More expensive Nintendo DSi or cheaper DSlite for a child? And why?
November 16, 2009 6:43 AM   Subscribe

Kind and generous relatives have offered to buy our children (8 + 5) Nintendo DS's for Christmas. They've seen a special offer on (unused) DS-lites but I'm wondering whether to suggest that we pay part of it so they can get (the newer and more expensive) DSi's instead. Would greatly appreciate advice from gamers and parents of child gamers out there - thank you!

(We're in the UK, if that makes any difference.)

From what my google-fu has been able to tell me, there's not much difference between the DS-lite and DSi. The consensus seemed to be that if you had the old one, there was no point getting the newer one. Doesn't quite help here, though.

My inclination would be to get the newer one simply because it's the newer one and there's the possibility that in the future new games won't run on the old one. But something a bit more concrete would be helpful!

Particular issues -

1. I think all games at the moment cam play on both consoles. Are new (children's) titles coming out in the next 6 months or so likely to remain that way, or will we start to see DSi-only games? Particularly wondering about things like erm the Lego Harry Potter game due out in the spring (they're addicted to (a) Lego and (b) Harry Potter so would be really sad if they couldn't play it.)

2. I heard the newer ones have wifi, which would be fun at home - what cane they actually do on the internet with their little screens?

3. Are the newer models less sturdy or is there not much in it? (Neither child is particularly clumsy).
posted by monster max to Technology (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You may start to see DSi-only titles in the next year or so, but the install base on the older models is so huge I can't imagine this becoming too common.

Older DS and DSLites have WiFi for internet play. They also had a web browser cartridge you could purchase to surf the web on your DS. It worked about as well as you think it would :) With the DSi you can also buy some 'mini-games' online. This would require a credit card and parental involvement. These are usually not fully featured titles, but there are some cute options. They're called DSIWare games

I think they;ll be fine. I battered my DS and DSi. For what it's worth, the majority of common repairs (Cracked screens etc.) can be done at home with a jewelers screwdriver and a steady hand. Parts are cheap. I used to make a little scratch buying up broken DSes and restoring them to health. I'm not sure if this is still the case with the DSi.

That said, with the little camera etc., there is more to break.

Honestly, I'd offer to pitch in and get the DSi. The price difference is so slight if you're buying new that you'd be crazy not to.

FYI: There is yet ANOTHER model coming out THIS year in Japan and NEXT year in Europe/USA called the DSi-XL. It has a slightly larger screen. I wouldn't hold out for it, but! That's the score.
posted by GilloD at 6:53 AM on November 16, 2009

I forgot! If they have any Game Boy Advance games, the DS Lite has a slot to play those. The DSi DOES NOT. Repeat: The DS Lite can play Game Boy Advance games, the DSi CANNOT!

If they don't, then proceed as normal.
posted by GilloD at 6:57 AM on November 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

I have a DS, not a DSi, but this is what I know about them:

The DSi is newer, shinier, has bigger screens, has a camera, has a built-in web browser and music player and online store and so on.

The reason someone might prefer a DS is that the DS has a second slot that will accommodate Game Boy Advance games; the DSi does not play GBA. There are a lot of GBA games out there, available used for dirt-cheap, and a lot of them are things kids like a lot, like Pokemon. (Kids like Pokemon, right?) So the DS is, in a sense, more backwards-compatible than the DSi.

They both support WiFi, actually -- but the DS only does WEP and I believe the DSi does WPA. Though web browsers exist for the DS, they come built in on the DSi and the WPA support is a good thing. Many games also have some online component; you can trade your Pokemon over the internet or what have you. (I recall hearing that older DS games still require WEP even if you're playing on a DSi, but I defer to someone with more experience.) The DS (and probably the DSi) also has a kind of local wireless that connects to other DSes with a range of about 20 feet; I enjoy using the DS' PictoChat application to send messages this way. There are some games that you can use this to play co-op on; one person has the cartridge (some games say both people need one) and the two of you can play together.

The last I heard, there weren't any DSi-exclusive games (though there may have been one only in Japan). The DSi does have downloadable games available on an online store, and I hear some of them are fun. I'm pretty sure all the Lego games are DS-friendly.
posted by sineala at 7:01 AM on November 16, 2009

The GBA slot in the DS Lite is a huge advantage.

Especially if the kids like Pokemon, because you can upload all your Pokemon from FireRed/LeafGreen (GBA games) into Diamond/Pearl/Platinum (DS), which is the easiest way by far to get your old-school Kanto Pokemon (Bulbasaur, Charmander, Squirtle) and your newfangled Sinnoh guys (Turtwig, Chimchar, Piplup) onto the same game. Of course if they are not into Pokemon none of this matters, but if they are this is pretty important.

my dorkiness, let me show you it
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:50 AM on November 16, 2009

I had a DS lite and now have a DSi. I wouldn't have upgraded, but I dropped my DS lite and it snapped. My hubby surprised me with the DSi.

