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Nintendo DS Lite: What Makes Nintendo DS Lite Better Than Other Consoles?

Nintendo DS Lite: It’s a great addition to the Japanese behemoth’s already lauded line of portable consoles, with improvements such as a smaller footprint and lighter weight, as well as a redesigned button layout, enhanced graphics performance, and a relocated stylus holder.

So, if you haven’t yet experienced the wonders of dual-screened entertainment — games played on a pair of screens, one on top and one below, and controlled with a stylus or d-pad and buttons — now is your opportunity.

However, the improvements to the machine are largely superficial, providing players with a less bulky, more fashionable option for playing games like New Super Mario Bros. or Magnetica. If that’s the worst that existing fans have to say about it, it’s clear that the DS platform will continue to sell well (it’s already sold 17 million units throughout the world). Don’t forget to count your blessings. This is not just another N-Gage QD.

Features and Design

nintendo ds lite

We’ll get to the good news for those who have already been duped into buying a Game Boy Advance (GBA), Game Boy Advance SP, Game Boy Micro, or the freshly announced, brighter-screened GBA SP upgrade in a minute. DS Lite is similar to other such minor updates in that it is strongly suggested but not required.

The system is compatible with all Nintendo DS games, including Brain Age and Metroid Prime: Hunters has built-in WiFi for online play, and can even run Game Boy Advance games as a bonus. You still get two displays (the bottom one is touch-sensitive) and a microphone (players may interact with some games by speaking or blowing into it, such as Nintendogs or Feel the Magic XY/XX).

While the console’s original chrome case provided ample protection for the electronics, it has now been replaced with a cheaper-looking, almost iPod-Esque, milky-colored plastic shell that readily shows scratches and fingerprint smudges.

This means that the DS Lite is still as travel- and jungle gym-friendly as ever, despite only being available in a single color, which Nintendo calls Polar White (Japanese models come in Enamel Navy and Ice Blue, European ones are black). The stylist should think about splurging and importing a unit from overseas through sites like eBay or Lik-Sang.com because the gadget is region-free, meaning that you can play games from any location.

However, let’s not beat the bush: The first generation Nintendo DS was bulky, unsightly, and a hassle to lug along on holidays and other extended journeys. It wasn’t so much a case of less form, but more function due to the device’s clumsy design, which included an unfinished user interface and connections and pieces that seemed to be placed at random around the base. To put it bluntly, in order to meet the Christmas shipping deadline (November 2004), engineers had to improvise a solution, putting sales and marketing ahead of industrial design.

It doesn’t help that we all know the highlighted games are entertaining and original. However, playing them is a workout in itself, as anybody who has attempted to get their hands around the massive gizmo and its very addicting games — not to mention handle the 9.7oz beast for a lengthy amount of time — will confirm.

That’s why the DS Lite isn’t just a bonus; it’s a need, as it’s the result of a hardware retooling that delivers improvements in every single area. If you’re like me and you’re trying to fit the gadget into a pair of men’s size 32 pants, then you know it’s going to be a huge success. Or, without developing a grasp that might crush walnuts, wrap the slender fingers of those of us who are 5’8″ or less around the unit’s d-pad, four face buttons (A, B, X, Y), and left/right shoulder triggers.

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Setup and Use

nintendo ds lite

And therefore, disregard the DS Lite’s shortcomings: Do anything groundbreaking in terms of interactive features, game quality, software performance, or cutting-edge 3D graphics for the PlayStation Portable (PSP).

Instead, you should center your attention on the system’s advancements, which improve the quality of the game as a whole, increase the handheld’s visibility, and make it a more appealing companion on business travels. Less likely to draw unwanted attention, even if you’re one of the 3 million people who enjoy head-to-head 802.11b wireless multiplayer matches at McDonald’s via Nintendo’s WiFi Connection service, the gadget also makes butt-bouncing walking mushrooms and blowing alien spaceships sky-high a real treat.

The Nintendo DS Lite is about two-thirds the size of the original DS at 5.2 by 2.9 by 0.85 inches (W x H x D), compared to the Nintendo DS at 5.85 by 3.33 by 1.13 inches (W x L x D). As an added bonus, the portable device is only 7.6 ounces in weight, which is around 20% less than comparable options.

