Nintendo DSi XL (Preview)

Despite the DS outselling its Sony rival and even the big consoles on a regular basis, Nintendo are determined to get one into every gamer’s (and their relative’s) hands. With the children’s market sorted they’re going for the grownups in force.

Handheld console manufacturers just can’t help but fiddle around. With both the DS and PSP getting numerous make-overs over the last few years getting bigger, smaller, slidier but rarely cheaper.

So it’s surprising to say that this is one upgrade that looks pretty good. Adding all the extra functions of the still recent DSi and supersizing the console to fit in adult hands and give them a screen big enough to make all the extra features worthwhile for once. While still not exactly cheap, the console will retail at £150 which is only £10 more than the smaller DSi.

So what does it do that we haven’t seen before on the DSi? Well not much to be honest. No Nintendo, new colours don’t count. There are only two colours available at launch, Wine Red and Dark Brown. It would seem Nintendo believe this the best strategy to attract the more ‘mature’ gamer, assuming they all like merlot and dirt.

The bigger screens are more appealing though, and should help Nintendo really push the downloadable books feature, as they’re big enough to compete with the range of electronic books slowly making their way into the market. Still, drop it in the bath and you’re screwed.

You can use the old stylus or when you’re at home, go for Touch Pen which is shaped like a proper pen instead of a twig which will make it much more comfortable to hold and hopefully harder to lose!

The DSi XL is a bit of a sizeable beast, which may be a little off-putting if you want to carry it around with you all day. Good luck fitting it in your jeans pocket for example. This console will shine the most at home though. If you love the DS for the games and software just to play at home then this is great for you thanks to the massive screens.

While we’ve yet to see it for ourselves, apparently there will be prolonged battery life compared to the DSi which would be impressive with the bigger screens surely requiring more power. But if you’re at home that shouldn’t be an issue.

All the DSi perks are included, such as the Wi-Fi web browser, online multiplayer gaming and downloadable game titles or apps from the DSi Shop. SD memory cards are supported for music and photos too. Hopefully the camera will be upgraded from the miserly 0.3 megapixel effort of the DSi. Some of the picture editing features might be a fun distraction though.

There’s be some free software already installed: A Little Bit of Brain Training: Arts Edition, Dictionary 6 in 1 and the Nintendo DSi Browser, so digital-book reader-types in denial can try and convince themselves they’ve not just bought a games console. They’ll be hooked on Mario Kart in less than a month.

If you own an original DS and have been holding out on upgrading, this might be the ideal time as the bigger screen (4.2” instead of 3”) works wonders and you can finally check out all the online functions but with a reassuringly familiar weighty heft that’s missing from the rather dainty DS Lite and DSi. If you’re still waiting for your first DS experience, you can take your pick between the extra portability of the DSi and the home luxury of the DSi XL.

The Nintendo DSi XL is released 5th March 2010.

*I also posted this article at Game Hub.

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