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Nintendo DS Lite

Date: June 21, 2006
Author(s): Rob Williams

After 19 months, Nintendo has released an upgrade to the DS… but is it worthy? Nintendo paid attention to what people did not like about the original, and took care of it. We are taking a fresh look at the DS, and find out what the new revision has over the first.


When Nintendo first released the DS in late 2004, it wasn’t supposed to be a “Gameboy” killer, even though it was a similar system. Instead, the Gameboy Advance continued on, alongside it’s new big brother. However, if there was a reason to get into portable gaming, the DS was it. What is Nintendo known for? Taking chances. They are one of the most innovative companies in the world, and they give us a new reason to love them each and every year. It began with the Game & Watch, then onto the R.O.B, and now the Wii.

The DS was an instant success, to say the least. If the dual screens were not enough, one of them doubling as a touch pad was. Like PDA’s, the DS included a pen. Unlike PDA’s though, there were some amazing games to take full advantage of it. One thing about the first revision DS, is that it was not appealing looking. In truth, it was plain ugly. Sure, it was functional. In the end, that’s all that really matters. However, in a time when people like their devices to be ‘sexy’, Nintendo wanted to do something to fix that.

Before we jump into lots of pictures, lets take a quick look at a technical comparison between the original and the Lite.

Nintendo DS Nindendo DS Lite
Date Released Nov. 21, 2004 June 11, 2006
CPU 67MHz ARM946E-S w/ 33MHz coprocessor 67MHz ARM946E-S w/ 33MHz coprocessor
Memory 4MB 4MB
Physical Size 148.7 x 84.7 x 28.9mm 133 x 73.9 x 21.5mm
Weight 275g 218g
Screen Res 256px x 192px 256px x 192px
Screen Size 62 x 46mm (77mm Diag) 62 x 46mm (77mm Diag)
Game Size Support 128MB 128MB
Compatability Plays DS, GBA games Plays DS, GBA games
Online Wi-Fi Capable Wi-Fi Capable

Nothing has changed except the size. Thankfully, the only thing that was not reduced was the size of the screen. In addition to what’s listed, the button layout has been changed slightly, and the D-Pad is made slightly smaller. Thanks to the size reduction, the Lite is 20% lighter than the previous model. The screen has also been made much brighter, which is one of the primary benefits over the original.

Close Look

Let’s take a look through what’s new, and if you’ve never used a DS before, this is a perfect time to learn more about it. Being the portable that it is, the DS comes in a very small box, that tightly squeezes everything in. To match the DS itself, the box is completely white. Classy.

The first things to come out are the manual, power adapter, random pamplets and an extra stylus.

Here it is in all it’s glory:

Closer Look Cont.

To the bottom right of the unit is a spot for headphones and an external microphone.

On the opposite end is the volume.

The right side of the unit houses the stylus, which is not visable until you pull it out. The power button is also here.

The slot on the top is for your DS games, and the connector beside it is for the power adapter. The notches to the left of the game cartridge spot is for a wrist strap, which is not included with the sytem.

On the back is some important info about the device, and the spot for a 5.2v rechargable battery.

On the very bottom of the Lite is the slot for your GBA games. You must first pull out the hollow cap. Once the game is in place, you can put this cap back into place, to hide the game.

System, Screen Comparison

And here is what you will be seeing most often when you play:

The D-pad is placed exactly where it should be. It’s spaced out enough so that it’s comfortable to use. On the opposite of the screen are the XYAB and start/select buttons.

At the first power on, you will be asked for preferred language, date, time, birthday, color and nickname.

As mentioned in the intro, the huge deal with this version of the DS is the revamped screen. When I picked my DS at the store, the store manager said to me, “Before you leave, take out the DS and go compare it to the older version we have on display.” Why such a strange request? I quickly found out. After comparing the new Lite to the older DS with the same game playing, the difference was amazing. It made me shake my head, trying to understand how Nintendo could release such a dull LCD in the original DS.

How does it compare to other LCD’s? Well, the following pictures were taken with comparison to my three main LCD’s. Because I had to take out the flash, the quality of the photos are not great, but the difference is clear. The first example is with my 2 year old Dell laptop. That LCD is dull to begin with, so there is no comparison to brightness. The second picture is my desktop LCD.. a 17″ NEC 1740CX. The DS screen is much brighter than my LCD could possibly get. In fact, that’s the brightest you will ever see it. If it was any brighter, it would burn your eyes out after a while.

The last comparison is with my 26″ LG LCD TV. It’s the only LCD I have that can match the brightness of the DS. It may sound funny, but out of the 4 available brightnesses on the DS, only the third setting is used throughout all these photos. The fourth setting is for people who think it’s cool to stare at the sun.

Play-Ability, Conclusion

I have never played the original DS to a great extent. In fact, the last portable system I ever played on a regular basis was the Nokia Ngage. My last Gameboy was a Color. Needless to say, the new Mario and upcoming titles reinvigorated my faith in handheld gaming. I purchased the Lite this past Tuesday, and have been playing it each day for about an hour at a time.

What I think so far… is that this is a well put together system. The screen is just incredible. While playing games, never have I thought, “Wow, this is horrible looking”. In my case, I’ve been playing New Super Mario Brothers, and the graphics are top notch. They are not PSP quality graphics, but we don’t expect it to be for a system that costs only $129. I will be publishing a review for that game next week. All I can say right now though, is that if you are a fan of Super Mario Bros. for the original NES and Super Mario World for the SNES, you will -love- NSMB.

At any rate, one factor I always consider when playing a portable is the comfort factor. Staring at a small screen can give people headaches, and holding something so small can cramp your hands. In the short time I’ve used it, I found the system to be a joy to use. Though, in New Super Mario Bros, there were a few parts that actually strained my hands to the extent that I wanted to set the system down. When you need to simulataneously use the D-pad and XYAB buttons at the same time repeatadily, it can bother your hands. My friend who has been playing the same game, and system in general, has never had this problem, however.

One thing I do wish was a little better, and I expect people to disagree, is the volume. In general, I find it quite low. Granted, even sitting in my house, there is noise everywhere, mostly from outside. The only time I can play it at a comfortable sound level is at night when everything is quiet. I am forced to believe that people who play these in public simply play with no volume, because I have no idea how it can be heard.

Overall, I’ve been extremely pleased with the system. I have not had the chance to take advantage of the online feature, but will do so in the future. I have also not used the stylus to a great extent either, since NSMB does not stragetically require it. In the end, this doesn’t have to only be a portable system. It can be enjoyed while sitting back on the couch. It’s a great system for pulling out when you need a little break.

Should you pick this up if you own an original DS? If you are not fussy about a bright, backlit screen, then don’t worry about it. However, if you’ve owned the original for a while, you will not regret an upgrade. My main complaint is that they did not sell a black version on these shores!

From what I have experienced with the system so far, I am awarding the DS Lite an 83%.

Pros & Cons

+ Worthy upgrade to the original
+ Bright, backlit screen
+ Compact!
+ WiFi capable
+ Touch screen! How many portables have that?

– Hard to hear sound during day with noise around
– Only White color in US/Can
– May get hard on the hands after extended play

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