Hands on With Nintendo's DSi

The newest addition to the Nintendo DS family, DSi, has clearer sound quality and a surprisingly sharp image quality when in photo mode. That and the fact that users can have much more fun with software on the DSi may be enough reason for Nintendo to entice consumers to snap up its latest handheld game console.

At Nintendo's launch in Tokyo on Thursday I had a chance to take the new gaming device for a spin.

Compared to the current DS Lite, the DSi is slightly thinner and only a bit lighter. The screen has been widened from 3 inches to 3.25 inches, which didn't seem like much, and the image quality for games didn't look that different on DSi compared to DS Lite.

So it's all the more surprising the DSi camera had sharp images. Not only did the DSi camera feel like an okay camera but I had fun playing with it.

For example, it has a "niteru-do" function, where you can take a photo of two people side-by-side and software will rate how much the two look like each other.

I tried this function out with a Nintendo representative, who was explaining the console to me. She looked much younger and did not look at all like me, but the DSi rated us as "itoko-kyu" (translated in English as "the resemblance level of cousins"). Now, I would still go with DNA tests instead of a DSi camera to find out if someone was related to me, but the point here was that the niteru-do function was fun to play with.

The DSi camera also lets you digitally manipulate the image of someone's face using the touch pen. It also lets you combine or mold different faces together.

Sound on the DSi seemed to have crisp audio quality worthy of an audio player but, here again, there's more to it. You can manipulate audio with the DSi in ways your usual audio player wouldn't let you. You can change the pitch and speed of a sound, put effects such as "electrical fan" on a person's voice or play a sound backwards if that's what you want to do. It might sound silly but, once again, it's fun.

There are some drawbacks to the DSi over the DS Lite.

At ¥18,900 (US$179) it's a bit more expensive than the ¥16,800 DS Lite but that difference shouldn't cause too many people to change their purchasing plans.

Also, to make the handheld console thin, Nintendo took away the slot for Game Boy Advance games. No longer can GBA games be played on DS and DS games that use the GBA slot can't be used on DSi but a new range of DSi-only games are likely to appear so this could make up for the difference.

All in all, if you're considering to buy a DS Lite, the camera and audio functions in DSi make it a strong contender for your cash and could make you reconsider your plans.

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