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Meeting of the DS-Generations

Today I’ll give you an insight about all the current DSi and 3DS handhelds.
Newest member is the 3DS XL which gives the 3DS another tuneup in size.
This lineup will show the last 3 years of Nintendo’s handheld inventions and
give you an idea what to expect. Enjox this little overview and review!

So when it comes to DS, you may run into trouble as the market has now 8 generations of DS consoles from Nintendo. Although the first four DS-consoles are already off market, one still has the choice of choosing between four generations of DS-consoles to date.

These four consoles are today being reviewed and rated. A short summary may help you find the right handheld for you if it’s suppoesed to be one from Nintendo.

First a little Lineup:

The four consoles opened…

…and closed.

As you can see, I have them all (and a 4th gen DS!) which allows me an objective review.

So let’s look at a summarizing table before we go into detail:

DSI DSI XL 3DS 3DS XL
Display 1 size 8.3 cm 10.6 cm 8.9 cm 12.5 cm
Display 2 size 8.3 cm 10.6 cm 7.6 cm 10.5 cm
Display 1 Res 256×192 (4:3) 256×192 (4:3) 800×240
400×240 (3D 5:4)
800×240
400×240 (3D 5:4)
Display 2 Res 256×192 (4:3) 256×192 (4:3) 320×240 (4:3) 320×240 (4:3)
Width 13.7 cm 16.1 cm 13.5 cm 15.6 cm
Length 7.5 cm 9.1 cm 7.4 cm 9.1 cm
Height 1.9 cm 2.1 cm 2.0 cm 2.2 cm
Weight 214 gr 314 gr 227 gr 336 gr
CPU ARM7/ARM9
133 MHz
ARM7/ARM9
133 MHz
ARM11
266 MHz
ARM11
266 MHz
GPU integrated integrated DMP Pica200 DMP Pica200
RAM 16 MB 16 MB 128 MB 128 MB
Memory 256 MB 256 MB 1.5 GB (of 2) 1.5 GB (of 2)
SD Slot SDHC SDHC SDHC SDHC
Battery 890 mAh 1050 mAh 1300 mAh 1750 mAh
Runtime (max) 4h (5h) 4h (5h) 3h (7h) 5h (9h)

Okay, let’s go to the inline testing

 

DSi

So the DSi was the first newer console I had for the test lineup and it offered quite a lot of functionality these days. Being (mis)used as Musicplayer it perormed quite well tho the conversion to the M4A format can be a real nuisance as you have to choose the correct encoding version for the MPEG audio. Otherwise the DSi won’t recognize the file at all. The lack of playing MP3 files could result from the missing licensing. Nintendo did not want to license MP3 playback and thus no MP3 files can be played. PERIOD!

The games are available on cartridge whereas the largest may have 1 GB (AFAIK). The graphics look okay for the processor that handles them and the play time is also okay.

The displays have an okay resolution and more won’t work for the CPU anyways. The games still look good.

The sound is one thing to criticize: The small speakers beak at you and franky said: you’d go for headphones anyways!

The cameras are, frankly said, only good for snapshots you want to use on the console itself, but nothing more. You can’t expect more from 0.3 MPixels. That’s fact! On daylight, the pictures look okay, yet blurried due to the rather mediocre photo sensor. But as initially said. The console isn’t a camera replacement anyways! But at least if you want to do a picture of yourself, you can change the cameras as the console comes with two of them!

You can record sounds with the console. However your soundbits are limited to 10 seconds each and you can only store 18 of them on the device. An export to the SD card isn’t integrated. So if you want to record another sound and have used up your 18 slots, you have to overwrite one of the older ones…

But the effects are fun to play with. I am surprised that the ARM processor is capable to apply the various effects in realtime on the music and soundbits!

 

DSi XL

Let’s come to the XL variant of the DSi. basically it’s the same device with bigger screens.

Unfortuately they did not come up with bigger speakers tho the device would have allowed them. So the sound still squawks at you. Again: Go for headsets

The sound-application sems to have an issue with ground noise and you clearly note a high frequency humm in the background. Annoying and you can’t do anything about it. If the power supply is connected while you experiment with the sound application, the high humming is much more audible and annoying. Maybe there’s a problem with the ground loop?

About the cameras: No change here. Nintendo could have pushed the resolution to at least 1MP. I guess the ARM processor has the power to handle them!

