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Hardware Review: Nintendo DSi XL

Posted by Corbie Dillard

Is bigger really better?

It would be accurate to say that more than a few heads were scratched when Nintendo announced that they were releasing yet another new model of their DS system called the DSi XL, especially considering that their DSi system had only been on the market for less than eight months. And to make things even more odd, instead of making the system smaller and more portable, Nintendo instead chose to make the system quite a bit larger.

The DSi LL, as it's being called in Japan, just hit store shelves a couple of days ago and already it's been met with mixed reactions. While the system has sold fairly well in its launch window, it's still a bit early to tell how successful the system will end up being in the long run, especially with it being sold alongside the regular DSi system. We were lucky enough to get our hands on one of these new DSi LL systems and have spent the past few hours putting it through its paces and pitting it up against the regular DSi to see how this new unit stacks up. So without further ado, let's get to it.

The first thing you'll notice when you un-box the DSi LL system is just how large it really is. To say that this thing is a beast would be an understatement. All of the various buttons and ports on the system are in exactly the same place as the regular DSi unit, so anyone moving up to this larger version will likely find the layout of the system quite familiar. Although the system does come with a rather large stylus that closely resembles a fountain pen, the unit still comes with a small stylus that slides into the side of the unit much the same way as the regular DSi. Of course if you want to carry around the larger stylus, you will have to carry it separately, as there is no slot for it on the system itself.

The unit itself looks almost identical to the DSi system, just of a much larger size. Oddly enough, the top of the system sports a glossy lid, whereas the rest of the system features the same type of matte finish as the standard DSi. One difference is that the texture is quite bit tackier on this DSi LL, possibly to make it easier to hold onto given its larger size and heft. Much like the other glossy portable systems out there, fingerprints quickly build up on the top of the system and seem to be especially noticeable given this Wine Red unit's darker color.

Another feature unique to the DSi LL system is the lid's locking points. Whereas the DSi system has two locking points as you open it up, the DSi LL system has three. It still features the same fully open and slightly tilted viewing angles of the regular DSi system, but it also has an slightly larger than 90 degrees open angle lock for what looks like having other players be able to sit around the unit and play. It's a small touch, but an interesting one nonetheless.

The D-Pad and action buttons are all the exact same size as those found on the regular DSi system, and for the most part they have the exact same feel to them. They might be a tad more clicky than those of the DSi, but it was difficult to pinpoint any differences in the way they looked and felt in comparison. The START and SELECT buttons are slightly larger, but they too have basically the exact same feel as those on the standard DSi system.

The best feature of this DSi LL system would have to be its larger screens. Not only are they much bigger in size than those of the standard DSi system, but they're also a bit brighter as well. You'll especially notice this when viewing the system from the side. You won't lose much brightness or clarity no matter how far off to the side of the system you get. This was obviously something Nintendo wanted to emphasize in this version and they've done it quite well. Since this unit has the exact same resolution as the regular DSi system, there is no screen stretching of any kind and despite the pixels being larger, you certainly can't tell it from looking at the unit's screens. Every game we tried on the system looked absolutely gorgeous. If ever there were a reason to move up to this system, these screens would have to be most attractive one.

It's difficult to fault the DSi LL system as it is a beautiful system and offers two of the best looking screens you're likely to see on a portable game system. It's obviously going to appeal more to gamers who might have trouble viewing the smaller screens of the standard DSi system, but if you're one of those people who just prefer the larger screens, it would be well worth it to at least give this unit some consideration. That being said, we still found ourselves preferring to stick with our standard DSi systems given their increased portability and more comfortable form factor.

The bottom line is this - if you already own a DSi system, you're probably going to be better off sticking with it rather than spending the extra money to buy this beast of a portable game system - if you can even call it portable. Of course if you have yet to invest in a DSi, you'll most likely want to at least demo one of these XL models when they hit retail shelves in the US and Europe early next year, as if you can manage to overlook the system's slight lack of portability due to its larger size, you might find that the amazing screens are more than worth the trade-off. Either way it's nice to see Nintendo giving gamers a choice and also opening up the portable market to those who might not have the best eyesight. And since we're not exactly getting any younger, this little gem might actually come in handy someday.

