Nintendo DS Browser Reader Review

This is probably the most basic analysis you'll get of the interface of the DS Opera Browser simply by virtue that I have the Japanese version. Consequently, most of the 'options' text is as alien to me as an England team successfully deploying 5-3-2. Still, the very fact that I can navigate to this page on it (albeit slowly), check my Gmail on it (surprisingly well) and bash the fundamentalist far right that populates Yahoo! Answers daily (whatever the obstacle, it's worth it) suggests that it is a pretty competent bit of kit.

In the box

In the box is a normal cartridge with the software on it and a little pluggy thing that looks like a half-sized GBA cart and slots flush into the usually redundant slot at the bottom - I hate having games stick out of my Lite. The phat DS version is exactly the same thing except the cart fits it better. This bottom bit is irritatingly transparent and would have been nicer white to match the rest of the DS, but I guess this way they don't have to manufacture a gazillion colours. It also means you get a peep into what is inside the chip... sadly I have absolutely no idea about hardware and for all I know it's a plastic field staffed by microscopic leprechauns catching wireless rays from the techno sky. Google exists to find images if you are interested.

On a first start-up it takes you through a little connection wizard and asks for some user details I think. I didn't enter anything and everything still seems to be working fine. If you exit the wizard, it takes you to a cached version of the homepage, which is a weird Nintendo-badged Opera portal. (If you try to click a hyperlink it will ask if you want to set up the connection using the familiar DS searching facility if you haven't already done this.) Tapping on the links takes you to various sites such as a help page etc. But who wants to do that when there's websites to be oggled and forums to be heckled at?

Interface with me!

There's a row of icons on the bottom of the screen and most are fairly self-explanatory and standard: back, forward, homepage, favourites, stop, refresh etc. There's an enter URL button, which bring sup a handy dialogue box with 1-press commands for .com .net .co.jp and other such suffixes. All are editable, thankfully. You can enter text either using the onscreen keyboard that pops up (you can choose between different nationality's layouts) or using the stylus handwriting recognition. The latter is enormously useful for kanji but useless for roman letters so I'd avoid it. The onscreen keyboard very intuitive but obviously a lot slower than a regular one.

The more interesting icon for me was the one that looked like a little DS logo. Click it, and the machine will think for a couple of seconds (it's lack of oomph does result in temporary unresponsiveness while loading fairly frequently) and change from the default view to the two-screen view. The former is basically a webpage scaled to fit horizontally over the two screens which you then scroll down, which is ok for many websites, but it is really inferior to 2-screen mode, in which a full but mini version of the page is displayed on the bottom screen with a blue highlighted stylus-movable rectange on it, and the top screen features the contents of the rectangle at full size. Being able to view the page not horizontally scaled is a massive bonus on many sites, especially ones featuring a navigation sidebar like Eurogamer or BBC (mobile phone web users will know what I'm talking about). Want to edit something in the blue frame? Just click the twin arrows button and the screens will switch, leaving you free to browse the magnified area as usual using the touchscreen interface.

Browsing

It's a little slow. I think really this is due to the hardware limitations of the DS Lite. Presumably it shouldn't be slower on a phat DS but I don't know really. On my home wireless network, the BBC News homepage was loading the full graphics version in about 20-30 seconds and the low graphics version in about 8-10 seconds. This is a lot slower than everyone is used to but it doesn't freeze up unnecessarily and allows you to scour the page while it's loading images. Most websites I tried rendered quite well but then I haven't yet tried really media-heavy sites (e.g. YouTube), badly designed ones (e.g. most of MySpace) or flash-heavy ones (e.g. MTV.com). Logging into secure websites is supported, so I could get into amazon.co.uk and Gmail no problem, but I'm afraid I can't read the Japanese for details (sorry!). The default reading font is resizable and adequate for purpose rather than being beautiful, although it's a clear step up from the un-'ClearTyped' Windows font. But, to make the point as succinctly as possible, I'm quite impressed. It works.

So, is it worth it?

The browser isn't limited really and so you could use it quite happily for a range of well designed websites. If you're the sort of person who habitually checks and rechecks certain websites and doesn't carry a laptop round day and night but does always have a DS with them (like me, in other words), go for it. Email on the move is always nice, and the ability to use the Gmail interface properly is a big step up from what's available on phones right now. You can't download anything from it, but for forumites, news junkies, email addicts and other such users it's worth a look. But if you want streaming video porn or something.. well, that wet dream will have to wait.

8 / 10

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