The stylus offers great improvement over the small one of the DSi and you’ll find yourself using it for a prolonged time as it has practically the same size as a standard pen. But there’s also a small stylus rested in the base unit in case you should loose your “big” stylus.

 

3DS

The new generation of gaming with 3D experience arrived in March 2011 with the 3DS. A milestone and new experience of ghaming was promised. Being sceptic, I purchased my console in november 2011 when there was a bargain sale with Super Mario Bros. 3D. The effects are great, to say this in advance. A small slider on the right side allows you to adjust the 3D immersion effect and a small indicator tells you when the 3D effect is active. Unfortunately the slider is very light and will probably move when you accidentally touch it with one of your fingers holding the upper screen.  The screen however rests tight in 2 positions. No need to hold it anyways but it has to be mentionned.

Resolutionlike the displays have improved a bit. Now the lower screen handles 320×240 pixels. Games for the DSi look a bit odd as the have to be scaled up. But yet it is okay and not too disturbing.

the 3D screen resolutes at 800×320 pixels of which 400 are reserved for each eye when 3D is active. If the 3D effect is turned down, the console just interpolates the 400×320 resolution onto the 800×320 display. Works out good anyways! Interesting, that you barely see the horizontal pixels! The display pixels are horizontally almost as fine as the retina display from Apple!

Soundwise, the console again has rather squeaky speakers, and again the verdict is: Go for headphones.

The sound application has vastly improved: You can still store only 18 soundbits per slot but you have 10 containers now. So you’re facing at 180 soundbits in total. Yet the recording length is limited to 10 seconds but the 3DS isn’t a dictaphone anyways. No distortions, the recordings sound clear. so the kinks of the DSi XL have been dealt with and eradicated. Yet there’s some white noise audible if you listen carefully. Not disturbing yet…

Cameralike no big change either. All the cameras (a single lens inside at 0.3MP and a stereoscopic camera with 2 lenses at the outside also with 0.3MP) still are only good for snapshots. No more, no less. Yet the 3D sterescopic records look interesting and give room for some experimenting. Just as I write, the video channel on the console shows examples of pictures taken with the 3DS and I must say, they look good. They look realistic. But again: Take your pictures with daylight as otherwise you have lots of granluarity on them. And Nintendo: Why compress them anyways so harshly? The 3DS comes with 1.5GB of user-manageable RAM and the possibility to store them on a SD card also gives more space for you to deal with. And be honest. An uncompressed JPEG (100%) at 0.3MP may use at most 600KB in worstcase. So on a 2GB SD card you will be able to place 2000 of them and still have space for games. Maybe you’ll add an option to set the quality stage for the JPG pictures in an upcoming firmware update for the 3DS or update of the Photo application.

The haptics of the glare coat are a bit odd and the white clamshell design allows visible dirt from fingers which you can’t avoid over time. So better have a cleaning cloth with you.

A cool gadget is the “Docking station”. When you have finished playing, just put the 3DS back into it’s cradle and the game companion is charged and packed away.

The stylus is a nicely compact telescope stylus hidden at the top of the base unit if not needed. Good solution and looks robust.

Oh and one more thing: Did I mention that I hate foliated buttons such as these placed as Start, Home and Select button on the 3DS? – Why, Nintendo, why?

 

3DS XL

The newest generation 3DS is larger now and offers thus a bigger screen. It’s the same as with the DSi.

Technically it’s an increased model of the 3DS, the technics are the same but in this case, Nintendo took the option to give it a larger battery pack and increase the actual runtime of the 3DS. 6hrs of continued play of 3D stereoscopic titles are possible now. And honestly: if you’re on a long train trip, you’d appreciate this longer independency of a wall outlet much!

Nintendo also took the opportunity to improve the speakers a little bit. They sound better now (although other test sites report that the speakers tend to snare when at max volume – yet I couldn’t determine this!)  and seem to build up a better surround sound stage also.

The cameras… same type, no improvement here although there are same-sized CMOS which have much higher resolution already. Come on, Nintendo! You can do better than 0.3MP and the 266MHz ARM11 may also process more than that.

The sound application is the same but recordings now sound clearly and have no background noise or humming in the background. Maybe Nintendo has used another type of microphone…

The stylus is again a plastic one known from the DSi and the replacement one of the DSi XL. no telescope stylus and no biggy one…

The missing of a power supply can put you to a challenge if you don’t own a DSI or 3DS of the previous generations. You’ll find yourself confronted with the idea of purchasing a power supply for an additional 20 CHF.

