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The DSi is the third iteration of Nintendo's popular dual-screen handheld gaming system. It boasts a number of new features -- twin cameras and audio playback, for example -- that make it more of a personal entertainment device than a mere handheld games machine.
It's available now for around £150.
On first inspection, the DSi looks almost identical to the DS Lite, but there are several key differences. Although slightly longer and wider than the Lite, the DSi is 12 per cent thinner. It also trades the Lite's glossy black finish (the Lite and DSi are also available in white) for a grainy, matte black that virtually eliminates fingerprint smudging and gives it an almost retro aesthetic.
The DSi sports two cameras. The first of these lives on the outside of the clamshell lid, facing away from the user, while the other lives on the hinge, facing the user. The left side of the device boasts a couple of digital volume adjuster switches, while the right sports an SD card reader. Gone is the Game Boy Advance cartridge slot that lives on the bottom of the Lite.
The speaker grilles on the Lite, which consist of six small holes on either side of the uppermost screen, now take the form of two single, oval-shaped openings, which help to deliver louder, clearer sound. The DSi's twin screens are 83mm (3.25 inches) across the diagonal -- an improvement on the 76mm (3-inch) displays on the Lite.
The DSi sports a new, improved menu system, reminiscent of Apple's Cover Flow interface on the iPod touch and iPhone. The lower display shows a series of horizontally grouped icons -- each representing an application -- and a speech bubble above the centre-most icon, explaining its function. Icons can be browsed by swiping a finger, or the stylus, horizontally across the display.
The most useful icon will probably be the one for running whatever game you've inserted into the console's main slot, but other applications -- specifically designed for and pre-installed on the DSi -- will catch your eye long before you've launched any games.
The first of these, DSi Sound, allows you to record audio with the built-in microphone and then -- if it pleases you -- modify the speed and pitch of the recording until it either sounds like a chipmunk or a Dalek with a sore throat. It's utterly pointless.
More usefully, DSi Sound doubles as an audio player for your digital music collection. The system is capable of playing files encoded in the AAC format -- the same format used by Apple for its iPods. As a result, it's compatible with DRM-free iTunes Plus tracks, which is commendable. But it lacks compatibility with MP3 files, which -- from our perspective -- makes the application almost redundant, unless you're willing to convert your MP3 collection to the AAC format. The amount of music you can store depends entirely on the size of the SD/SDHC card you've bought to go with the console.