lists from now until Christmas and beyond.