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Review: Nintendo DSi XL

by Steven Williamson on 5 March 2010, 08:42 4.75

Tags: Nintendo (TYO:7974), DS, DSi

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Is bigger better?

To summarise that long list of specifications, you only really need to know a couple of things. The DSi XL has a larger screen than the DSi, measuring 4.2 inches. It also has larger speakers and comes equipped with a larger stylus. Simple as that -- it's larger.

The new system is available in either wine red or a dark brown colour. For review purposes, I received the dark brown version, which aesthetically isn't that pleasing on the eye. It's more of a muddy brown colour to be honest, although the glossy, shiny outer surface gives it a stylish look -- it's just a shame that the carpet doesn't match the curtains (so to speak) and that polished look is replaced by a matt effect and a duller surface when you open it up. In short, it's not a real looker and it doesn't quite capture the inner beauty of the console on its exterior. The Wine Red one does look much sexier.

Looks shouldn't really matter though, so I keep telling myself, it's what's inside that counts, right? Well, it's a good job because the Nintendo DSi XL comes loaded with a host of goodies, including pre-installed premium software Brain Age Express: Arts & Letters, Brain Age Express: Math and Photo Clock, plus some niftly little applications such as a dictionary, camera editor and the DSi browser. The unit retails at approximately £159.99, though you'll find it slightly cheaper on few websites. In addition to getting a larger stylus you get a separate pen-like stylus, which certainly makes writing easier and probably makes you look more like a businessman who's busily sending emails on the train, rather than someone's who's actually embroiled in a game of Scribblenauts. A nice touch if you don't want people to thing you're just a big kid.

When I first un-boxed the DSi XL and held it in my hands the weight of it was immediately noticeable in comparison to the other DS hand-helds. This isn't a small piece of kit, it's a sturdy, weighty hand-held that when held vertically, and open, feels like you're holding a small hard-backed book. The size is also incredibly different; it's not exactly pocket-sized. In fact, it doesn't fit into my jeans pocket at all, and only just about fits into the inside pocket of my large winter coat -- and even then I can feel the heavy weight dragging me down to my knees. So, the DSi XL is clearly not a portable device for carrying around on a daily basis. To give you an idea of its size, when held lengthways it measures the same as my head, from chin to top of forehead (don't ask me why I tried that.) It also reminds me of one of those old-style 1980's Casio calculators that I used during my GCSE maths exam. That's not a bad thing, I loved those calculators -- much better than trying to use my mobile phone these days to add things up. :)

Open up the DSi XL and the screens have quite an impact, especially when you've come from just playing on a DS Lite, or DSi. The DSi makes up for its weight and size with a pair of 4.2" screens that are crystal sharp in quality, bringing colour to older games in particular, but making any game you play seem brighter and more vivid -- switching between the DSi and DSi XL to play Zelda, for example, you'll really see the difference. In fact, the size of the screens has made my time with the DS more enjoyable. I'm a family man and I've comfortably been able to sit on the sofa and play the likes of Professor Layton with my wife easily because text-based and puzzle games obviously appear more vividly on the larger screen so we were able to share that experience more easily without craning our necks. Nintendo has touted the DSi as a 2-player experience and it's clear to see why, but I've also enjoyed playing many games, including Space Invaders Extreme and Zelda, more comfortably. GTA Chinatown Wars looks fantastic on the screens. On the DSi, it hurts my eyes playing GTA for too long because I end up squinting at the smaller figures and cars on-screen. These larger screens make it easier and more enjoyable to play. There's no way I'll be going back now.

The beauty of having the larger screens also comes into play when you take photos. The camera takes a decent picture and obviously you get to view your loved-ones on a decent sized screen and can then edit away with a variety of decent functions, including eleven different lenses and some fun things such as face-morphing. There's also a weird camera dictionary included, so you can take photos of words and then look them up, or just use it as a normal dictionary.I can see the use for it if you were abroad and wanted to translate something on menu, for example, but I'm not entirely sure what else you'd use it for.

With techno music blaring out while playing Space Invaders Extreme it's clear to see the difference in sound quality as well. It's been totally ramped up due to the larger casing which has enabled Nintendo to fit larger speakers. You can significantly hear the results when comparing it to the DSi or Lite.

On the downside, I was surprised to see that, considering everything else has got bigger and larger, the d-pad looks tiny on the left hand side of the control panel (same size as on the DSi), and that none of the face buttons have been made larger. Still, they function as they should and have that nice bouncy feel when you press them down. Buttons must feel nice to press, and they do.

Overall, I never actually thought I'd like as much, but I'm over the moon with the DSi XL. I've had all four revisions of the hand-held and this is by far my favourite. The larger images and text on screen makes gaming easier on the eye, and the larger stylus feels comfortable and natural when gripped in the hand . Though many of the features remain the same as the DSi, the DSi XL offers a visual and audio upgrade that just makes everything seem that bit better. Though I doubt I'll be bringing the DSi XL out and about with me regularly, there's no doubt that it will now become the hand-held of choice in my family.


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