DSi versus DS Lite: To Upgrade, or Not to Upgrade?

DSi vs. DS Lite:
“To Upgrade, or Not to Upgrade?”

Sorry, Hamlet, but where technology is concerned, that is the question. If Shakespeare were still around, he would surely agree; whenever a shiny new version of something you already own is released, it can be difficult to decide whether or not that extra lustre is worth the inevitable extra money.

To simplify this comparison, the DS Original will be lumped in with the Lite, as the leap from the Original to the Lite was purely aesthetic: the Lite is smaller, sleeker, features more options for the backlight, and is an all-around better piece of hardware (barring, of course, the Original’s more-attractive price tag and the Lite’s lessened utility as a blunt instrument). The leap from DS Lite to DSi has come with its share of aesthetic improvements, but also with some interesting functional changes, the significance of which will ultimately depend on what you want out of your portable gaming system.

If you’re debating a DSi purchase, you’re in one of two camps, generally speaking:

1. You own a DS already, and you’re wondering if an upgrade is in order.

2. You do not own a DS, and are wondering if the DSi, the newest and priciest of the three available versions, is the one for you.

In either case, the best way for you to make your decision a well-informed one is to be aware of the changes that the DSi has brought with it. No out-of-ten score can replace the usefulness of a point-by-point comparison in helping you to decide whether or not the new perks are enough to warrant your purchase.

First, here are the aesthetic tweaks that this newest member of the DS family is sporting:

– The power button (a slider no more) has moved from the right side to the unit’s face, next to the lower left corner of the DSi’s bottom screen, where it is much less likely to be mistakenly triggered as you’re holding the unit. A tap of the button will send you back the DSi’s main menu, and holding it will turn the device on or off.

– The volume control has similarly changed from awkward slider to button-based adjustment, and is located on the left side of the unit rather than the bottom.

– The Lite was a slim and sleek piece of work, but the DSi is even more thin and pocket-friendly.

– Buttons are less prominent on the surface of the DSi, lessening the likelihood that they’ll become loose and wobbly as they’re hammered on over the years.

– Both of the DSi’s screens are slightly larger. Will you notice the difference as you play? Probably not, but it’s a nice touch nonetheless.

– The DSi’s speakers are much smaller and the sound quality a bit improved.

– In addition to the LED indicators used by the Lite to indicate battery level and battery charger connectivity, the DSi has another one for Wi-Fi connectivity. Each of the three lights is clearly marked by an icon for your convenience.

– The smooth, glossy, smudgeable surface of the Lite has been replaced with a matte finish; neat freaks rejoice and put down your paper towels!

– Stories of ruined L and R buttons should be far less common, as the DSi’s are much hardier. You can feel the difference when you click!

Now to address the bigger, more functional changes that will likely be the true makers or breakers of your purchase.

Nintendo DSi Camera
The DSi received its name partly as an answer to Nintendo’s other cultural giant, the Wii (as the Wii is based around the concept of shared experiences, the DSi is an individual one). The DSi Camera is another aspect of the DSi’s name; two cameras (a pair of eyes), a frontal one on the hinge and a rear one on the back of the unit’s top half, allow you to snap shots of yourself and others and save over 400 of them in the unit’s generous album. Included with the album is a photo editor that allows you to stretch, colour, and otherwise horribly disfigure your pictures in a variety of amusing ways. It’s a 0.3 megapixel camera, so you won’t want to go and sell your digital camera, but the unit’s small screen size ensures that your shots will look pretty nice. Until you start distorting them, that is.

Nintendo DSi Shop
The handheld equivalent of the Wii’s shop, the DSi shop includes budget games from a variety of developers that are tailor-made for the system and added to the library on a daily basis. Applications such as a DSi-friendly Internet browser are also available. Downloaded applications and games are stored on the system’s main menu, a horizontal bar with plenty of space. No word on some sort of Virtual Console-esque service that will let us download Game Boy or Game Boy Color games, but never let hope die.

SD Card Support
On the right side of the DSi is a slot that accepts any standard SD card. This allows you to store music and downloaded applications and games.

Nintendo DSi Sound
This is a music application that allows you to record and edit short sound clips courtesy of the DSi’s built-in microphone, or put music you’ve brought in through an SD card through a variety of filters (including a rather awesome 8-bit filter). Be aware that only the AAC format (.mp4, .m4a, and .3gp) is accepted for imported songs.

GBA Slot
This is arguably the only true downgrade, and could definitely be a deal-breaker for some: the GBA slot is no more. If you still play your GBA games, trading in your Lite for a discount on the DSi might not be such a great idea.

Conclusion, in handy Q&A format:

Q: “Why might the DSi be a worthwhile upgrade?” or “Why would the DSi be a good point of entry into Nintendo’s DS family of handhelds?”

A: It’s definitely Nintendo’s most ambitious step forward in terms of portable gaming; it’s proof that they have come onboard with their competitors in bringing their systems online. It’s also proof of their dedication in giving their systems something for everyone, as shown by the dual cameras, the music editor, and the online shop with its free Internet browser that’s available for download. If you love some added value with your video games, the DSi has the goods.

Q: “Why might I want to pass on it, pick up a Lite instead, or wait until my current DS kicks the bucket?”

A: The camera and the music application can be fun to monkey with, but if you’re in it purely for the video games, you may want to consider sitting on your money for now. Most changes are certainly for the better, but the changes that truly enhance your gaming experience are few, and the absence of the GBA slot that both the Original and Lite had really hurts the DSi’s value for those who still enjoy their older games. The DSi shop is definitely the biggest draw as far as game-centric enhancements are concerned, but the library of worthwhile DSiWare titles is still very small. If you live for the games and the games alone, the Lite will suit your needs just fine for now.


  1. OMG, no gba slot!
    looks like a downgrade to me if you use your DS for gaming purposes.

    DS lite is better than the DSi, (imo)

  2. No GBA slot means no guitar hero on tour,
    if you have a DS lite and want a DSi, keep the DS lite and hope you get lucky on Christmas or your birthday.

  3. I think a lot more people would be buying the DSi if it had a GBA slot. At any rate, the DS LIte is a solid portable.

  4. if u want both,get a fake ds lite and/or dsi!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!and be sure to buy the R4i Gold Card

  5. Aw, this was a really nice post. In idea I would like to put in writing like this additionally – taking time and actual effort to make a very good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate alot and by no means seem to get something done.

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