April 6, 2009 - With over 100 million units sold since it was introduced in 2004, the Nintendo DS has become the highest selling handheld platform of its generation. With a veritable plethora of games marketed toward a broad cross-section of users both young and old, the Nintendo DS in undeniably appealing platform. But as is typically the case, only a portion of a console's success (or failure) can be attributed to software alone, and it is often carefully timed hardware revisions that can make or break a system, and in this regard, Nintendo has shown incredible aptitude. The platform has only existed in three principal hardware configurations – the original DS, the DS Lite, and now the DSi – with a number of special and limited edition aesthetic variations therein. While the original DS laid the groundwork for the handheld, it was the DS Lite that trimmed some of the device's fat and delivered a much-needed aesthetic upgrade. Now, with the DSi, Nintendo has tweaked the system once again with some stylistic and functional upgrades, but are they enough to garner your hard earned cash? We render our verdict below.

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When it comes to hardware, there are evolutionary redesigns and there are revolutionary redesigns, and the DSi would most readily be identified as the former. Although the DSi firmware brings brand new features to the system, such as downloadable content via the DSi Shop, the DSi lacks any ground breaking performance advancements. At its core, the DSi's processing capabilities are comparable to that of the DS Lite. On paper, the DSi boasts a significant processing speed boost over its predecessor, jumping from 67 MHz in the DS Lite to 133 MHz in the DSi, but during our evaluations actual speed variations between the two were negligible. The biggest hardware changes to the DSi are the addition of two integrated cameras, an integrated SD slot, enlarging the screens by 0.25", expanded RAM, and the removal of the much beloved GameBoy Advance cartridge slot.


Although the DSi didn't undergo as drastic of an aesthetic overhaul as the DS Lite, Nintendo did makes some noteworthy changes. For one, the DSi is slightly thinner than the DS Lite, coming in at roughly 18.9mm (as compared to the DS Lite's 21.5mm). Other than overall thickness, the DSi is actually wider and longer than the DS Lite, if only by a few millimeters. The two color variations (black and blue) currently available for the DSi come in a matte finish, which is more susceptible to grease stains from the natural moisture of a player's hands, but overall better for tactile response.

The DSi's cameras are located on the inside hinge and right corner of the outer facing panel of the flip up screen. Both the inside and outside cameras feature predictably low 0.3 megapixel resolutions, which work effectively enough for both the DSi's first and third party software applications. Outside of the context of taking silly pictures of yourself and others, however, the DSi's cameras are practically useless. Taking photos in dim environments is practically impossible, and if you do manage to take a photo where the subject matter isn't a shapeless black blob, the colors take on a bluish or greenish tinge. But again, this is the DSi we're talking about, not a Nikon D70.