With the latest offering in its handheld line, Nintendo is trading in a little bit of portability for a ton of usability.
The Nintendo DSi XL is an all-around larger version of the DSi; notably both screens are now 4.2 inches diagonally, an overall 93% size improvement. For those not in the know, the Nintendo DS -- or Dual Screen -- line of handheld gaming devices flip open, revealing two screens. The bottom one, while a full-functioning display screen, also is touch-sensitive and used for inputs via a stylus. The top is a display screen where most of the gaming action happens.
On the negative side, this larger version of the DSL won't fit into your pants pocket, and it's a little heavier than before. But you should enjoy less hand cramping, fewer accidentally pushed buttons, less eyestrain, and more area to input. (And it'll still easily fit in your bag, briefcase, or even most coat pockets).
The unit has both a small on-board stylus, and a larger, more comfortable pen-sized one that's more natural to use, though the big one does not attach to the device (and thus is about as susceptible to being lost as any of your pens . . . which for some of us presents a problem).
Games are either downloaded using the unit's Wi-Fi capability or purchased in cartridge form. The unit also use the Wi-Fi for Web browsing, though this is not more of a bonus and not a real compelling reason to purchase the DSi XL. The browser is clunky and limited and doesn't browse nearly so well as most smartphone browsers, for instance. But there's also about a 10-second boot time for the DSi XL, which is far preferable for a quick email check if your other option is booting up the PC.
There's also photo functionality -- two surprisingly sharp cameras, one pointing at you, the user, the other pointing away from you as to, well, take pictures. As with any convergence-device-born camera, it can upload pics straight to Facebook. You can also play music on its surprisingly sharp and loud (for being so tiny) speakers if you can put your music files (of a proper format) onto an SD card.
The DSi XL comes with two "Brain Age" titles preloaded, which are fun, casual games that should get your mental juices flowing.
After being in my hands for about a week, I've concluded it's an excellent device for a "mental health break" -- even if it's only five or ten minutes long. The DSi XL is perfect for fun, casual, non-cramped gaming.
Jeremy Nisen is a Santa Barbara, California-based writer. He contributes the technology/reviews/2010/2/24/wii_fit_plus_balance_board_can.htm" target="_blank">Tech Vault column to the print edition of HispanicBusiness magazine.
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