Nintendo DS Browser Reader Review
It's a killer app for the DS and DS lite, the Opera Web Browser is here! Nintendo and Opera have been thoughtful enough to make two game packages available, catering for the DS and DS lite GBA slots. In case you were wondering the GBA expansion pack for the lite is semi-transparent plastic so as not to stand out too much, regardless of the colour of system you chose. Nice.
So, what's it like. Well, its quite impressive, support for java/ECMA-script, html, xhtml. More complex de-facto features of the web experience such as Flash, PDF, movies and file downloads are absent.
ECMA-script means you'll find accessing gmail and other Ajax sites won't be a problem. Although, I found that in my gmail account, it didn't display the chat tab. Which, to be honest is fair enough. The browser will test your dexterity and the gmail chat might just not work that well with the limited DS screen real-estate.
While I'm talking about ECMA support, SSL is also supported, meaning encryption, E-bay, Amazon, whatever you like. That turns out to be quite powerful in itself and leverages an otherwise multi-media-limited experience. - But lets face it. Its free, where you can find an open wifi point or are prepared to pay for access. On your home broadband wireless set-up its a straight forward experience to get going with.
The DS browser supports very good hand writing recognition, although you'll quickly find yourself darting 'round the software keyboard faster anyway.
Despite the lack of local storage and inablility to run Flash et al, the DS browser is quite capable nonetheless.
There is overview mode which allows you to pull a blue frame around the screen with your pen and the top screen displays a magnified view of that area.
Now. it must be said, the Opera browser makes a commendable effort to display pages correctly.
Opera makes the best use of the dual screen set-up by allowing you to flip between viewing modes. One, the overview mode. The other, "SSR" small screen rendering mode, which packs the page into a screen wide column and scrolls up and down using both screens. Scrolling is possible using the d-pad or of course, the pen to drag the page up and down.
After sometime you'll notice, as with any pen-driven DS game, your hand will get cramp. Squinting at the screen can get uncomfortable over an extended period, but there is magnification to play with so you can find the scale to suit you.
I'm afraid to say it was rather relieving to surf on a regular PC again after the DS browser experience, with a nice big keyboard and TFT monitor as far as the eye can see.
Becoming accustomed to the DS browser is rather like learning to fall asleep in a cardboard box.
-Don't get me wrong, the Opera browser is tres bon. However in full and honest retrospect, the DS is a gaming machine after all. It doesn't pack gobs of memory, or backing storage or other software support you might have become accustomed to. But for what it is, the DS Opera Browser is an excellent piece of software and a handy additional to the DS.
FInally, the battery life. Wifi sucks the life out of any device, but you can expect 4 or 5 hours of life on the net with the browser, which is fine.
So, controvertially, the score. Straight out 8 for sheer utliity. WIth ECMAscript and SSL and a bit of home webserver dabbling with your favourite server side scripting and the possibilities are endless.
The DS browser brings even more value to a relatively cheap piece of hardware. -Remember, you want web on a PDA device or laptop, you're not gonna find it costing less than a DS. -"But I have a mobile with web access". Pssh, yeah I bet you PAY for access everywhere and you have a ittier bittier screen too, punk.
I believe in the market. If someone else can step up to the plate and deliver backing storage, video streaming, pdf and Flash, you can pick up a 9 and 10 in score.
Again, for what has been acheived on the hardware with its design scope, its a lovely bit of software. Its the reason you'll carry it with you even if you don't play games.
8 / 10