Short Review: Nintendo DS

I think it's about time I wrote a hardware review again. :D I've chosen the Nintendo DS as my, um, victim. OK, so I have a DS. I decided that with the advent of the DS Lite, I should take this opportunity to grab a DS as the prices decline. :D First off, I believe a comparison is in order. There are reasons why I thought the PSP was higher on my 'to buy' list than the DS, and this picture shows it.


While arguably, my photo taking skills suck, this photo is merely to show you what I think Nintendo screwed up on the DS. As you can see, the screen is visibly worse. You think that PSP is on max brightness? Think again. That PSP is on minimum brightness.

Why did I use the flash? If I didn't, you wouldn't be able to see the difference. Some people might argue it doesn't matter, and a flash shouldn't be used in this comparison. It matters - a flash is a good test of which screen performs well in sunlight or very well lighted conditions - if the screen can't handle it, unfortunately you won't be seeing much.

Both screens have been protected with the exact same brand of screen protector - and I'm not kidding. Another grouch I have with the DS besides it's already simple firmware is it's shoddy volume control. I remember the days when my Game Boy volume was controlled by a wheel. But no, Nintendo had to use this sliding thing for a volume control. Trust me when I tell you that it is pretty worthless for controlling volume. My opinion is that the DS has 3 settings only - mute, some sound, really loud sound.

gba_slot_side.jpg (look to the left of the photo to see the volume control)

The buttons on the DS do feel a tad worse than the PSP's. However, it is still on par with old Game Boys and the main feature of the DS is the touch screen. It also features a built-in microphone, however I haven't seen too much creative use of it. Most of the time, you end up blowing into the microphone, and the only few games I know of which make use of voice recognition are Nintendogs and Brain Age. Needless to say, with the small capacity of DS media, these recognition engines are quite finicky, and can act strangely.

A lot of DS games make use of the touch screen, but there are a number which use it exclusively as a second screen. I have seen a few games make only trivial use of the second screen, but many of them use the second screen to great effect.

It uses the same charger (and I believe the battery is the same too) as the Game Boy Advance SP.


The DS game slot is small and behaves like a lot of new spring-loaded memory card slots do. The stylus is kept (not very firmly) in a small slot for it in the DS, but is very short (most certainly among the improvements in the DS Lite).

As with most things, I like to do media size comparisons: media_comparison.jpg

As you can see, the DS game (Mario Kart DS Australian version) is noticeably larger and thicker than ordinary memory cards like the MMC and MS Pro Duo next to it. It is still a lot smaller than the UMD which is used by the PSP, but I'd like to draw attention to that the fact is, a DS cartridge only can hold at most 1Gigabit (128MB) while all the other media in the photo can hold far more. The UMD is supposed to top off at 1.8GB.

While you might not think games need so much space on a portable, I believe the limitation of a DS cartridge might actually be the bane of developers - larger carts as I've heard mean slower transfer speeds on the DS. Note, that this review is tainted by my opinions. :D

Do I think the DS is a good gaming console? By all means - yes. The DS Download Play feature is amazing. While the feature is supposedly present on the PSP, I've yet to see any game use it. A lot of games support the DS Download-Play feature. A lot meaning really a lot. Sonic Rush, Mario Kart DS, Tetris DS, Polarium, Meteos, and the list goes on. The features rocks, period.

I certainly would like a browser of sorts for the DS, and maybe the ability to configure WiFi from within the basic firmware itself, rather than through a Nintendo WFC enabled game. That being said, I think Nintendo should watch out for design errors like those in the DS in any upcoming consoles. I'm not saying the DS is a bad buy, but I think that the DS Lite is a better bet if you are in the market for a DS to play DS games. And by the way, Metroid Prime Hunters is absolute pwnage when it comes to controls. :D