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I am the first to admit that when it comes to video games, I have little or no interest. I remember playing Space Invaders and PacMan in the very early 80s on arcade machines but the concept of playing a video game was lost on me really.
I spent years watching news coverage of queues forming for the latest "must have" console and shook my head in bemusement wondering why something which seemed so juvenile had grown men (and to be fair it usually was grown men) waiting in queues for hours on end to be one of the first to own one.
However it is unusual for kids these days not to have at least one video game console and as the mother of a 13 year old daughter it goes without saying that she does indeed have a couple.
Her first video game console was the Nintendo DS Lite and she fully embraced gaming once she was in possesion of the console, requesting a Wii not long afterwards. She loves both consoles but it's the portability of the DS which has seen her graduate to the DSi and more recently to the newly launched DSi XL.
What's in the Box?
The box contains the console itself, user manuals, charger, regular stylus and new larger pen style stylus.
The new DSi XL is noticeably larger than previous consoles in the DS range with screens which are 93% larger than those on the DSi.
The console has a microphone and two speakers and also features two cameras - one regular and the other which enables the user to take pictures of themselves. Photo effects are also available to add to the fun.
Currently available in two colours, either wine red or chocolate brown, the console comes with a dictionary and a pared down version of Dr Kawashima's Brain Training pre-installed.
As if all this wasn't enough for you, you can also surf the internet wirelessly with the console and even make voice recordings which you can enhance or add effects to and use the console as a music player either through headphones using the headphone jack or through the speakers.
Like the original DSi, there is no slot for Game Boy Advance games as was available on the DS Lite - this feature seems to have been permanently phased out by Nintendo.
The beauty of this console is it isn't just something you can play games on. It has other features which I shall tell you about here.
Music can be played via the SD card slot - you merely copy tracks in the AAC format onto the card and then you can play them on your DSi. I must admit I would prefer it if it were to play mp3 files, but I suppose you can't have everything.
Filing music isn't that easy however as you only get three play lists to add songs to - these are the self explanatory Top Ten, along with Practice and Memory - which both hold up to 100 songs.
Sound quality is excellent through headphones and music can also be played through the console's speakers. I was pleasantly surprised at the sound quality
Pictures of Nintendo DSi XL
My daughter's DSi XL
through the speakers - it is much better than any sound you get playing music through the speaker on a mobile phone.
You can also add several "effects" to your music, including removing vocals by choosing the Instrumental feature or the less useful "radio" effect which gives a song the effect one would have received from an old transistor radio in the dim and distant past, an "echo" effect which makes the singer sound as if they are in a cave and, if you are truly curious, the "8 bit game" effect which will turn the song you are listening to into the sounds one would expect from an arcade video game. Pointless really, but good fun I suppose.
You can also change the speed and pitch of whatever track you are playing. As someone who used to take great delight in playing 45 rpm records at 78 rpm on a turntable as a child, I fully understand why my daughter loves these features so much.
Another feature my daughter loves is the Voice Recorder - you can record yourself saying something and then add various effects such as helium if you fancy sounding like Minnie Mouse, the Budgie effect which will have your voice tweeting away, the Robot effect if you wish to sound like an automaton and Low and High Harmony which will can give a simple word a very rich sound.
You can also mix in a voice recording with a song you are playing on the Music Player, which my daughter loves to do.
You can change the pitch and speed at which your voice recording plays too. The maximum time you can record your voice for is just ten seconds.
As an adult I find these features a bit silly but my daughter loves them
The camera on the DSi XL is a paltry 0.3 megapixels - actually there are two cameras on the console, ensuring you can take a picture easily of yourself without turning the console around - you merely touch a button entitled "Switch" to choose whether you want to take a picture of something in front of you or behind you.
You can only view pictures you have taken on the DSi XL on the console - if you copy pictures from your phone or camera on to the SD card the console will not recognize them. However you can copy pictures you have taken on the console back to your computer.
So long as you understand the picture quality isn't brilliant, the camera does offer some useful features, including the ability to upload pictures directly to Facebook so long as you are linked to a wireless network.
You can also add various effects to photos you have taken with the console allowing you to distort pictures (my daughter is a big fan of this feature), add graffiti over a picture or add speech bubbles, change colour to black and white or alter colours on the pictures and a fun mirror feature which gives a kaleidoscope effect to photos.
The control buttons on the DSi XL are similar in size as those on the original DSi console. What is good about this console however is the fact there are only a few buttons to master with much of the control being done via the stylus on the touchscreen.
There is a video control pad for gaming, and A, B, X and Y control buttons and Left and Right buttons at the back of the console. The Left and Right buttons are multi-function and are used for taking pictures with the camera.