Whatever you decide there are Nerf brand protectors that you can buy for either the DS lite or the DSi, they cost about $15US. GET THESE. It would have saved my DS lite. They are amazing. I have one on my DSi and I can't imagine giving a DS to a 5 year old without it.

The biggest plus for getting the DSi (in my opinion) is that you can download games that stay on the DS. Once you get started you are given 1000 Nintendo points to use in the Nintendo Shop. I bought Dr. Mario and Sudoku, and no matter what cartridge I have in at the time I can switch between the cartridge and those other two games. It makes it handy when I just want to grab my DS and not all my other games. You can purchase more Nintendo points online, and I think they can also be used for Wii stuff too (I don't have a Wii, so I don't know for sure.) There are also some games for free. I downloaded the two games and I still have 300 of the original 1000 points left. New games come out pretty much every week.

You can surf the web, but only to read websites. If you have to download anything to view the content it won't work. It also runs pretty slow.

The camera is fun, but I don't use it much. You're kids will probably go nuts with it though.

If it wouldn't be too awkward for you to pay the difference for the kids to get the DSi, I say go for it. It isn't so amazing that you'd want to upgrade if you have a DS lite, but since your kids are getting new ones I think it is well worth the extra cost to get the DSi.
posted by TooFewShoes at 7:54 AM on November 16, 2009

If only the DS Lite has a GBA slot, I would go with that. You can get many GBA games for fairly cheap, and there are a lot of great ones out there.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 7:58 AM on November 16, 2009

Repeating the concept that the ability to play GBA games with the Lite outweighs the DSi's special features, like DSiWare and a camera and music player. The GBA library is huge, cheap and full of games for 8 + 5 year olds.
posted by blueshammer at 8:18 AM on November 16, 2009

I'd go with the Lite. I love mine. The bigger screen isn't really any issue, because both the Lite ans the DSi have the same resolution; the bigger screen just means the game looks more pixelated and hence slightly worse. Your kids' healthy eyes will be fine with the slightly smaller screen. Having the GBA slot is a huge feature; there are so many good older games out there that can be had for peanuts. Plus, the Lite has such a huge user base that games will be available for years, if not decades (like the DBA games). Plus, the Lite is cheaper, and lets face it, kids are rough on their toys. If you do need to replace it, it's that much less of a hardship.
posted by cgg at 8:43 AM on November 16, 2009

Agree with the DS Lite being a great deal because of the GBA game compatibility AND get the Nerf protector case like TooFewShoes recommends. No way they are going to crack or break with all that foam padding, and they look cool, too. They come in lots of cool colors too.
posted by misha at 8:46 AM on November 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have an 8yr old. We bought him the DS Lite instead of the DSi because we didn't feel that he needed the built in camera or the additional net access. He wanted a DS for the game play. He's not the net savvy user that his father is. The GBA aspect is definitely a great feature that should have been included in the DSi. We also bought him the Nerf cover. It was totally worth it. As for the library of games currently available to the DS Lite, I assure you it is more than enough to keep you all entertained.
posted by onhazier at 9:54 AM on November 16, 2009

From what I understand from my two sons, the DSi doesn't support Edge. Which may be a problem or a bonus, depending upon your point of view.

For what it's worth, my youngest son (10 years old), got a DSi last xmas, but seems to prefer his Lite. Because it supports Edge, and can take older cartridges. My eldest son (12 years) is getting a new DS this xmas, and is going for the Lite, not DSi.

In total, these two boys will have been through half a dozen Lites, but only one DSi. This isn't so much about the consoles being fragile, as them being taken absolutely everywhere, with all the banging about that entails.
posted by veedubya at 10:15 AM on November 16, 2009

Something else to keep in mind: the battery life of the DSi is noticeably less than that of the DSLite. Between that and the DSi's lack of a GBA slot, I won't be 'upgrading' from my Lite anytime soon.
posted by alynnk at 10:44 AM on November 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Thanks for all the advice. Surprised to hear so many in favour of the older, cheaper model. I think the huge array of older games still available plus longer battery life plus cheaper (the difference isnt' trivial - it's £100 vs £140) outweighs the not-very-good camera and music (they have MP3 players for that!)

Really appreciate the wisdom of your experience, MeFites!
posted by monster max at 2:31 PM on November 16, 2009

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