Nintendo DSi XL Review: Super Size Me

The Nintendo DSi LL, (DSi XL in the West) is the latest addition to the hugely successful Nintendo platform. "LL" is the Japanese equivalent of "XL", or "extra large". But is bigger really better?

Released in Japan in late November, the Nintendo DSi XL features 4.2 inch screens that are 93 percent larger than the DS Lite's screens. It is also bundled with an extra (and larger) 5 inch touch pen. The redesign comes at the request of customers who said they wanted a larger screen — however, the pixel count is the same. Nintendo claims that the bigger screens make it easier to watch others play.

The DSi XL is available in three colors: Dark Brown, Wine Red and Natural White. While the handheld has been announced for The West, the colors have not yet been announced. The Japanese version is also packed with three DSiWare titles pre-installed: Two brain training games (one for humanities, the other for sciences) and DS Easy Dictionary.

Loved
The Big Screens: Even though Nintendo is touting the DS XL's screen as making it easier to watch others play, the most refreshing about the new, bigger screens is how they breathe life into old titles. While the graphics are the same, old favorites like Mario Kart look wonderful (and not blown out) running on the XL's screens. The extra size both adds to the experience and creates an entirely new experience. The screen size is also well-suited to younger players who often stare over each other's shoulders when watching a friend play. Brain Age also feels surprisingly fresh on the XL — a larger touch screen means a larger space to write. That, certainly, is a welcome addition.

The Big Pen: The XL's new Touch Pen feels like, well, a pen. The DS Stylus, traditionally, has been on the small size — not so great for games that require writing. To overcome this issue, players have, in the past, had to find third party solutions. For those looking for a larger pen that's easier to grip, the XL has that. But if you are happy with the traditional DS Stylus, the portable is bundled with that as well. The smaller stylus slides into the DSi XL's body, while the larger pen does not.

The Buttons: As with the regular DSi, the buttons are clicky — in a good way. They're responsive and certainly don't feel mushy.

The Finish: The top of part of the DSi XL's clamshell has a glossy, smart finish. Looks great. However, the rest of the portable has a matte finish, making it practical. It's easy to hold and isn't a fingerprint magnet. The contrast works well, too.

Hated
Not So Portable: Yes, yes. The DSi XL is big. That's the point! And while it works great playing it at your kitchen table or sitting on the sofa, it's heavy and less great to lug it around outside of the house.

Nintendo, it often seems, makes reiteration after reiteration of its products. The DSi XL might simply be that — the latest iteration until the next one comes along. As customers, it's hard not to feel that we are directly involved in Nintendo R&D process (more so than with other companies), that the company sometimes releases products just to see if they catch on with consumers (ditto). In Japan, the DSi XL does seem to be catching on as the product posted strong initial sales. The extra large DSi could very well be here to stay — which means that this must be one of the first examples in which a Japanese company has released a bigger version of its products to commercial success.

The larger screens are great. If only Nintendo could shave a bit off the DSi XL's thickness, making a slightly slimmer and lighter DSi XL, if only. DSi XL Slim anyone?

The DSi XL was released in Japan on November 22 for ¥20,000 (US$222). It is scheduled to be released abroad in early 2010. A unit was purchased by Kotaku for review.

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