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Customer Review

INTRODUCTION:

I was getting this system, as an adult gamer, with the intention of playing games, and to use this as a browser for when I am away from home. I do not play Game Boy Advance games, although my daughter does. I have to warn parents looking into this system that there is no slot for Game Boy Advance (GBA, for short) or the Guitar Hero interface. This system is by no means a major upgrade with the exception of being able to download games or take photographs.

WHAT IS IN THE BOX:

Console
Two styli
Instructions
Plug

Taking this item out, I proceeded to protect the screen with a screen protector. I purchased a DSi Starter Kit to give me cases for cartridges, extra styli and a carrying case.

CONSTRUCTION:

The Nintendo DSi comes in a matte finish with a smooth texture. The touch screen measures 2.5 inches. An internal microphone is placed in the center just under the top screen. A rubber cover secures the port for the SD card. A slot for the DS games is in the same spot, as previous generations. Volume control is by a +/- switch, unlike the sliding volume switch of the DS phat. An LED indicator notifies you that the WiFi radio is on.

The keypad buttons feel firm not mushy.

The power button also serves as a reset button. This is convenient when switching from one cartridge to the next or when switching from the internet to the main menu. The directional buttons, X, Y, A, B, and L, R are in the similar neighborhood as prior generations.

The matte finish is fingerprint-proof but I have a feeling it is not scratch proof. The screens are very glossy and may create a perceptible glare in bright lights or outdoor settings. The case opens up to nearly flat.

I was disappointed that the plug was not a matching black color. It was more of a grayish white.

SETUP:

I set up the DSi with the pre-existing charge from the factory to enter my name, a phrase, the parental controls with a PIN, accessed my Club Nintendo account, and downloaded the Opera Browser.

The DSi recognizes handwriting (not really "Doctor's Handwriting", like mine) or uses the keyboard. The handwriting boxes give a choice of what you are trying to write but it is slow. Typing is faster but cumbersome.

Setting up the browser is hidden in the Tools Menu. You can toggle the WiFi radio on or off. When you set up the internet, it is a matter of choosing what type of encryption your router uses. I use WEP so I entered the "Hexadecimal" key which was quite long - no paraphrasing is allowed. Once my information was entered, it connected rather quickly. When I logged into Club Nintendo, I had to read the `license agreement', agree and then the firmware was upgraded. That took about 2-3 minutes and then the system had to be restarted. As soon as the technicalities were completed, I was ready to download the Free Opera Browser.

When you link your DSi account with the online Club Nintendo account, you get 160 coins that can be applied to acquiring products.

BATTERY LIFE

When compared to the DS, the battery life is less. When you factor in the wireless capability, it is even shorter in life. So, if you are not in a `hotspot' or have access to a wireless network, then shut it off to conserve battery life.

THE CAMERA

The 0.3 megapixel cameras are toggled by the touchpad's `switch' button. When you take a photograph, you can edit it with the various programs and save it to your album. I find it fun to edit photos and allow morphing (from the adult perspective) and I will likely use my photo for an avatar for various websites. For casual photography, this will not be too useful given the low resolution. Its purpose is solely for entertainment and DSi-type photo-editing.

Photos can be shared only 2 ways, wirelessly to other DSi units within 65 feet or by the SD/SDHC Card. It cannot be emailed through your browser.

No video can be recorded.

SOUND QUALITY

AAC is Advanced Audio Coding unlike the iPods which are MP-3 players (Motion Pictures Expert Group, Layer 3). AAC is a lossy compression format, that some experts say may have better sound quality than an MP3. To me, they sound virtually identical. How do you convert to AAC? If you use iTunes:

Highlight the songs to convert (Control and Left Mouse Click)
Click Advanced
Select "Create AAC Version".

I would recommend highlighting the song and renaming it "Song A AAC" so you can search for AAC version on iTunes, utilizing the finder bar. I select/highlight the songs in iTunes, and then "pasted" them into my SDHC card. The DSi automatically finds the `music' files but I was able to listen to the audio portion of my videos that I recorded from my HD Camcorder.

Sound quality from native speakers is quite good and it has `stereo sound'. Will I find myself using this as a music player? Unlikely. You can alter the music to play fast/slow or high/low pitch. Another fun thing is to choose `visualizations' while listening to music - which can be toggled with the `ring on a string icon'. Lastly, there are `percussion effects' that are activated by your Left and Right keys: Clapping, tambourines, drums, Dog/cat sounds, etc.

You can also record 10 second 'sound clips' which can be stored on a memory card. It cannot be assigned to a photograph.

