There's no debating it, the Nintendo DS is by far the best-selling portable system ever released. With approximately 128 million units sold worldwide, no other gaming handheld comes close to the success of the franchise. Even the Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP), which is widely regarded as a commercial success, has only reached around 57 million in total sales.
Last April, Nintendo released the DSi, the third iteration of the DS, which introduced two low-resolution cameras along with larger screens and an overall more robust and slim design over the DS Lite. In October 2009, news came of another refresh, a supersized version of the DSi with even larger screens.
Though the huge screens have plenty of advantages, they also make the system less portable and blur some text-based games. At the end of the day, the DSi XL is exactly the same as the DSi, so unless you're desperate for more touch-screen real estate, or your vision is impaired, we can't recommend buying one. If you've been waiting since the days of the DS "phat" to upgrade, we'd still encourage a DS Lite or DSi purchase. You may even want to wait for the forthcoming 3DS, the new 3D portable gaming system from Nintendo that offers 3D graphics without the need for glasses and will be backward compatible with DS games.
Ultimately, we wished Nintendo had improved on the original DSi design by possibly increasing the dual camera's resolution, but for the most part, this refresh is strictly a screen-size upgrade.
We'll be primarily comparing the DSi XL with the original DSi in this review, so if you want to read more about the jump from the DS Lite to the DSi, please check out our full review of the Nintendo DSi.
If you own or have held a DSi, the first thing you'll notice about the DSi XL is its weight. Coming in at 11.08 ounces, the XL trumps that of the DSi and DS Lite (both weigh around 7.5 ounces). That being said, there's a certain attractive robustness to the device which probably means it can take more of a beating than previous models. Whereas the DSi is covered in a matte, almost rubberized outer layer, the DSi XL sports a glossy top along with a more texturized plastic outer casing, giving it an overall more sophisticated look. We didn't scuff it up during our testing, but it appears that the shiny top may be prone to scratching, not to mention it's already covered in fingerprints. The dark burgundy color of our review unit does help with hiding that, however.
Measuring in at 6.34 inches wide by 3.6 inches deep by 0.83 inch high, the XL actually makes the DSi look tiny. Its dual 4.2-inch screens are a whopping 93 percent larger than those found in the DS Lite and roughly an inch larger than the screens on the DSi. The three LED lights found on left hinge of the DSi XL are the same as the DSi, with symbols for power, charging, and Wi-Fi activity.
Nintendo has made a big deal about the XL's large viewing angle on the two screens, and although it's tough to tell a huge difference between this and the DSi, this improvement becomes very apparent when comparing them with a DS Lite. This upgrade also lends itself to the idea of the console being more "social," with it now being easier than ever to watch people play by sitting next to them or over the shoulder.
Every button on the system has the same shape, feel, and location as those found on the DSi, save for slightly larger L and R shoulder buttons and power toggle. Compared with those on the DS Lite, the X, A, B, and Y buttons aren't as deep, thus they require less of a pressing motion. The same can be said for the L and R rear buttons; they are now much springier, and require much less of an effort to engage. Even the Select and Start buttons have gotten a similar treatment; we found them to be especially difficult to press with the DS Lite. Moving along to the D-pad, we experienced the same sort of click responsiveness. The DS Lite's D-pad, a carbon copy of the one found on a Wii remote, was a bit looser.
As mentioned earlier, we really wish the DSi XL improved on the original's 0.3-megapixel cameras. It's here where the supersized screens almost hurt the camera feature, because even though the screens have been enlarged, their 256x192 pixels per screen have not. This leads to photos appearing blurry and leaving much to be desired in terms of detail.
The included stylus is mounted in the same rear location as the DSi, with just a 4-millimeter bump in length. We really liked the pen-shaped stylus (5.09 inches) that's also included and found ourselves using it on our older DS models, too. Though the thick stylus is a great addition, it cannot be stored in the unit itself and must be carried separately. There's also an included AC charger, which works with the original DSi as well.
The DSi XL is not as portable as some may want it to be. Its bulky size won't let you store it practically in a pocket, so wherever you go it'll most likely need to be kept in a backpack or purse. It would not surprise us if the DSi XL becomes more of a home portable system instead of something that you would travel daily with.
Our DSi XL shipped with firmware version 1.4U, which includes all the various media and online applications that we saw in the DSi. Bundled in with the XL are a few software bonuses that include the DSi Web Browser and Photo Clock. There are three games also preinstalled: Brain Age Express: Math; Brain Age Express: Arts & Letters; and Flipnote Studio. Of course, you have access to the DSi Shop, where you can download different games and applications for the system.