Should you buy the Nintendo DSi this holiday season? We asked some kids

Consumer Reports News: October 23, 2009 04:12 PM

When Nintendo debuted a new handheld gaming system—the DSi—last April, I knew I would have two highly convincing and eager boys (ages 8 and 9) to contend with. After the Nintendo hit the shelves, Zach and Jonah counted up their birthday money and allowance, and along with their current DS Lite systems, headed to a local gaming store to trade it all in for the latest DSi.

And with the holidays approaching, you may be wondering whether it’s worth the money to upgrade to another system, yet again. Here are some additional features that the DSi has that the 2006 model DS Lite lacks:

• Two cameras, which are used for taking pictures and video.  You can morph the shots into silly images of the person—such as making them wider or thinner, drawing on the person’s face, adding graphics and much more.
• A sound recorder used for recording voices (or any sounds) of your friends and family, and like the camera, you can leave it at that—or you can change the pitch and speed of the voices or sounds. Zach and Jonah both enjoy using this feature on unsuspecting adults, recording them on the sly (myself being one of the victims). They then play it back making me sound like a chipmunk or something out of a scary movie. Lucky for me, the recorder can only record up to 10 seconds of voice clips.

• A Web browser that allows you to check e-mail and surf the Web. But it won’t play video, so if you’re getting the DSi in hopes of checking out YouTube videos, this device isn’t for you. You might also want to set up Parental Controls (instructions available from so that you can control what sites your kids are able to access (similar to the way you would control your home computer).
• A convenient feature that I appreciate is the DSi Shop that you access from your DSi. Games are priced by points rather than a dollar amount. It comes out to a penny a point. You first buy the points (You can’t “earn” points; they must be purchased) to obtain games or applications from the store. Points can be purchased with a credit card directly from your DSi shop or you can buy a point card form your gaming store. Some parents (myself included) might be asking, “Why not just skip the point process and purchase the games directly?” But I won’t complain too much, since this feature still enables players to get more games and/ or applications without leaving the house (Read: No need to load everyone up just to go pick up a game).  Some games are available for free; others are 200, 500 and 800 points (in dollars that’s $2.00, $5.00 and $8.00).
• The DSi can be utilized in the way an MP3 player is (although my kids have yet to use this feature). You must first save your music to an SD card and the card is then inserted into the DSi. The SD card is not included and must be purchased separately (a 2 GB SD card will cost approx. $10-$14). Also, the format of the music has to be in AAC format.

How well does the new DSi hold a charge? Well that all depends on the brightness setting of your handheld. At its brightest, the DSi will last 3 to 4 hours, the DS Lite 5 to 8 hours. The lower the brightness the longer your charge will last. Along those lines, the DSi takes 2.5 hours to charge vs. the Lite’s 3 hours.

Additionally, you can continue to play most DS games that you may already have. It will not support Guitar Hero games or the Tony Hawk Motion game (because of additional accessories required for those games and no port in the DSi is available for them) and the DSi doesn’t accommodate either Game Boy or Game Boy Advance games (no slot for those either).

Zach says the “camera option is by far the best.” Jonah says he “likes the Web browser more than anything”. And occasionally, they’ll even play games on the DSi.

The DSi is currently available in 4 colors (black, light blue, pink, and white) and retails for $170.

—Ina Gozenpud, associate product analyst

For related content, see video game consoles and how to handle carsick kids.

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