Nintendo DSi XL review

Nintendo relaunches the DS handheld in super-size form

Nintendo DSi XL review
Nintendo DSi XL has a larger screen than any DS before it

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Nintendo DSi XL review

If you already have a DS Lite or a DSi and are an occasional gamer (or brain exerciser or virtual dog trainer) then you might not be persuaded to part with £160 for what is essentially the same machine – albeit with a slightly bigger screen, better sound and a larger stylus.

However, if you are the type of gamer that plays every new essential Nintendo DS release through from start to finish, you will immediately realise the need to upgrade to a DSi XL, because it just adds a lot to your gaming experience.

Sure, you might need slightly larger pockets to carry it around, but then the DSi XL's predecessors could hardly be described as pocket-sized.

We liked

The bigger screen, the crisper sound and the 'phat' stylus all appealed to us. Though we are not sure if this is because we fall into the 'older gamer' category (eyesight and hearing and basic motor skills all declining) or because we just like seeing Link and Mario on a larger, better screen. The latter, we like to hope.

The DSi XL means less hand cramps for adult gamers. One issue with the DS Lite and the DSi was the fact that you had to have the slim hands of a pianist (or the small hands of a child) to really be able to play it for any length of time. No longer. The DSi XL now means that even fat-fingered rugby lads can still enjoy pretending to be a squat Italian plumber for hours on end.

A bigger screen and a better stylus allowed us to achieve a better overall control of games, particularly where the perception of distance is key to controlling your on-screen character, as in New Super Mario Bros.

We disliked

It's still fiddly to get online via your home Wi-Fi. Nintendo really needs to make whole process of getting this thing online a lot easier. The strategy is to sell mini-games via the internet, but that is not going to work if people get bored with the hurdles of connecting to their home router.

The slightly larger form factor means it is less portable. This is hardly a deal-breaker, because the DSi will only fit in the largest of combat trouser pockets, but compared side to side with the Sony's new PSPgo, for example, the DSi XL seems huge.

That 'wine red' colour – even though we are in the demographic that Nintendo is aiming to market the DSi XL to (ie old) we would still prefer 'iPod white' or glossy piano black. Whoever decided to plump for 'wine red' instead made the wrong design choice.

Our verdict

The DSi XL is the best way to play Mario and Zelda and Metroid on the bus to work to date, which effectively makes it the best handheld console that's ever been developed. 

The much-welcomed bigger screen means that we would actually consider using the DSi XL as an electronic reader and, occasionally, as a portable web browser.

We don't even mind throwing it in our bag, because it has such a solid build quality. We're pretty sure this thing will not break unless you stand on it or throw it at a wall in anger – but don't be tempted to put that claim to the test.

Who's it aimed at? Definitely adult gamers. For grown up Nintendo-lovers, it's a must. It feels a hundred times more comfortable than the previous versions of the DS, which were essentially designed for children.

It just goes to show that smaller is not necessarily always better in the cut-throat world of consumer electronics and portable games consoles.

Adam Hartley