The Nintendo DSi – A Summary of Technical Improvements Over the DS Lite

The Nintendo DSi is the third incarnation of the popular series of Nintendo handheld gaming devices. The original Nintendo DS was lauchched in 2004 with its successor, the DS Lite, launching in 2006. The DSi is, at the time of writing, only available in Japan where it was launched in October 2008. It is expected to be released in US and Europe around May 2009. The DSi introduces a number of technical improvements over its predecessor the DS Lite. The purpose of this article is to summarize these improvements to enable the reader to decide whether the new Nintendo DSi fulfills their requirements.

The first improvement to greet the user is the DSi's thinner casing. It is 2.6mm or around 12% thinner than the DS Lite. This is in part achieved by the removal of the GameBoy Advance cartridge slot found on the DS Lite, thus eliminating the new units backward compatibility with such games.

The second major visual enhancement is the larger dual 3.25 inch LCD screens compared to the 3 inch screens in the DS Lite. Despite the larger screens the DSi still retains the same case width and height of the DS Lite. Whilst the new screens represent a 17% greater visual area the downside is a reduction in battery life from around 19 hours down to 14 hours at the lowest screen brightness setting. The new screens also have five brightness levels of adjustment compared to the previous four. The bottom screen is still a touch screen as per the previous generation unit.

Sound is another area of ​​improvement for the DSi. The unit boasts improved speakers over the DS Lite although until the units can be directly compared we can not speculate on how big a difference to sound quality the improvements make. The DSi now includes an mp3 music player as standard using the new integrated SD card slot as a source. The music must be in AAC format to be recognized by the unit.

The new unit features cameras for the first time on a Nintendo handheld device. The DSi incorporates two, one on the hinge between the screens (facing the user) and one on the outside of the casing. New software on the DSi allows users to manipulate photos in real time, although it is clear the cameras are included more as a fun accessory than for serious photography as they are only of 0.3 mega pixel resolution.

Nintendo has also made a raft of improvements under the skin of the DSi. The main processor is still an ARM9 model but now running at 133MHz, twice the speed of the 67MHz DS Lite unit. The co-processor is still an ARM7 unit running at 33MHz. The DSi now boasts 16MB of RAM memory (compared with 4MB in the Lite) and 256MB of internal storage memory. The 802.11 wireless connection is transported over from the old unit, albeit with speed improvements made when used with DSi specific software bought from the DSi shop (see below).

A new feature bought to the DSi is the DSi online shop, similar to those used for full-sized consoles such as the Sony PS3, Microsoft Xbox and Nintendo's own Wii. Here users will be able to download both free and purchased content for their device. One of the first downloads will be a free web browser to allow the DSi to access the internet. Another first for the DSi will be the ability to upgrade the firmware (or operating system) of the device, something never previously possible on a handheld Nintendo unit.

We trust that the article has served to highlight the technical improvements found in the Nintendo DSi over the previous generation DS Lite. New users looking for such a device would be well placed to wait for the unit to launch in their region. Existing users of the DS Lite should be able to use the information above in deciding whether to upgrade their current unit.