Product Review: Nintendo DSi

Here is a review of Nintendo's newest portable video game player.

Product: Nintendo DSi

Model: DSi

Manufacturer: Nintendo

Cost: $169.00


The Nintendo DSi is the latest version of the popular line of DS handheld video game consoles from Nintendo. The DS replaces the GameBoy as Nintendo's flagship handheld console. Two other editions of the DS have been released including the original DS and the DS Lite which has more modern styling and brighter screens.

DS stands for "dual screen" which is the most unique element of this handheld. Each unit has two small screens. The lower screen is touch sensitive. A stylus is stowed in the DS and is used to touch the screen. The upper screen is display only.

In addition to the touch screen very DS has standard GameBoy controls including a direction pad, four buttons, and two triggers on the top of the unit. The controls are rounded out by a power button, volume control, and start/select buttons. Every DS also has an earphone port and a microphone.

Games on the DS make use of the screens in different ways. Many games are controlled by stylus on the lower screen. Other game use the more traditional GameBoy style controls. Some games even have you tilt the DS sideways so you hold it like a book.

There are over 500 games for the DS including everything something for everyone. Games come on little memory cards and cost $30-$40 new. Used games can be found for $10-$20. Games range from self improvement titles like Brain Age to traditional arcade games like Super Mario Bros. There are adventure games, classic role playing games, story games, puzzle games, educational games, rhythm games, story games, etc.

Finally, the DS has built-in Wi-Fi. Multiple DS units can connect together. Many games allow you to play with multiple DS units with only a single game card. The DS can also connect to the Internet. Some games allow competition against players from around the world. You can also download game demos from a Wii.


Nintendo DSi

The DSi improves on the DS Lite in several ways:

  • Cameras and photo application.
  • Music application.
  • DSiWare downloadable games and web browser.
  • Redesigned case and upgraded specs.

The biggest drawback compared to the DS Lite is the removal of the GameBoy Advance cartridge slot. This means that you can only play DS compatible games on the DSi and can't play any GameBoy Advance cartridges. Also, you can't play Guitar Hero since it requires the slot for its accessory. Not too big a deal if you are buying the DSi as your first handheld, but might be a concern if you are upgrading from the GameBoy.


Each DSi has two built-in cameras. One points at you holding the unit so you can take a picture of yourself. The other points out so you can use the unit as a digital camera. The cameras take 640x480 resolution pictures. The DSi has built-in memory and can store a couple hundred photos. The quality is okay for sharing on the DSi and uploading to websites, but not very high compared to most digital cameras.

Once you take a picture the DSi has all sorts of built-in wacky effects. You can make it look like your picture was taken through a kaleidoscope and play with other distortion effects. You can merge two peoples faces. You can make black and white photos with only one color highlighted. You can add a frame around a picture or decorate it with stars and hearts.

Pictures can be shared between DSi units wirelessly or can be stored on the SD card and transferred to your computer. The DS doesn't have any built-in way of connecting to a computer so you need a USB adapter for your SD card.

Music Application

Every DS has had a microphone, but the DSi includes a built-in music application which allows you to have fun with it right away. You can record samples into the DSi through the microphone and then change the pitch and speed of the samples, loop them, play them back in order or at random.

With an SD card the DSi can be used as a music player. AAC files (like those created by iTunes) can be stored on an SD card and played back through the DSi. It will even play back music files through earphones while it is closed. The DSi does not support MP3 files. If you use iTunes you won't have a problem. If you have a lot of MP3s you may need to change them to AACs to use them with the DSi.


Nintendo has created a store of downloadable games called DSiWare. You buy points using a credit card or from a gift card. Points are basically equal to cents. You can buy 1,000 points for $10. Games on the store cost 200, 500, or 800 points, that is $2, $5, or $8.

As a special offer if you buy a DSi through October 5, 2009 you get 1,000 free points just for visiting the store.

The store launched with five games. Brain Age Express: Math ($8) is a game that promises to improve your brain by quizzing you with math problems. It's more fun that it sounds. WareWare Snapped ($5) is a collection of wacky mini-games which use the DSi's camera. Birds and Beans ($2) is a game where you try to catch falling beans using a little bird. Master of Illusion Express: Funny Face ($2) is a magic trick which uses the DSi camera. AQUA ($5) is an Art Style game which is kind of like a mind-bending version of Tetris.

There is also a free web browser which you can download and surf the web using the DSi through Wi-Fi. The browser is a version of Opera and works well, but it's kind of hard to see an entire web page on the DSi's little screens. You see an overview on one screen and a magnification on the other.


The DSi can store at least four or five games in its built-in memory and more if you put in an SD card. Nintendo should release another couple games every week.

Case and Specs

The case of the DSi is a little slimmer and has a rubbery texture. The DSi is available in black and light blue (other colors will probably be released eventually). The screens are a little bigger and a little brighter than the DS Lite. The speakers are improved as well. The controls have been moved around a little to accommodate the new DSiWare games.

The DSi includes 256 MB of onboard memory for pictures and games. This can be expanded using the SD card slot. The CPU and RAM of the DSi are improved over the DS Lite. This doesn't make a difference right now, but in the future there may be games which require the improved specs.

The software on the DSi is much improved. The power button now returns you to a menu of applications where you can choose to play a DS game, a downloaded game, use the photo or music application, web browser, or change settings.

The Bottom Line

The DSi retails for $169. The DS Lite is also still available for $129. The original DS is no longer available.

If you've never used a Nintendo handheld the DSi is a great place to start. There are over 500 DS games available. The new DSiWare makes it easy to have a couple fun games on hand at all times in addition to a game in the slot.

Kids will like the camera a lot. If they don't have a digital camera of their own they can use the DSi as one. They can also use the DSi as a music player. If they've been clamoring for a camera and an iPod then you might be able to kill a few birds with one stone.

If you already own a DS Lite then the DSi is a tough sell as an upgrade. I think DSiWare is going to be the most compelling reason to upgrade. It is nice to be able to switch to a downloaded game at any time rather than carrying around a lot of game cards. However, you might want to wait and see what DSiWare games become available.

April 6, 20090 found this helpful

There must be a port for attaching iPod-style earbuds, right?

ReplyWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes
April 7, 20090 found this helpful

Yep, it has an earphone jack.

ReplyWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes
April 8, 20090 found this helpful

This info is very helpful. My DD has been begging for a DSI for months now.

ReplyWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

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