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User Comments (74)



pixelman said:

I don't have a DSi. Depending on the price point, I may pick up one of these monsters! Also, more clicky buttons is good. :3



ReZon said:

I wish they had made the D-pad and buttons a little bigger. Maybe closer to the Classic Controller's size.



Starkiller said:

If it doesn't fit in my pocket, I won't buy it.
(Not that I was planning to anyway )



motang said:

Wow...that thing is seriously huge! Really made for older people.



Corbs said:

It is a beautiful system. And those screens are amazing. I'm still not sure why they put the glossy top on it, but oh well.



Digiki said:

I see that the D-pad is still a massive step down from the original DS'



Kid_A said:

Well it's being marketed towards their more elderly consumer-base, right?



Feld0 said:

I think the D-Pad and the ABXY buttons are way too far up. I'm also surprised that the screens' pixels are barely noticeable. I can actually count the pixels pretty well on my (regular) DSi. Not that it's really a problem, though, when playing, unless the text is a puny font size. glares at DSi Browser
But I'm happy with what I've got. Besides, the $200 would be better spent on the likes of NSMBWii, Zelda: ST, and M&L: BIS.



AVahne said:

we're getting my lil bro a DSi, but i'll be picking this up for myself when i get the chance



Knux said:

Nice impressions, but I still think the regular DSi is better.



BL_Donth said:

Uh-huh bigger IS better
Wait...what are we talking about?

I'll get the regular Dsi, thank you very much.



UNC5052 said:

I wonder if having bigger screens would help make the touch screen more accurate? That would be cool for things like flipnote studio.



KanrakusPizza said:

Pretty useless to make a new DSi 7 months after the first one came out. I bet 3/4 of us already HAVE a normel DSi, so this is worthless.



Altkey said:

They should make a port that lets you plug it into the TV then no need for bigger screens.



LinktotheFuture said:

I bought a DSi for the bigger screens, but they aren't big enough for my aging eyes. I am looking forward to getting the DSi XL. My mom is also going to get one. Bad eyes run in the family.



Percentful said:

I think it would be nice sitting next to our wii as a family DS. My family always asks to watch, but most of the time they can't see so I have to move it closer to their eyes and I can't see anymore. I think it would look perfect sitting next to other gaming consoles on a table, because It's not so small next to them. Notice I never mentioned bringing it anywhere. My normal DSi would be for carrying around and for me, the LL for my family [so they would stop bugging me] That's the perfect word for this system: Beastly.



rhythmheavenfan said:

That is HUGE! When I get my DSi finally, I'm getting the regular version. I don't want a handheld that is that enormous.



Percentful said:

@dsijared I certainly hope not. Although, they had better not charge this at $220 here in the US. If they do, I will scream [in my pillow as not to scare my mom].



Natie31 said:

Dont care what they charge i will still get this one and this will be the last i do have the black dsi but still buying this one cause i like this one better.



Stuffgamer1 said:

I'll stick with my regular DSi, thanks. The screens are plenty large for me as it is, and if the XL can't even be bothered to have bigger buttons, I see no point! Plus, I'm sitll skeptical about how touch screen controls designed for a much smaller screen would work on this beast.



Corbs said:

Touch controls work better on the DSi LL then on the DSi. More room to roam around too. The size of the unit was my only real complaint. But it's just too damn big for my liking.



Sylverstone said:

I'll stick to my DSi, but since I am a sucker for DS (considering I have 3 out of 4 models, excluding DSi XL of course), I'll get it when it's cheaper.

Weird how I can never get used to calling the DSi XL the DSi LL (before I heard the American name, of course )

Nice overview, Corbie.

Sony must be having a facepalm fest over there since the PSPgo is there sitting on shelves in Japan...



Odnetnin said:

"facepalm fest"? Brilliant!
(I don't think Sony was expecting the Go to be their next big handheld anyway, however.)



