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A Review of the Nintendo DSi XL

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Nintendo DSi XL

Nintendo DSi XL

Image © Nintendo
The Nintendo DSi XL (called the Nintendo DSi LL in Japan) is the fourth member of the Nintendo DS family. Is it worth dropping $189.99 to adopt your very own?

If you don't have a Nintendo DSi and you're looking to fill that wind-swept void, the DSi XL should be your model of choice. Its big screens and pack-in software are pleasant bonuses on top of downloadable DSiWare, two cameras, an improved menu interface, and photo editing software.

But if you have a Nintendo DSi, aren't an avid collector, and don't have any problems with your eyesight, there's no outstanding reason to abandon ship for the larger vessel.


Big Screens: The Nintendo DSi XL's big, bold screens are its most striking feature. The Nintendo DSi XL's screens are 93% larger than the Nintendo DS Lite's, which eliminates one of the biggest complaints that comes with portable gaming: Eyestrain. If I play a handheld game system for an extended period of time, I occasionally get headaches, dry eyes, or even motion sickness. None of that has been a problem while playing the Nintendo DSi XL.

Pack-in Games: Brain Age Express: Math and Brain Age Express: Arts & Letters come pre-loaded with the Nintendo DSi XL, as does the Photo Clock application and Flipnote Studio. The Brain Age games have maintained popularity for a reason: They're lighthearted titles that take the boredom and intimidation out of grammar and math lessons.

Bigger Stylus:: The Nintendo DSi XL comes with a standard stylus, but it also includes a separate pen-size stylus that's ideal for drawing and coloring.

Wider Viewing Angle: Friends can comfortably watch you play your Nintendo DSi XL from any angle and cheer you on (or berate you) almost as easily as they might with a console game. If you don't think this is a big deal, you've never had to deal with five people breathing down your neck as you take on an epic end-game boss.

It's Durable: The Nintendo DSi XL is a solid little thing that will hang around long after similar handheld tech has called it quits. The trademark clamshell design is still present, and welcome in an age where the PSP, iPad, and iPhone bare their sensitive screens to the harsh environment of the outside world.


It's Not as Portable as the Nintendo DS Lite / DSi: The Nintendo DSi XL's big screens come at a small price: They make the handheld longer and wider. As a result, the Nintendo DSi XL won't slip into your purse or pocket as easily as the Nintendo DS Lite. The Nintendo DSi XL is lightweight, however (314 grams, or 0.7 pounds), and still much smaller than a netbook or an iPad.

The Cameras are Noticeably Low-Resolution: Like the Nintendo DSi, the Nintendo DSi XL has two cameras: An interior 0.3 megapixel camera, and an external 3 megapixel camera. That's approximately the kind of performance you'd expect from an average cell phone camera. However, cell phone cameras take pictures for small screens. When you take a picture with the Nintendo DSi XL and it pops up on the large screens, it becomes apparent just how low-res the cameras actually are. Photos look somewhat chunky and washed-out.

The Nintendo DSi XL Costs More Than the DSi: The Nintendo DSi costs $169.99 USD. The Nintendo DSi XL costs $189.99 USD. The price difference is small, but significant if you're on a tight budget.


Both the press and the gaming community were lukewarm about the Nintendo DSi XL when it was first unveiled. I, too, was among the unexcited. I've since been spoiled by the DSi XL; I don't know if I'll ever go back to the comparatively tiny screens of the Nintendo DS Lite (or the Nintendo DS Phat--yikes!).

But $189.99 is a lot of money to dish out if you already have large Nintendo DS family. Moreover, the Nintendo DSi XL is the next evolution of the Nintendo DSi, and both lack backwards compatibility with the Game Boy Advance. There's also the matter of the Nintendo 3DS. You might consider saving your money for the Nintendo DS's true successor instead of raiding your penny jar for a system that's admittedly an upgrade.

If, however, you're in the market for a Nintendo DSi, spending a little extra for the larger screes and pre-loaded software is a good call. The Nintendo DSi XL doesn't tout itself as a miracle handheld that will prepare dinner and do tricks. Its emphasis has always been on its larger screens and wider viewing angle, and both are very welcome additions in a world that's in love with palm-sized game consoles.
Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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