SCREEN QUALITY / BRIGHTNESS

Default is on a setting of 4, which is brighter than the DS Phat (which is what my daughter uses). The size of the screen is larger and the subjective quality of the graphics looks better to me. I don't personally think it does anything for gameplay, aside from aesthetics. However, I do like the larger screen.

WEB BROWSING / PARENTAL CONTROLS

Download time of the browser was 2 minutes.

With regards to a Wii Points card, if it is unused, it can be used in the DSi shop. However, it cannot be transferred back to the Wii, so be careful. There is not a lot in terms of choices of DSiWare to download, at this time. You can have a maximum of 20,000 points on your account. Points can be added by a pre-paid card or using a credit card ($10 for 1000 points, $20 for 2000 points and $50 for 5000 points).

The choices are below (I chose none of them):

500 points
Warioware
Aqua

200 points
Bird and Beans
Master of Illusion Express: Funny Face

800 points
Brain Age Express: Math

Limitations of the browser:

No Flash, Animations, Sound, Video, PDFs or anything requiring a plug-in
Video playback

Use of the browser:

Like conventional browsers, you can set up your home page, add favorites or enter your URL. There are shortcut keys like "WWW" or ".COM" to make it less painful. There is an overview setting or `column view' setting, as well as navigation or zoom view. I was actually able to load my Amazon profile, although it took nearly 45 seconds. I found that conventional websites can be viewed, albeit slowly, when compared to a PC. It is about average for a handheld (like my old Palm Tungsten C PDA). Realistically, you can check movie times, email, news and weather. Beyond any of those functions, loading times of websites would make the tasks cumbersome.

A bit of advice for you, do a Google search for "Mobile Friendly" websites that have limited graphics which are suited to browsing with items such as the DSi, Pocket PCs, Palms, or "Smartphones" (for example, eboogie, phonefavs or gahtan are a few sites that have that capability). With sites like these, you can check a lot more information quickly and efficiently. Loading time is a fraction of the full featured sites.

Parental controls:

Parental controls can be set by a 4 digit PIN. If you forget your PIN, you can get a `secret question' to unlock this unit. This can control many parameters including the following: Access to Nintendo DSi Exclusive and Compatible Software (ESRB Ratings), PictoChat, DS Download Play, Nintendo DSi Browser, Nintendo DSi Shop, Photo Exchange, and User-Generated Content. You don't want your child to download games, use the internet or chat, you can toggle what features to enable or disable. Very nice!

SD AND SDHC CARDS

The DSi can recognize up to 2 GB on an SD card and 32 GB on an SDHC card. No SD or SDHC card is included with this system.

Games cannot be played from the SDHC cards but they can be stored. Aside from that, photos and audio can be stored onto the cards.

PROS

Faster processor and more RAM than the DS Lite (for improved future applications)
Bigger Screen than the DS Lite
Digital Camera
Records audio clips
SDHC Card capability up to 32 GB
Faster internet browsing than prior generations of DS (per report)
Downloadable gaming capability
1000 DS Points, included until October 2009
Supports Firmware updates
Better sound than its predecessors

CONS

Shorter battery life than its predecessor, the DS Lite (less if the WiFi radio is on)
No Gameboy Advance Slot
Higher cost than the DS Lite
As of April 2009, there are only 6 applications to download (but more are coming)
No DSi specific titles with the release of the DSi platform

WHO IS THIS FOR?

Teenagers
Adults
Older children, 8 and above, given the size of DS cartridges and fragility of the touch screen

VERDICT

If you already have a DS Lite, don't bother upgrading, for now. This is not worth the $60 depreciation for trade in and you lose your ability to play Guitar Hero and other Game Boy Advance Games.

If you don't have a gaming console, this is a solid platform to play games, listen to music (casual basis), make Avatars for your discussion groups/forums and use a somewhat functional web-browsing experience (especially, away from home, as in a free public "Hotspot").

If you do casual surfing on the net for news, weather, or email, this can do this function fairly well (especially if you use PDA/Mobile Friendly websites). This function, alone, is worth the $169 to me since it is like a little "Netbook" with regards to internet functions (no word processing or other PC functions).

The larger screen and improved sound (compared to the 1st generation DS Phat), is up by leaps and bounds. The future ability to download applications, will further secure its place in the pantheon of modern gaming.

UPDATE 4/14/2009

You cannot log onto Webkinz World (my daughter wanted to know).

UPDATE 5/9/2009

I tried using the WIFI on the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL and the network connection did not work (using internet set up).

UPDATE: 5/12/2009

Well, I finally found a game that I was interested in getting with my 'free points'. I bought Real Soccer 2009 which is quite detailed. The download took about 4 to 5 minutes. I am glad I didn't settle for the other games, since they weren't inspiring.
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