Nintendo DSi XL "What would you like 93% bigger?"

By Mary-Lynn McLachlan on March 28, 2010, 11:29AM EDT

In March 2009 Nintendo announced an impressive benchmark, that they'd shipped their 100 millionth DS. Since then, they've shipped approximately 25 million more and this has seen the DS become the best selling handheld gaming system to date and quite soon, it might surpass the PlayStation 2, making it the best selling gaming system ever. With sales so high, it's only natural that Nintendo would eventually come up with a new addition to the DS family, so it was no surprise when the DSi XL was announced October 2009. The new unit boasts a 4.2'' screen, which is 93% bigger than that of a DS Lite, but there is more scepticism than anticipation regarding how successful the new unit will be. Will the new larger DSi XL be the granddaddy DS, or will it simply be played by granddaddies, grand children, or the otherwise visually impaired?

Fully equipped, the DSi XL leaves none of its predecessors (DSi) features behind, but as expected, there are improvements. A standard stylus may be used, and is provided, but in addition to there is a new large pen sized stylus that offers added comfort. Better and wider viewing angles are also a feature of the new larger LCD screen, making it a sure fire choice for players wishing to share their gaming experiences with an audience. It seems that there may be more than meets the eye with the DSi XL, but besides the extra screen space, improved viewing angle, preloaded games, and the pen sized stylus, it is essentially a DSi with 20% more weight.

While the DSi XL may dwarf previous models in screen size, and beat them out entirely in viewing angle, it's important to note that while the screen is improved in these two areas, the image quality itself has not gone up. Resolution is unchanged, and in a side by side comparison the DSi is almost preferable graphics wise. Image quality connoisseurs may want opt to hold off buying the DSi XL, but really there are hardly any DS titles that would benefit from a crisper screen. Lighting may be easily adjusted for comfort and better viewing and the large screen does make games easier to see, thus helping to reduce the risk of eyestrain.

In hand the DSi XL has a notable difference in weight distribution, which makes it much more comfortable to hold. Although the unit is heavier, it's also sleek and thin, with more rounded edges than its predecessors. Playing classic style games with the keypad is much more comfortable and natural feeling, especially compared to the DS Lite which can feel small and cramped after long durations of play. One amusing new feature is the pen sized stylus. Where exactly did Nintendo intend for it to be put? There is no slot on the unit to stick it in, and the pen itself lacks a clip so that it may be worn. While the pen is comfortable to hold and use, it's awkward to carry around with the unit especially considering it is already large for a handheld. The DSi XL can still fit into a loose pocket, and is arguably more portable than anticipated, however the unit and the large stylus can be a handful.

There are a lot of reasons to consider a DSi XL when replacing a worn out DS, or purchasing a first. However, do not bank on this unit sporting better specs than the DSi. Right down to the guts of this little machine, the DSi XL is identical in features to the DSi. Even the 0.3 mega-pixel cameras from the DSi were not upgraded in the DSi XL, and the firmware still supports only ACC music files. One difference in the DSi XL from the DSi is that it comes with three preloaded 'games': Brain Age Express: Math, Brain Age Express: Arts & Letters and Photo Clock. They aren't exactly inspired choices.

Really the DSi XL's size isn't large enough to place it in the 'leave at home handheld' category, remember the Sega Game Gear? The DSi XL is still small and light enough to carry, and if there are enough pockets available the giant stylus pen may also travel. However players may opt for a smaller DS if they wear tight pants with small pockets, are constantly on the move or portability is of the essence. While the new unit is fantastic in its improvements, and not nearly the hindrance it has been made out to be, players who already own a DSi may want to hold off upgrading until their units wear out. New buyers, or up-graders from a DS or DS Lite should without a doubt consider the DSi XL, as it's competitively priced, and is easier to use. The DSi XL has a lot to offer all age groups, and is not just of interest to elderly people and infants as it was previously suspected to be.

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