While both systems’ screens measure in at 3 inches and their respective cartridge and card slots are located in identical places, the DS Lite’s cartridge and card mounting parts close with a much cleaner click. The Nintendo DS Lite’s clamshell form is far more aesthetically attractive than the original DS’s top-mounted flip-screen that sits awkwardly piled onto a broader base when shut.

Game Boy Advance games, which are placed into the bigger Nintendo DS through a front-facing slot and fit snugly inside the device, protrude substantially from the DS Lite’s comparable port. While not a deal-breaker, it is an example of cost-cutting that deserves attention and makes one question what more could have been done to enhance the unit’s design and form factor. (Hope against hope that there won’t be any more updates for a while, because it’ll hurt your wallet.)

However, this is the first time you’ll receive a complimentary white plastic dust cover that plugs into the slot. Whether or not you’ll really remember to use it after the first ten minutes after buying the gadget is debatable, but it’s great to know that you have the option.

The UI of the system has also been reorganized, with some buttons moving and others being moved to new locations. We can all agree that this is a positive development.

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Nintendo DS Lite Comparison

The microphone port, once situated towards the base’s bottom on the side facing up, has been moved to the intersection of the upper and lower displays, where it is more conveniently positioned. Once again, stereo speakers are located on either side of the display screen on the top half of the gadget, and despite their reduced size, they deliver the same powerful sound and high audio quality as their predecessors.

The front-facing volume control switch has been upgraded with plastic ribbing and a bigger nub to make it more user-friendly. Similarly, the start and choose buttons have been moved from the base’s top right to the face’s upper right, where they are now square. This change has made it simpler to press the circular keys that are arranged vertically below the buttons.

The power button, originally located above the d-pad, has been relocated to the unit’s right side, where it is more conveniently within reach. The stylus has expanded in length, and the overall design is more comfortable to hold. In a welcome change from its previous location on the back of the gadget, the slot for it is now adjacent to the power switch. Additionally, the L and R triggers on the back are more compact and sensitive.

However, the four different screen brightness settings are of major importance since they may be utilized to increase readability in a variety of lighting circumstances.

Increase the brightness, and you’ll see some minor yet striking distinctions. Everything in the game comes to life, with vibrant colors and sharper details, including every frame of the exquisite animation you had been missing.

Comparing it to viewing a film or newscast on a CRT TV against a 1080p-ready plasma HDTV is like comparing apples and oranges. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap for the Game Boy Advance and the DS-exclusive Advance Wars: Dual Strike both proved to be pleasant surprises upon our return. Everything we played seemed more polished, sharper, and more impressive as a result.

Strangely, unlike the freshly revamped Game Boy Advance SP, there is no brightness control given. (We were devastated to learn this while playing World Poker Tour on the back patio in the brief moments of sunshine). Before you can load any given title, you’ll need to adjust the screen’s brightness by touching the sun icon in the screen’s bottom left corner. Join us in a unified “WTF?!”


  •   Featherweight alternative to DS
  •        Multiple screen brightness levels
  •         Slick aesthetic
  •         Redesigned button layout
  •        Still tops for innovation


  • No light switch
  •       Available in a single color
  •      GBA games protrude from the front
  •       The case attracts fingerprints, scratching

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But we’re not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. The DS Lite delivers on its promises despite certain interface issues and the fact that its outside cover is vulnerable to damage and the accumulation of dirt and grime. The console’s unusual, artistically-gifted games (Electroplankton, Trauma Center, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, etc.) may now be enjoyed in the utmost luxury and ease.

There isn’t a better portable gaming system out there, what with its present selection of hot applications, future Web surfing and audio/video playback features, and growing support for online voice chat. But in terms of innovation and adaptability, the PSP is still ahead of the pack.

On the basis of sheer fun alone, though, the DS Lite offers the greatest and most exciting gaming experience currently available. In addition, the GBA SP’s durability and low pricing make it a strong contender alongside its sibling product.

Those who have been on the fence about purchasing a portable should seize the day, and a backup unit, while they can. But those who have already spent money on the first-generation Nintendo DS can take their time if they choose, even if it is strongly recommended that they do so.

Even though the DS Lite isn’t something you’ll hear anybody recommend, consider it this way. During these generally carefree days of sun, fun, and leisurely lounging by the pool, this is a fantastic method to keep your thumbs in form and reduce the bulk of your carry-on.

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