The Nintendo DS Browser was released around three years ago on October 6th 2006 for the Nintendo DS and the then newly released Nintendo DS Lite. The release garnered a great deal of hype - after all it was the first application of it's kind for the Nintendo DS and offered users a chance to use their machines for something other than gaming; something that has became increasingly common on the DS platform in recent times. The browser retailed at the same price as a regular Nintendo DS game and came complete with the Memory Expansion Pak, which added around 8mb of RAM needed for the web-browsing experience. Overall it’s fair to say that the whole proposition was underwhelming; loading times were nightmarish, many websites did not render properly and the general presentation of the package left a lot to be desired, especially considering the relatively high price of the software.
Three years on were are presented with the DSi’s own native version of the Opera Browser and it’s interesting to note that there are several improvements both in terms of actual usability and presentation. One of the biggest draws to this new version is of course the fact that it is offered as a free download from the DSi shop. The very fact that the user is no longer forced to cough up a large wodge of cash in order to surf the Internet on the DS is a very appealing factor when evaluating this software and it’s usefulness as a viable application for checking emails, keeping up with news and blogging on the go. The DSi Opera Browser achieves all of these things to varying degrees of success.
In terms of checking your emails and keeping up to date with friends it allows access to basic email services such as Yahoo! and Google Mail. However, Flash-based email clients are sadly not supported. Social networking sites such as MySpace and Live-Journal work perfectly and Twitter actually displays quite nicely on the DSi screen. Facebook however doesn’t work at all and logging on results in a rather odd message from the DSi stating that there is “insufficient memory” to view the website. Hopefully this is something that could be sorted out in subsequent upgrades of the software.
As earlier mentioned the lack of Flash support means that many websites do not display correctly, or in certain cases, at all. This means that media streaming websites such as Youtube and DailyMotion are unusable. To add to your woes, tabbed browsing and RSS feeds are still unsupported; however, it is perhaps possible that Opera will upgrade the browser in the future and introduce this vital feature.
Focusing on improvements from the original Nintendo DS Browser, the overall presentation has most definitely been enhanced. The home-screen is far more welcoming and clear in its layout. There are three main buttons: one your desired website address (through handwriting or keyboard entry), one for searching the web (using either the default Google or Yahoo search engines) and finally a Favourites button, which as the name suggests contains user-defined favourites which can be edited easily and simply.
Everything is intuitive and simple to use. Furthermore, compared to the original browser loading times have been improved significantly and pages render better than before. Like its predecessor there are two alternative ways of viewing a web-page: an "overview" and "column" mode. The overview mode is perhaps the one that would be used most often as it allows the user to see the full page on one screen and zoomed in sections on the other. The column mode is useful for long texts and articles as it compresses all of the text into, as is to be expected, one large column. There is an inbuilt user-guide within the software and parental controls so that parents can monitor their child's internet activity; all of these things add to the user experience and level of high quality.
Like the original, how often people will actually use the software is debatable; it is in essence a basic Internet browser and perhaps useful for quick sessions. For longer Internet sessions the DSi browser is not entirely practical due to the lack of support for Flash and complex Java scripts. It is perhaps worth noting that the DSi supports WPA authentication unlike the DS and DS Lite which were restricted to WEP, this means that many more people can now use the online functions of the DS at home as modern wireless routers are shifting towards WPA. Perhaps more widespread use of the DS’s Internet features will encourage developers like Opera to build on and develop their products further.
To conclude, the DSi Browser is a free piece of software which allows the DSi to surf the Internet, albeit it to varying degrees of success. Unlike its predecessor no add-on is required and overall performance has undoubtedly improved. While the software has its limitations it is a free download and well worth having on your DSi roster of software; there is absolutely no excuse not to get this application. And in case you were wondering, the Nintendo Life website loads effortlessly on the DSi browser.