It seems like nearly every gadget--computers, cell phones, even gaming systems--can browse the Web these days. Sony's PlayStation 3 and PSP both have Web browsers, and even the Nintendo Wii has its own browser-based "Internet Channel," developed by Norway's Opera Software. Opera--whose embedded browsers appear in many consumer electronics devices--now brings Web browsing to Nintendo's ultra-popular DS portable systems. The software lets you surf the Web on the DS and DS Lite, but the resulting experience isn't as good as you'd expect on a system with a touch screen and a fairly sizable display.The software itself is included on a cartridge that fits into the GameBoy slot on the DS. Separate versions are available for the original "phat" Nintendo DS and the smaller DS Lite, the only difference being that the cartridges fit flush to the bodies of those respective systems. Both versions are currently available in Europe and Asia, and are expected to retail for $40 or less when they hit North American store shelves on June 4. Once you pop in the cartridge and boot up, getting online is generally easy. Connections are set up through the DS' Wi-Fi Connection Menu, which can access both public and private hotspots, and DS-only hotspots created through the Nintendo Wi-Fi USB Connector. We easily connected both to an open router and through the USB connector, and started loading Web pages within just a few minutes. The office Wi-Fi network was another story. Like many public access points, our office Wi-Fi network uses a splash page to register uses. It's nothing fancy--just click on the "I accept" button and it registers most wireless devices and lets them access the Web normally. Unfortunately, the DS Lite simply couldn't register with our network; the program would drop the connection right after clicking "I accept." In other words, if you're going to go online through your own router or the Nintendo USB connector, you shouldn't have any problem with the DS Opera browser. If you're planning to use public hot spots, however, you should be prepared for some frustration. The browser offers two primary screen modes for reading pages. Overview Mode shows the zoomed-out page on one screen and the full-size page on the other. In this mode, pages can be navigated by dragging the stylus around to move the zoomed-in area. The X button swaps the pages, quickly flipping between zoomed-out stylus navigation and zoomed-in stylus clicking. When you're done sliding the stylus around and browsing your page, just press X and you can tap the stylus to click on links and interact with other HTML objects. Pages viewed in Overview Mode rendered almost perfectly, with their layouts and graphics (at least, their non-Flash-based graphics) kept intact.
The Good Good presentation of non-Flash Web pages; fairly robust interface makes good use of touch screen and stylus.
The Bad No Flash; very slow browsing; problems with certain hot spots.
The Bottom Line The Nintendo DS and DS Lite do a lot of things well, but Web browsing isn't one of them. Give this slow, Flashless Web browser a pass.