Stuffgamer1 said:

How could the touch controls catagorically work BETTER on the XL? It seems to me that the need to use broader stylus strokes to move across the larger screen would be detrimental. In fast-paced games, this could became a SERIOUS problem. I will grant that the larger screen would be benefitial for slow-placed games that require great precision, though.



Corbs said:

I found playing games like Wario Ware Touched and The Rub Rabbits much easier and more responsive on the DSi LL. Don't know why, they just were. And that large stylus was sweet as well. Maybe that had something to do with it.



Ren said:

yeah, it looks big but not unmanagably, so. Most touch screen stuff just seems slightly too small for some kinds of gestures, so I can see how the touch screen motions would be better for lots of things; more precise.



lockd said:

Do you know if the shoulder buttons break as easily as the normal DSi? If my normal DSi breaks, I'm probably gonna trade it in at E.B games and get an XL.



Plastifish said:

Never got around to buying a DSi yet. This may help the normal sized version's price drop. We always welcome price drops. However, as an old time video gamer, this XL version is VERY tempting to me. I could care less if it fits in my pocket, I'm not pulling it out on the bus. The DS, for me, has simply offered a different library of games - like the rebirth of SNES RPG's and games that rely on great mechanics and story over horsepower and 'pretty' appeal. So, a larger screen, better sound, and an easier to hold system might be nice while sitting on the couch. My son or daughters won't want the mammoth thing, so I can pass on my Lite version and quit switching to the original DS so my hands don't cramp while playing Mario Kart DS!



Vinsanity said:

I can't wait for this to come out in the 'states! Gonna pick one up for my mom, and maybe I'll borrow it from time to time just to play some of the DS's FPS's. Using the touch screen to aim is the single most uncomfortable control scheme in video game history - perhaps those games will fare better on a much larger screen. It's a shame because Dementium and COD: MW Mobilized are supposed to be quite good...



SKTTR said:

If I buy a new DS i get this fat one. The picture is just better, makes the games graphics and camera shots more beautiful and touchscreen controls more accurate.



Ryuuga said:

I'm planning to retire my DS phat, but I'm sure I'm not gonna get this beast. Better stick with the smaller DSi.



JimLad said:

Yeah, shame they didn't make the buttons bigger, but I suppose if it's between that or bigger screens, I'd go for bigger screens.



Krispood said:

If this system gets a writing program( doc, txt ) and a good drawing program it's buy for me, Bacause then i can use it as a multi tool( mini pc ) but i doesn't have it right now so i will wait.



blank_user_1 said:

Flabbergasting: this fetching forth far fewer fiery feelings from fuming fans ven foregoing features.



Krispood said:

JuneBelle: I hope you are kiding, art academy is badest drawing program ever, paint is bether then that program. I mean a real drawing program like gimp and photoshop!



ReZon said:

@Corbie - Correct me if I'm wrong, but you sold the LL on eBay already? It wasn't worth keeping I suppose?



JuneBelle said:

@Krispood: I suppose I may be biased from being a traditional artist; but I never found Gimp to be all that exciting. I got more use out of Art Academy works more like real traditional painting; and those are skills that you can take into the real world. My biggest complaint is the tiny screen.... But maybe the DSi XL will fix that? (Too bad I'm not likely to get it since it's waaay too soon after I had just gotten my DSi.)



MrMartinLee said:

I haven't made the move to a DSi yet, but the XL is the one I'll get when I do. Bigger screens far outweigh portablility for me, and the Lite gives me hand cramps because it's so small.



TKOWL said:

I'll stick with my Original DS, because i think they ruined the DS Lite and the DSi by adding curvy buttons. Sad this hasnt been adressed yet with the LL



Corbs said:

I was close to keeping the DSi LL, but its very large size and the inability to change the language to English were the back-breakers for me. My wife wants one when it comes to the US, but I'll most likely stick with my DSi. I just like the smaller size for carrying it around. Just me personally.



letsplay said:

"marketed towards their more elderly consumer-base". Just because it's big? Is your 42" LCD wide screen TV marketed toward old people?
I always thought the game boy and DSI with their postage size screen was too small. Nintendo should have added a video output for TV. I'll have to see the DSi LL first hand before I buy.



theblackdragon said:

@letsplay: Considering the main commercial for it on the internet at the moment features a grandmother and her family playing it together, and their goal with this one is to get everyone playing the LL, not just the kids and younger adults they normally market to, yes, this one seems to be aimed at their more mature consumer-base.



