The Mega Nintendo DSi FAQ – Everything you need to know
The Nintendo DSi is almost here and despite being available in Japan for quite a while, people still have question regarding the hardware, software and more.
So, if you have been following all our coverage or even if you haven’t, our DSi guide is the place for you. It covers everything from the unique DSi features to what’s changed from the DS to DSiWare. All your questions are answered inside.
Before we get started, let’s get some definitions out of the way. To avoid confusion we’ll be referring to the original Nintendo DS as the Phat, the second revision as the Lite, and the latest refresh as the DSi. They all belong to the Nintendo DS family of handhelds. If you have just purchased or been given a brand new DS it will most certainly be the Lite and you may have never seen the Phat or heard of the DSi. Here is a picture showing each one.
Just what exactly is a Nintendo DSi?
The Nintendo DSi is the third iteration of the Nintendo DS. The original Phat launched in Australia in 2005 and was superseded by the Lite in June 2006. Although the basic hardware is the same as the systems before it, the DSi has received several new hardware additions as two VGA cameras, music player, and SD card slot. Software has also seen several improvements but some features have been removed. The DSi also has a redesigned casing and a new matte plastic finish. The removals and additions to the DSi are addressed in depth in our FAQ below.
I like lists, can you list what’s been added and removed from the DSi?
Sure, we’ll go into detail on each of the following points later on, but here’s a handy summary of the new features of the DSi, as well as improvements over features of the Phat/Lite.
New and/or improved:
- New casing with matte finish is smaller and overall weight is down
- New bigger screens with a higher level of brightness and viewing angle
- Higher volume and greater sound clarity
- New operating system that allows rebooting to the DSi Menu and card hot swapping
- Volume toggle adjusts volume in stages, Hold select to adjust brightness on the fly (now five levels)
- Two 0.3 megapixel (VGA) cameras, one on the outside of the case and one inside on the hinge
- Music player allows AAC playback as well a voice memo recording
- WPA security now supported
- DSi Shop lets you buy and download games and applications
- SD card slot for storing photos and music
- Improved Opera Web Browser is free to be added from the DSi Store
- Pictochat allows for rainbow pen
- Removal of Gameboy Advance slot
- Battery life is reduced
- Added WPA security doesn’t affect DS games (as of yet)
- Price premium over the Lite which hasn’t had yet a price drop
What colours are available for the DSi in Australia?
We’re lucky this time as this is actually the first time a DS model has launched in Australia with a choice of colours. The Phat was initially available in silver while the Lite launched in plain white. Now we have a choice between white and black, both with a matte finish. Australia shares the same colours with the Japan and European launches while Americans can choose between black and a light blue.
The two colours available in Australia
How much does a DS Lite Cost? Any Deals or Bundles?
The Nintendo DSi has a retail price of $299.95AU. The New Zealand price will be contingent on the exchange rate. We expect there will be many retailer deals and bundling on launch and we’ll be covering them in the weeks leading up to launch. If you see a good deal you can let us know on the forums.
So what does the DSi come with?
According to the back of the Australian DSi box you get:
- One Nintendo DSi System in either white or black
- Two Nintendo DSi Stylii
- One Nintendo DSi AC Adapter
- One Battery (installed)
- A manual as thick as the Bible
What does the Aussie packaging look like, in case I miss the oversized and multiple boxes in the game stores on launch day?
I have done that many a time- those gigantic novelty boxes are very hard to miss.
Bigger and bright screens, better CPU, how does the battery take it?
Ah yes, some bad news – naturally with bigger screens, an added level of brightness, more ram, and CPU power the DSi doesn’t fare as well as a Lite or even a Phat. However, it’s not all bad news as, like the Lite, the battery life increases when the brightness is turned down from the ‘my retinas are burning’ setting. Here are the official figures from Nintendo.
- Lowest Level 5: 9 – 14 hours
- Level 4: 8 – 12 hours
- Level 3: 6 – 9 hours
- Level 2 : 4 – 6 hours
- Highest Level 1: 3-4 hours
To compare here are the DS Lite’s figures from Nintendo
- Lowest Level 4: 15 – 19 hours
- Level 3: 10 – 15 hours
- Level 2: 7 – 11 hours
- Level 1 (DSi Level 2 equivalent): 5 – 8 hours
As you can see, after comparison the DSi and Lite have similar battery consumption. It would have been nice if Nintendo had upgraded the battery but most of us won’t require the highest brightness. Having had a Japanese DSi for a few months, I can safely tell you that simply playing DS games with the DSi the difference in battery life is nearly indistinguishable. However, when running WPA and in DSi Mode you will notice that it drains a little quicker. Luckily the DSi comes with a charger and nowadays USB and car chargers are standard fare if you require charging on the run.
Wait, more CPU and RAM? Does this mean DS games play better?
