Nintendo's Latest Cash-Grab Product: The DSi XL

By Sam Machkovech April 3, 2010

While everybody else was cooing about the iPad, I took a moment yesterday to test another "new because it's bigger" gizmo.

Size Comparison: old DSi (L), new DSi XL (R)

The Nintendo DSi XL is the portable game system's fourth redesign in fewer than six years. While last year's DSi revision added a few neat tricks—camera, memory card slot, online game store—this year's XL version just enlarges the thing. A lot. What once fit in a decent-sized jean pocket now borders on netbook size, and the official, optional leather case from Nintendo could double as an ample purse.

When I first saw a DSi XL bolted down at a Nintendo test event a few weeks ago, its size didn't seem that stark, but when I tested it at a friend's last night, I couldn't comfortably toss it into my crowded laptop bag (where my DSi fits just fine).

That said, the XL's one-inch-bigger screens and pen-sized stylus make for a great play option on the couch, and before I gave up my car, I certainly played my DS at the house more than anywhere else. (Now, I play it on the bus). If I were to recommend a DS for a parent—and titles like Brain Age, Nintendogs, and Rhythm Heaven are up my folks' alley—I'd pick the XL, because it's made for comfortable living room play.

That's a big "if" for the year 2010, though. Nintendo already has another portable system in the works, set for release by March 2011, and most portable game makers have transitioned to the iPhone and Droid platforms, revealing the XL as a cash-grab product with no guaranteed, long-term support. Worse, hardcore Nintendo freaks who want a normal DSi for the road and a DSi XL for the coffee table won't be able to transfer downloaded games from one to the other. Even draconian iTunes allows simple account transfers.

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