Wolfcoyote said:

Two words: Trauma Center. I can't tell you how many times I was given a "miss" or "bad" when I was performing an operation and had my chain broken due to touching the wrong pixel. The DSi XL's larger pixels could improve gamers' chances for games that demand precision.



BlueFlameBat said:

I never carried my portable gaming systems in my pockets anyway, so this won't be that big a deal for me. Besides, is it really any bigger than the original DS? All I have to do before buying one is make sure my copy of Giana Sisters DS works on it.



darklinkinfinite said:

I say God created cargo pants for a reason and that reason is finally here! lol j/k

Anyways, I really doubt Nintendo expects people to replace their current DSis with this system, which is probably why they released it so soon, before the DSi completely penetrates the market and while most people still have the option of going with the regular or the larger screens. Also, as others have mentioned, Nintendo is also marketing this more towrads the elderly, which is a brilliant move considering they're a market that didn't exist to video games until this generation, and whole families.

I still haven't picked up a DSi yet and if they release a Black or White XL in the states, I'd definitely pick it up if I had the money.



TheLonelyGamer said:

The DSi XL is just a terrible idea, you are just better off getting the regular DSi. I mean, the XL costs 220 bucks for pete's sake, it is even more than the Wii! I bet it wouldn't even fit in your pockets either. Plus the color for the XL looks disgusting in my opinion.



Madk91 said:

Can't wait to say "Hey granny , Let's play some MW mobilized!..." and her reply " I'll totaly pwn your butt sonny!"



Ceviche_Stiles said:

I wonder if it has a gameboy advance slot b/c i bought a dsi and i cant play guitar or band hero:/ and nothing makes me more angry than that!!



Bobpie said:

Already Got a DSi, if there's no real hardware update (apart from the fact it's bigger), then I'm definately not going to get one of these.



GreasyMcNugget said:

come on guys your saying u dont want it because you already have a ds/no money to buy one/ dad or mom wont buy one because u already have a ds...... jk boys



KiroX777 said:

damn i love my dsi still... the reason i prefer my dsi over my ds light is because its slimmer and its not glossy. but the dsixl puts everything i hate except the screens. plus it looks as if they downgraded the speakers back to a ds light. the one they gave the dsi is upgraded and thats the speakers that new technology is supposed to get but why go backwards?



Kurona said:

Definitely considering this if I want to get a new DS. I'll try a demo first- but one of the major issues I had with the original DSi was the lack of a GBA slot.
Er.... how do you know they 'downgraded' the speakers? Just because they don't look like the DSi's ones doesn't mean they're as good. The holes in the machine are just to let the sound out- they have no indication of the hardware inside.



KittyCat55 said:

i love dsi but this is the upgraded better ver. and the screens are better which is awsome im sick of the tiny tiny screens. well all i know is that when this comes out im so getting it, bigger is better people get it through your brains people.



marisse_redblossom said:

I've been loving my beautiful Nintendo DSi XL Burgundy since I bought it on Mother's Day on the 9th. The screens made my games Mario Kart and Spirit Tracks like paradise! It is bigger but it actually feels much more comfortable on my small hands, than my DS lite. It's heavier, but not that heavy. The brightness is sharper. It's fun to use the original stylus and the pen-like stylus alternately. The sound is loud enough, unlike my small DS that it's sometimes hard to hear the sound unless it's so quiet around. The texture gives much more classy feel. The features are all cool, including the 11 different lens types and rainbow pen on pictochat, and the parakeet!

Those who say that it's not a good upgrade, because the cameras wasn't made better, remember that DSi is not intended to be a camera, it's just one of great features. It's the total game experience which is the most important

Even there would be 3Ds coming out next year, again, it would start like a typical prototype, and would just be improved in years like the DS before.

So DSi XL would still be enjoyed for many years!

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