When a DS game is inserted, the DSi plays just like a normal DS as the DSi’s CPU is down clocked to match the original DS. The extra ram and CPU are mainly used for the browser and DSiWare games. There may be DSi games released in the future that support the extra grunt but for now Nintendo is staying quiet.
How much bigger are the screens, does that mean borders?
The Nintendo DSi’s screens on paper seem to be a small increase from 3 inches (on the DS Lite) to 3.25 inches but on a device that is only a little bit bigger you really can notice the difference. There are no borders, pixel stretching or anything like that going on. With the screens, the pixels just seem to be “bigger”, but at the same time, it seems like it is more tightly packed in than the DS Lite – the screen’s viewing angle is also greater, making ‘community’ type games easier to play.
Picture 1: Mario statue up close, Snake sneaks in behind. Picture 2: City on a smoggy day. Picture 3: Arranged to show fore-, middle- and background and text.
How does the new menu system work?
When the DS Lite came out, many were dismayed that the Lite had no changes to the firmware- it even pictured the DS Phat in menus. Fortunately, that is not the case with the DSi with the menu now a prominent part of the console. When you boot up your DSi the first screen you see after the health and safety warning is the DSi Menu- a horizontal menu of icons which could best described as similar to the channels on the Wii menu. You are free to move and replace items of the menu in whatever order you like.
New functionality will be the ability to jump back to the menu at anytime- which will be different from say, a PSP menu which overlays over the top, instead the DSi cuts whatever is running and boots it back to the menu. Now you don’t have to turn the DSi back on every time you change a menu setting- a small annoyance which has finally been fixed. Nintendo however, has been cheap- they didn’t update the interface at all for ‘DS Download Play’ and ‘Pictochat’- it retains the look of the old DS menu and looks completely out of place.
Is it true has Nintendo region locked the Nintendo DSi?
A couple of weeks before the Nintendo DSi launched many sites reported that the Nintendo DSi was region locked, everyone jumped to the worst conclusion that Nintendo had locked down the system and that you would only be able to use Japanese games on a Japanese system, Australian Games on an Australia system etc. That is certainly most not the case- – the Nintendo DSi can play DS games from anywhere in the world in any language. HOWEVER There are two forms of region control on the console, both of which affect different games.
- The country you buy a Nintendo DSi from will dictate what DSi Shop you connect to, much like the Wii and the Wii Shopping Channel.
- There is two DSi exclusive games out there on the market, each of them use the camera and are mostly pretty average. Ubisoft has been branding it’s games as ’DSi Enhanced’ these too are region locked.
Will these DSi only games ever hit stores? Most likely. But any time soon? Who knows – it is Nintendo after all.
So what can the included SD Card slot do? This doesn’t mean the DSi is short on memory like the Wii is, right?
The SD card slot on the DSi at launch will support music-saving, photos, sounds, and backup channels. Pictures can easily be quickly copied to and from the SD card within the Camera application and the Sounds application can read music directly from the card.
The DSi has 256mb of built in memory. Yes, that is less than the Wii, but remember handheld games are a lot smaller then Wii games. To put it into context I have 21 DSiWare titles on my DSi and it has 60 blocks left, enough perhaps for one smaller DSi Ware title, but you’ll need 90 at any one time to do updates for DSi Ware titles. If I copy my title to the SD Card I can’t play it directly off the card and will have to copy it back. Homebrewers have also yet to unlock the SD card slot, and we may see some interesting things happen in regards to that in the future.
What about the Music player in the DSi, I heard it can’t play MP3’s!?
You heard correctly, however that’s not to say the DSi can’t play music. Any music you have in the AAC format the DSi can play, but the extent of the music player in the DS doesn’t end there. Like the cameras, the DSi Music Player is not designed to replace your iPod or MP3 player. While you can close the DSi and keep playing tunes, there are no external controls to change what is playing.
Instead, the L and R triggers are reserved to add humorous and musical sound bites over the music. On screen there are controls for the pitch and speed of the playback as well as options to change how the playback sounds trough various filters. Because the DSi has an included microphone like the DS did before it, you can also record your voice in 10 second clips.
How many gigs can the DSi SD Card Slot take?
The DSi can read up to at least a 8gig SDHC card. Possibly more but we haven’t tested.
So what is DSiWare?
DSiWare is Nintendo’s latest digital distribution endeavor. Like the WiiWare service, DSiWare offers a bunch of smaller downloadable titles from Nintendo themselves and third party developers. While some games on the service are as simple as mini games taken from Wario Ware, some games like the Art Style titles, Mr Driller and such have proven that it’s not all fluff. Games like Wario Ware Snapped also show promise for titles using the cameras for gameplay.
Unlike the Wii service, there is no ‘Virtual Console’ on the DSi as of yet, Nintendo hasn’t even mentioned it. If it were to happen it would be great being able to pick up some classic handheld titles from both Nintendo (Gameboy) and possibly even Sega Game Gear titles.