Also multi-functional is the Volume up and down key - you can also change the brightness settings by pressing and holiding the Select button before using the Volume key to increase or decrease brightness.
The Start button is used for pausing games.
Powering up is easy too using the clearly marked Power button and to turn off you press and hold this button
You can also access the DSi Shop - but note you have to be online for this.
The Shop operates using points which you can buy offline. When you first get your DSi XL 1000 points are credited to your account, allowing you to download "DSi Ware" which comprises applications and games. Some DSi Ware is free with others coming in at 200, 500 or more points.
There are applications such as flashlights to download or games such as Yummy Cooking Jam which my daughter enjoys.
When my daughter first informed me a new version of the DSi was coming out I was wary, but she dragged me into Game where videos were shown previewing the new console. I must admit at this point I was curious as I could see the console was clearly aimed at the older user - and I am sure the fact Brain Training is pre-installed was a carefully considered decision by Nintendo.
My daughter of course was more concerned about something she could play her "Animal Crossing" on easily but I decided to buy myself a copy of the DS "100 Classic Book Collection" as I saw something she missed - the console could be used to pass the time not just playing video games - but reading and puzzling on too.
However before we started anything, we had to set the DSi XL up - which was simplicity itself. Linking it up to the wifi at home was easy and my daughter entered some personal information to ensure the console recognised her.
I decided to be brave and see how I got on with the "100 Classic Book Collection" and was impressed from the start.
Because the console is larger than previous incarnations of the DS, the screen size is large enough to use as a reader.
Depending upon if you are left or right handed, you choose your orientation before you start to read. You can also change the font size which is useful if you struggle with smaller print.
You do need to use the stylus to "turn the page" with this particular "game" and you have to be aware that each page consists of two paragraphs at most but it's a novel way to read classic books and more to the point a good space saving way of owning them.
I was happy to read the books with the console on the lowest brightness setting but obviously different circumstances may find you having to change this.
I also had a go at the Brain Training game which is included in the console. I must admit from the start I failed to get to grips with this leading to me having a brain age significantly older than my (admittedly already pretty old) real age.
I did enjoy playing it however and it's something I found great fun - I enjoy puzzles and memory games and while I wasn't particularly successful at first I soon got the hang of things leading to my brain age significantly reducing, much to my relief.
The stylus contacts well with the touchscreen and most of the time my handwriting was easily recognized by the game.
I think I would struggle to play this game on a smaller DS or DSi however - the pen stylus makes games where writing is required far easier for those of us with stiffer fingers for instance, never mind the larger screen makes it easier to read what is on there.
Battery life on the console is good - with a maximum of 13 to 17 hours on the lowest brightness setting and a minimum of 4 to 5 hours on the highest setting. We really notice a difference in being able to easily change the brightness setting on the DSi - this was something that wasn't as easy to do on the DS Lite.
If you are a hardcore gamer, I don't believe the DS consoles would be for you - there is something both juvenile and feminine about them really.
However the DSi XL seems to be seeking out a newer audience - that of the older consumer - someone who isn't necessarily interested in playing Mario Kart but does enjoy crossword puzzles or a bit of brain training.
The console comes with a regular DS stylus but the pen stylus is far more comfortable to use and for me anyway, is a step in the right direction for making these consoles easier to use for the older generation who haven't grown up on video games.
I appreciate I am something of a luddite in the gaming world - most of my experience of video games comes from buying them for my daughter and setting some of them up for her, as well as playing them with her on occasion, although I admit that most of the time I find the experience an alien one.
I have to say however that I thoroughly enjoyed using the DSi XL for an altogether more sedate way of passing the time - using it to read books was pleasant, as was doing the brain training and I shall be buying a crossword game for it in the near future - assuming my daughter lets me near the console of course!
The only bad thing I can really say about the DSi XL is to point out that the XL doesn't just extend to the screen - the entire console is significantly larger than the original DS meaning you can't just slip this in your pocket, except, of course, if you have a really big pocket.
I do, however, have to extend my gratitude to Nintendo for not changing the style of the power jack from the original DSi. I found it infuriating and pointless when they changed the power jack socket on the DSi from that on the DS Lite and had been expecting a similar design change on this console, leading to me having to shell out for another spare charger, so it was a pleasant surprise to see I didn't need to.
So in conclusion if you haven't been a huge gamer for much of your life and are curious about video games, the DSi XL is a great place to start - especially if your fingers aren't as nimble as they once were or your eyesight not as sharp.
If gaming is a matter of life and death to you however, perhaps you should look elsewhere.
The Nintendo DSi XL retails at around the £159 mark.
Typical, this came out just after we had all three of us treated ourselves to a Lite each..not sure we will bother upgrading as we really only use them to alleviate the boredom at airports and the like...they are good fun though !