The lack of a cradle underlines this idea much more but on August 24th, the cradle for the DSi XL shall come out. I’ll get me one of these as I like having my 3DS stowed away and charged when unused.

Speaking of power supply: I ordered me a car adapter with USB outlet and USB cable to 3DS charge plug. Plugging the USB cable to my iPhone power adaptor (which is really tiny and light) I could charge my 3DS XL without any problems. I guess, a mobile battery pack will do likewise when having the USB charge cable with you.

However this brings me to the question, why Nintendo didn’t go for a micro or Mini-USB plug instead but still used it’s proprietary plug?

Okay, Nintendo may argue that you wouldn’t be able to use your (probably) existing DSi gear anymore but hey, that’s what adapters are made for! Come on, Nintendo, you can’t assume that EVERYBODY going for a 3DS XL has also one of it’s older gen handhelds! The usage of a standardized plug would have opted in Nintendo for a greener environment as you could use only one power supply for a various palette of devices. Nintendo, have a look at the cell phone manufacturers. Except Apple, you’ll find a mini-USB or Micro-USB connector on EVERY other brand cell phone! Thus the micro-USB port would opt-in the console for backup purposes on the local computer (just in case, your console gets hosed for whatever reason).

 

Final words about the DSIWare store

Nintendo, why don’t you enable User registration and tie purchased titles to that account? This way, users of more devices could transfer their purchases to multiple devices (say 5, like Apple). So if someone looses his handheld, untie the device from the account and have the titles removed upon next system update or connection to the store! Come on Nintendo, you can do better than charging one customer over and over for one and the same title on different consoles. And the fact, that you anyways assume that users are going to upgrade, would give you a far better reputation then! Think about it.

In my case I transferred my purchased titles from the 3DS to the 3DS XL rendering the 3DS to a system formatting and putback to the original state it was when purchased.

In this case you’ll have only the coice to choose which is your favourite console onwards. You can’t just copy over the contents from your existing 3DS and have all the titles on your newly purchased 3DS XL. Look at Sony and their PS Vita. Even they handle it the way as I described! maybe one of the facts why Sony handhelds sell better?

So a synching option for the consoles and have all purchases tied to a specific account instead to the device would make your DSIWare store much more appealing to the customers, won’t it? Think about it, Nintendo!

 

Final verdict and conclusion on the 3DS XL

There have been lots of changes to the DSi and 3DS in the past and with the 3DS XL Nintendo once more seems to hit the pulse of time. But there’s still opportunity to improve. As always, the hardware should get an upgrade from the hardware. The cameras aren’t state of the art and could get an update to 1 or 2MP… the costs for the improved CMOS wouldn’t be THAT much as every prepay cell pone at the same size already come with at least 3MP!

Soundlike you could improve the speakers. There’s room in the case anyways to give the little quacers a bit more fundamental character! be creative or get some ideas from JBL, H&K or Klipsch who also design speakers for (Ultra-)notebooks! where room is substance and sparse!

Applike there’s the issue with the purchase of every title multiple times. Do it like Sony and you’d ain more customers and the readyness of upgrading existing handhelds. Sympathy is what counts today! And following such rigorous selling mechanics won’t bring you more purchases of DSIWare titles. Think twice here!

And about the power supply I have already stated much. When you go for the 3DS XL, don’t forget to order an extra power supply or do it like me and purchase a car adapter with USB cord and you’re equipped to use a USB power supply for charging and you additionally get the utility to charge up your game buddy in the car also. Costs: from $10 onwards!

So for whom is the 3DS XL then? For those who own the 3DS there’s only two arguments of upgrading the handheld: The bigger screens and the longer runtime. You’ll have to decide for yourself if the two arguments are worth $250 MSRP!

For those who are about to purchase a 3DS system you may be confronted with the question: What’s more important: Portability or size? the 3DS XL throws in a good 3D experience as small view angle changes don’t interrupt the 3D experience so much as on the 3DS. The fact that you can game longer is also appealing but in contrary you have to opt in another 100g of weight!

All in all I didn’t regret the upgrade although I already own a 3DS. So go for it!

© Copyright 2012 Netspark, All rights Reserved. Written For: Netspark's Blog
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August 2, 2012 Netspark - 967 posts - Member since: May 9th, 2011 No Comments »

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