There are some who claim that the DSi's design is more attractive than its predecessor's -- do not believe these heathens, as, obviously, they are ill-informed. In our hands, the new hardware looks and feels like a fine piece of portable technology. Of course, the fact that we spent in excess of $300 for the handheld might have clouded our judgment.
The pulsing blue power light, moved to the left of the system's hinge, is more pleasing than we expected (we didn't expect to notice it at all, actually), just like the Wii's own pulsing blue disc slot. We also found that the shoulder buttons, which some have berated for sticking out, feel easier to push, for whatever that's worth.
On starting up the system, we were surprised by the effort needed to push in the tiny power button, which replaces the DS Lite's power switch and has been moved under the directional pad. It's for the best, as you don't want to accidentally turn off your system while in the middle of playing your game.
In case you haven't heard, the power button also now acts as a reset button, allowing you to exit any game or application you're in with a tap, sending you to the DSi's menu screen. Again, because of the power button's hardiness, it is very much unlikely that you will accidentally hit the button.
The DSi's D-Pad is "clicky" like the original DS, and unlike the DS Lite's "mushy" pad. After a few hours playing several games with the system, based on no quantifiable evidence whatsoever, we decided that the DSi's directional pad is indeed "better" than the DS Lite's.
The DSi's stylus
is slightly longer, so we took the above photo to compare the two. Honestly, we didn't notice during gameplay. Still, it's nice to see the stylus's design moving away from the tiny stick that the original DS used.
We were taken aback by the SD Card
slot cover's design. You have to dig in with a thumbnail and pull it out, which isn't an easy task the first time around. In fact, we were worried that the cover would accidentally break with all the fiddling we were doing. The cover doesn't come out more than a quarter inch away from the system, so you have to pull it back to insert the SD card.
As for the DSi's missing GBA slot
, that didn't bother us much, really, as we have several other devices scattered around the house that can play GBA games. The only thing we'll really miss is Taito's paddle controller
, which wasn't even released stateside. We were more upset with the flashcart lockout
, which prevented us from running any homebrew games or applications.
We've already seen the DSi's camera functions previewed to death, so the new feature that I was most eager to try out was DSi Sound, which allows the system to play music. After converting some MP3s into AACs, popping them into an SD card, and then loading them onto the system, we were pleased to hear the DSi speaker's improved sound quality and louder volume.
DSi Sound allows you to adjust the pitch and speed of music tracks as well as apply different "filters," like chiptune sounds and added reverb. You can also play sound effects, like drum hits, dogs barking, and Mario jumping, with the shoulder buttons. All of these features were unable to hold our attention for more than a few seconds.
Here's a video of the DSi's music visualizers, 14 in all, which play along with your songs (NSFW:
Audio has explicit language):
If you pop in a pair of headphones, you can even listen to music with the system's lid closed. But Nintendo didn't include the useful ability to change or pause music tracks with the shoulder buttons, as homebrew program Moonshell
does. Instead, you use the L and R buttons to play the sound effects detailed above. It's a big missed opportunity!
Though our import system displayed all menu options in Japanese, we had no trouble navigating everything, with the exception of setting up the WiFi options (We couldn't get the DSi to play with Apple's Time Capsule). After we braved the DSi Shop's loading times and downloaded the new and free Opera browser
, we immediately pointed the browser to DS Fanboy:
It's still really slow! As you can see, the browser's new interface now looks more like the Wii browser's. We found that switching the browser to "mobile mode" made for a somewhat faster and easier to manage browser experience. Unfortunately, the DSi Browser does not support flash videos, such as YouTube clips. We even had trouble getting all of the simple GIF animations to load on Flying Pizza Kitty
! We don't expect to use this feature much, but we did have a fun time checking our email from the bathroom using Gmail's "basic HTML" mode.
For more impressions and photos of the system being unpacked and stalked by a curious cat, hit the button below to jump into our gallery!