Hands on with the DSi

Here's an example of the type of editing you can do with the DSi
Here's an example of the type of editing you can do with the DSi

OK, here’s the scoop.  My DS was dying thanks to having spent a year being passed between myself and two rowdy children.  The kids eventually got their own DS systems, but mine never recovered.  The mic was flaky, one hinge was breaking, and the cartridge slot was more miss than hit.  So, when Game Stop had a great trade-in deal in anticipation of the DSi’s release my lovely wife said I could combine the trade-in with a stocked gift card and pre-order the newer system.  I picked it up yesterday and played with during my Sunday afternoon crash. Here’s what I think so far.

The Good

  • The larger screens are beautiful, and the brightness has also increased.  I just played Mario Kart with my son for about an hour and the difference for a 3d game is very noticible.
  • The controls feel better in my hands then they did on my DS.  On the DS my hands would cramp up even after only short sessions playing the system.  I have a feeling that the controls are a bit more widely spread on the DSi, and it makes a difference for me.
  • The Cameras are the DSi’s killer feature.  My kids love warping their faces (actually, telling me what to warp – I’ve suffered the long painful death of one handheld already, thank you very much).  I spent a significant amount of time playing with my ugly face, making it uglier.  I found this highly entertaining.
  • The free browser download was a nifty way to get people into the DSi store on the first day.

The OK

  • The store is a great idea.  I think there’s 6 apps in it right now.  So I have 1000 free DSi points and nothing of interest I want to spend them on.  We all know Nintendo likes to try to keep the crud off their systems (with varying degrees of success), but they needed to have a much large launch library in their new store.  Hopefully new titles will be added to the DSi faster than they’re added to the Wii Ware store.
  • Battery Life is still good, but less than on the DS.  I’m thinking that this is because wireless communications are left on unless you tell them to be turned off.  I’m not sure if the DSi will turn them on when called, as the DS did – if it won’t, then Nintendo needs to come out with a firmware update fast.

The Bad

  • Whoever let that SD Slot cover out of R&D needs to have their head examined.  Seriously.  The manual (yes, I read the documentation) specifically warns againt exerting too much force on the cover.  That’s good advice, but do you think they’d design a cover that doesn’t look like it’s designed to force you to exert excessive force in an effort to get it open?  If mine lasts for 6 months I’ll be surprised, this is because…
  • The DSi needs a way to transfer those cool images I edited to another device without having to eject the SD card.  Heck, I’d even like to be able to e-mail them, if I could do that, that would be acceptable to me.  As it is, I need to eject the SD Card, plug in my reader, mount the card, and then copy them over to my macbook.  There needs to be a better way to do this, really (and Apple, I’m looking at you here with my iTouch too, OK?).
  • The browser is a joke.  It’s slow, runs out of memory faster than you can blink, and opera’s killer feature, page zoom, doesn’t seem to be included (at least, I haven’t figured it out yet).  The browser does have an interesting “column mode” which makes the pages readable over two screens without layout – but this seems to be a solution that would have been necessary on the first DS.  If the DSi browser was auto-detected as a mobile browser (for some reason it apparently doesn’t register as such on the sites I’ve visited) then people could view the mobile versions of the pages they visit – which makes sense, given that it’s a mobile device.  The browser was a great way to introduce people to the store, but man it’s implemented poorly.

In the end, the DSi is a decent incremental upgrade to the DS Lite, which is all it ever claimed to be.  Had I not hit the perfect storm by which I obtained mine I would have been happy to wait until my DS Lite died utterly before migrating.  It’s got some good ideas (like the camera and the store), but until Nintendo allows these things to be used they’re not compelling reasons to upgrade.  Yet.  Right now the DSi seems to be caught in-between worlds.  Right now it’s a toy with some aspirations towards being a full-fledged mobile device.  Given time, it could become a true dual-class device, both a toy and a full fledged mobile device.  We’ll see.

I’m going to keep an eye on the DSi store to see how fast it’s catalog expandes.  Besides games (and old pokemon titles for 1000 points would rock Nintendo), it would be good to see some utilities that grab information from the Net and bypass the cruddy browser experience.  Weather, Twitter, RSS, and IM utilities would be nice to see.

Bottom line is, until the store gets filled up and offers a compelling reason to upgrade, you can feel good about hanging on to your DS Lite, for now.