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Tech Report – Nintendo DSi XL

By Paul O'Reilly

Even though there continues to be fierce competition among the major console manufacturers, there has only ever been one dominant brand when it comes to handheld gaming. Despite attempts by Sony to break the stranglehold with the PSP, Nintendo's DS has ruled the roost, selling over 125 million units worldwide, making it the best-selling gaming platform ever.

But recently, stronger competition has come from an unexpected source – Apple's iPhone. Although primarily marketed as a communications tool, the App Store has also turned the iPhone into one of the most popular gaming devices. According to an NPD report, over 65% of the more than 2 billion apps that have been downloaded for the iPhone are games.

While Apple and social networks like Facebook have revolutionized casual gaming, Nintendo has hardly rested on its laurels. Early last year it introduced the DSi, featuring robust Wi-Fi connectivity and a dual-camera system, and this week sees the unveiling of the fourth iteration of the DS platform with the DSi XL.

There are no prizes for guessing that the XL stands for "extra large". It will take traditional DS fans some time to get used to the twin 4.2-inch screens, which are 93% bigger than those on the DS Lite. Although the larger overall size means the device will no longer slip into a jeans pocket, it's still small enough to be ultra-portable.

With the exception of the screen sizes, very little else has changed, which might be a relief or a disappointment depending on your point-of-view. The bottom display is still touch-sensitive and interacts well with the bundled stylus. The XL has the much-praised dual-camera system, the voice recorder, and the ability to play music through optional SD memory cards.

Sensibly, the XL is fully compatible with DS game cartridges and the Wi-Fi feature allows downloads and access to the DSi shop.

It's hard to tell how much the timing of the launch of the XL has to do with the impending arrival of Apple's iPad. The fact that they are hitting stores here in the U.S. during the same week is surely coincidental, but there's no doubt that a "big-screen" DS is partly aimed at retaining gamers that could be attracted by the possibilities of the 10-inch display on the iPad.

However, any attempt to compare screen quality will result in disappointment for Nintendo fans, as the XL's resolution hasn't changed from the DSi or the DS Lite before it. However, the XL has the potential to turn the DSi into a serviceable e-reader and that's clearly another area in which Nintendo intends to compete.

For hardcore gamers – as opposed to casual gamers – Nintendo will still have the edge, particularly when it comes to price. Although owners of existing DSi systems may want to take a pass, the $189.99 XL represents a very worthwhile upgrade for gamers that are still using the original DS or the DS Lite.

Comment by SAM, posted 6/22/2010, 9:12 AM:

Comment by Marcia, posted 3/30/2010, 1:03 PM:

Good article! Getting the DSi XL was a good decision for me. The reasons are that the screen is larger, it comes pre-loaded with three games (Brain Age Express: Math, Brain Age Express: Arts & Letters and Photo Clock); Flip Note, DSi Browser, and Photo Clock are already loaded. My son likes the idea that he can sit with me while I play my games and actually see the screen comfortably. This new system has made game play a lot easier and this mother happier.
Comment by LisaVisa, posted 3/30/2010, 12:51 AM:

100% agree! It's definitely a nice option for people looking to upgrade from models older than the DSi, which is me! I'm not worried about the 3DS at all since in the gaming market, each electronics giant is ALWAYS announcing something new and the consumers either stay put or trade it in for credit towards the new console on the block. Also, why would I not enjoy the XL for a good year or so? There could very well be production delays and I may as well have fun in the meantime.
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