Nintendo DSi LL

Bigger, better, more badass?

It's easy to look upon the DSi LL with questioning eyes, but it would be wrong to claim that a fourth version of the same Nintendo handheld device is unprecedented. As illustrated by last week's Nintendo handheld retrospective, the humble Game Boy went through much the same thing.

Remember the Game Boy Pocket? Game Boy Advance? Game Boy Advance SP? Game Boy Micro? It may have taken 16 years to go through a similar number of revisions, but the DS exists in a faster-moving world than its predecessors: the Game Boy/Color line, pre-Advance, has sold nearly 119 million units; expect Nintendo to tell us very soon that the DS family has already beaten that in around half the time.

Those numbers also provide the clue to this particular DS revision, because Nintendo's impetus to release another handheld so soon after the last one is not to be found in the growing competitiveness of Apple's iPhone or Sony's PSP; it's in the fact that far more people are buying Nintendo consoles in the late 2000s than were in the early nineties, and more specifically it's in who a lot of those people are.

It's easy to look upon the DSi LL with questioning eyes, then, but the object of your attention also answers your questions before you've realised, or even opened the lid for the first time: it's simply easy to look upon the DSi LL. Because it's freaking massive. It's not meant to coax you into replacing the DSi you bought this year, or even the DS Lite you bought prior to that. It's a DSi for clumsy people with poor eyesight and bad hearing. It's a DSi for your gran.

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The base of the DSi LL is matte, but the lid exterior has a glossy finish. This seems like a sensible split to somebody whose DSi bears all sorts of saddening scars.

Now, I'm nobody's gran, but I do have shonky eyesight and I am sufficiently clumsy that I'm currently unable to lift my left arm above shoulder height, because I fell over in the street and crippled myself on a recycling bin. So I am at least half-qualified to give the DSi LL the once over. For a further example of the above, the first thing I noticed was that in addition to a regular stylus, it also comes with a whopper stylus - the first not to fit inside a DS for storage - which resembles a fountain pen, with a hole at the top for attaching a strap.

Whereas, of course, the first thing everybody else noticed was that the DSi LL really does mean "DSi XL" in English. It's huge! The console may only be physically larger by around two centimetres breadth, 1.5cm height and a couple of millimetres thickness, but given that the DSi was only 7.5cm across, it's startlingly noticeable, and even more so when you look at the screens, which are bigger on the diagonal by nearly an inch. Your gran will be fine. Big stylus, big screens - big noise, too. During scientific tests (I shouted "Hammertime!" into the sound recorder then played it back), the DSi LL made quite a racket compared to the DSi.

That said, your gran may wonder whether the buttons could have been larger. The power button has grown a little, but the d-pad, face buttons and start/select are the same, tiny microswitched affairs from last year. Perhaps this saves Nintendo's manufacturing department money; I have no idea, but it seems to be at odds with the rest of the DSi LL's intentions.

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