Nintendo DSi games console

Almost 3 years after the launch of the DS Lite, Nintendo has released a newer, slimmer, more feature-packed version of the handheld console. But are the new features on the Nintendo DSi welcomed? We get playing to find out.

The new console called the Nintendo DSi looks very similar to the previous version in design, but is slightly thinner and lighter (although it?s only a matter of grams). Gone is the gloss finish for a more adult matt surface. Comments from those we've shown like the more grown-up look, however we've already noticed that it attracts dirt more quickly than our glossy white DS Lite.

The big difference you'll notice on the outside is the addition of a 0.3-megapixel camera on the lid and a SD card slot so you can save images or store music on the games console.

With the Game Boy Advance days well and truly behind us, the DSi loses the second GBA cartridge slot, the shoulder buttons become smaller and the USB dongle for charging changes as well - you won't be able to use your old charger if you upgrade.

Open the DSi up and it's the same as before, but you get two new larger screens. They are now 3.25-inches each (17% larger than the current model) and snuggled between them is the Mic from before and yet another digital camera. Like the outside, it's 0.3 megapixels.

The button layout hasn't really changed much from the DS Lite - you now get a power button inside as in the original DS (the one before the Lite) instead of a slider on the side and the Wi-Fi, power and charging indicators have moved to the left hand side rather than the right.

Basically the design has changed, but not drastically, the new button locations and additions are all welcomed, and to be honest, it's unlikely to get on anyone?s nerves. You aren't going to get the fanboys moaning that the volume buttons are now on the side rather than a slider at the front.

Get past the hardware changes and the menu interface has changed to. Now icons are displayed in a long line from left to right that you can scroll through. Here you get access to the camera, your saved pictures, a music player, the Nintendo DSi Shop, DS Download Play, PictoChat, and Settings. The mere fact that there are 40 boxes to store items in clearly suggests there are plenty of things to come.

Pressing on the DSi camera icon loads up the camera software (as you would expect) and after the annoying tutorial you always get with Nintendo you get to use it.

Here you can save images direct to the DSi or to a SD you've slammed in the side. Images aren't that big so you don't need to worry about running out of space. You get space for around 400.

There are 11 preset "lenses" to choose from and these are basically camera effects for kids to play with. Fancy merging your face with someone else's? No problem. What about distorting the image or making it look like a kaleidoscope? You can do that too.

Once you've snapped a picture (no you can't turn off the shutter noise) you can then view your pictures via the album app and images can be tagged, copied to and from an SD card as well as viewed in a slideshow. We especially like the ability to see when you took a picture via a calendar view displayed on the top screen.

Get past the camera and the main other new feature is DSi Sound: a voice recorder and MP3 player. The recorder is a fun app that will entertain you for about 3 minutes. It allows you to record and edit sound by changing the pitch and speed of your recordings while also making them sound like a trumpet or budgie (we aren't sure why).

It's not as fully featured as we would have liked, but it's a bit of fun. You aren't going to be buying the DSi just for this - it is a games console after all.

Playing MP3 tracks is very straightforward and like most MP3 players you get synth effects to make your tunes sound different. Here instead of the usual Pop, Rock or Jazz effects you get Radio, Instrumental, Echo and our favourite [read bonkers] 8-bit game version that promises to make any tune sound like it's the soundtrack to Mario Land.

Verdict

The DSi proves once again that Nintendo are still at the top of their game when it comes to the handheld market.

Should you upgrade? Well it depends on what games you play. For the time being the camera isn't going to be much use to your current collection, however you just know that developers will be gagging to use the new hardware included here in the latest games just like they already do with the mic for games like Brain training.

If that means you want to play the latest titles that most likely will involve you playing with the camera, then you'll have to invest. The good thing is that in doing so you'll be going forward not backwards with this upgrade.


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