DSiWare titles range from free titles like the Moving Memo and the Web Browser, to games and applications sold at 200, 500 and 800 Points, with the latter being the ‘Premium’ applications.
Japanese DSi purchasers got 1000 free Nintendo points when the system launched, will we?
This offer is no longer valid.
What about Demos of games? At the moment there are no DS demos on the DSi Shop, although we have seen Nintendo dabble in demos with the Nintendo channel, nothing is yet confirmed for the DSi – but we do nothing if not hold out hope.
How does the Opera Browser work on the DSi?
The Nintendo DS browser on the DSi is (for now at least) available as a free download from the DSi Shop. At a meagre 85 blocks, the DSi Browser is handy to have around and is greatly improved from the stand alone version that was available separately for the DS. Opera does a commendable job creating a usable interface for the DS, although it can still be quite clunky. Even if you don’t plan on using it, pick it up for free when it launches as it may not always be available for free, such as the Wii version is.
I’ve seen some cool animations made with the DSi, how are those made?
They are being made in one of the free applications on the DSi Shop called Flipnote Studio. Not only, as the same suggests, is it a memo pad but you can also create animations by flipping over ‘pages’ on the pad. Sound effects can be added, however, it is not some complicated animation program, and you’ll only have 3 shades of grey available and red. But here is where the application gets really cool- you can jump online with the program and share you creations with others and download their creations too.
So Nintendo finally added WPA to the system, tell me the good news?
Yes! The good news is that the DSi contains WPA wireless and can connect to a WPA and WPA2 wireless network connection. The bad news is that no DS games currently on the market are able to use the new wireless setting. When Nintendo built the Wi-Fi stack for DS they built it into each DS card, not the DS Phat or DS Lite itself. What that means is that no matter which DS they are in, current DS games will only be able to connect via WEP connection which really is a pain in the behind. It’s not known if Nintendo will be allowing or updating the Wi-Fi configuration on cards to be able to use the DSi’s WPA.
So what can you use the WPA for?
The WPA security can be used to connect to the Store, Browser and with any DSi Ware title.
Say I get a DSi, and give my brother/sister/mother/father/cat my DS Lite can we still play multiplayer? What about download play?
Indeed you can, the DSi will function like any other DS out there when you play DS games and is fully compatible with all other DS games out there with multiplayer mode. One cool thing too is that if a DSiWare title has download play you can even send that DSi Ware game to a DS Phat or Lite – although it might not be the case for all games, it does work with Club House Games Express.
So what, no GameBoy Advance slot? What about Guitar Hero On Tour?
Sadly with the removal of the GBA slot you won’t be able to play On Tour on the DSi, even if Activision come up with a replacement wireless Grip in the future, the old games still won’t work with it due to the coding looking for a GBA slot. Unfortunately, it also means any Pokémon transferring is out. Remember that when the DS was first announced not even Nintendo thought it would become the success it did and retained the GBA slot in case the DS failed. With the awesome DS library now has the DS doesn’t need a GBA slot, although we will miss it.
Do I need to charge the DSi before I play it for the first time?
The DSi comes half charged, while you can play it as soon as you get it (or transfer info over) it is recommended you let it drain once (not completely) before starting to charge it, remember you won’t get the full battery life until a few charge/discharge cycles. Try to charge it to the max and then drain it before recharging it for the first five or so times.
Will my DS Phat/DS Lite/Micro/GBA SP Chargers work on the DSi?
Nintendo has seen fit to change the charger on the DSi, again from the DS Lite which itself was changed from the DS; none of the previous AC Adapters will work on the DSi.
Will the DSi suffer from Dead Pixels?
Like all devices with LCD screens, the DSi will be susceptible to dead pixels. However, if you end up purchasing a DSi with a dead/stuck pixel, pack it up and return it to where you bought it (remember that receipt!). Remember- under Australian law the shop must take it back if the product is faulty/not functioning properly. If you live far away from the shop make sure you turn it on before you leave to test if the screen has any dead or stuck pixels.
What about Wi-Fi, Will my Friend Codes get reset?
Fret not, you can transfer your Wi-Fi Settings and Friend Codes to your New DS. “So VOOK”, you say, “how does a person do this?” Simple, boot up any WFC game (remember you only have to do it once) and navigate to the WFC options, tap Options, tap Transfer Nintendo WFC Configuration then click OK. On our new DSi, go to Download Play and Tap on ‘Nintendo WFC Configuration Transfer’ It’s that simple! Remember how to do it if you are trading in your DS Phat or Lite when you bring it in on the day so you can transfer. Again you only have to do it with one game. Also your old DS will no longer have your FC information.
Reader Question: Zach asks Is the alarm clock still in the DSi? Indeed it is, hidden away on the second screen of the setting is the alarm – and it works as you think it would. Now…