Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Nintendo DS Lite (Japanese Import Enamel Navy) review

Update (14/06): added some comparison pictures

After about two months of usage I have decided that I had enough experience to pen down my DS Lite review on the eve of the UK release (about two weeks to go folks!). Read my first impression here. Note that this review is based on a Japanese import device (enamel navy variant) but the European version should be 99.9% identical.


Shoulder buttons are only slightly smaller. (DS courtesy of MoMo)

The DS Lite is small. I mean like really small. While you may find yourself embarrassed to whip out an old DS when traveling on the Tube, with the DS Lite you won't have that excuse anymore. I have no problems with the size although people with big palms may. It also happened to be smaller than the DS Lite's main rival - Sony's PSP (although the PSP has a larger screen). However while it is small, it is still considerable bigger when compared to Nintendo's last generation portable machines - the Gameboy Advance SP and Gameboy micro.

It is only slightly bigger than a Game & Watch. Seriously! (Mickey Mouse G&W courtesy of Jennifer)


While the DS Lite is lighter than the old DS, it somehow feels heavier in my hands. This is probably due to the weight distribution and the fact that it seems more 'solid'. It feels nice and comfortable. You won't have a problem playing on this.


X, Y, A, B = button mashing aplenty

The DS Lite buttons are based on the Gameboy micro buttons. The d-pad has gotten a little bit smaller which may pose problems with people who has large fingers. It is based on the same streamlined design featured on the Gameboy micro as well as the WiiMote.

The buttons aren't as clicky as the those on the old DS and has a nice spongy feel to them. Also note that the power button has moved to the side and is now a Sony style flip switch. This is to prevent accidental power offs. It isn't perfect though. The power switch once got caught by a stray thread inside my jacket, which turned my DS Lite off - thus wiping out my previous standby!


The glossy finish, while nice to look at, may pose a problem to those who like their device all clean. The fact is the DS Lite, with its two layer finish (colour on the bottom and clear finish on the top), is a fingerprint magnet. This is a similar problem experienced by Sony PSP owners. If fingerprints are an issue get the white version. I do hope Nintendo will release a matte magnesium version.

MKDS! Yah-hoo!


Probably the single biggest reason to upgrade are the new and improved screens. Both the backlit screens have four level brightness setting with the lowest similar to that of the old DS. The colour saturation is wonderful and you will find that every games sports a level of clarity not seen on the old DS. Colours are now vibrant whereas on the old DS colours were washed out.

Full Brightness Lite Vs Only Brightness DS.

I have no idea if the screens are transreflective or reflective but at the highest brightness you will have no problem playing outdoors. Playing under the sun however is still impossible.

Pixel perfection: Ouendan!!!

Unfortunately there are reports that some DS Lites are marred by 'dead' pixels. Both mine and Jennifer's has no dead pixels although both of ours are suffering from what I call 'semi-dead' pixel. The pixel work fine and changes colour accordingly, but somehow light from the backlit can be seen through the pixel edge. It can get annoying especially in certain situations in Animal Crossing: Wild World (where the top screen is void of any action).

Nintendo of America has a no question ask dead pixel return policy but I doubt retailers in Europe would honour such complaints. Best to check your retailer's return policy or ask that the unit be tested BEFORE you hand over your money.

Battery Life

With the new brighter screens battery life will take a hit if you decide to leave the brightness setting at its highest. Nintendo quoted 5-9 hours of battery life at the brightest setting. While I have no way of proving their quote, I find myself only needing to charge the Lite once every 2-3 days. That is pretty good. At the lowest brightness setting the battery seems to last much longer than the batteries on the old DS.

Note that the DS Lite uses a differently shaped battery (due to its larger capacity) to the old DS and that the charging slot is different to the old DS and Gameboy micro's charging slot. A mark down for Nintendo's insistent on using proprietary charging slots.


Top to Bottom: HTC Wizard, HTC Magician, DS Lite, Cross Micropen for Palm V/m5xx (all stock stylus except for the Cross Micropen)

The stylus silo has moved to the side of the body and is now much larger. The new stylus is similar to a Palm V stylus in terms of thickness although it is slightly shorter. Apart from that there is nothing to rave about the stylus. It is made of cheap plastic and the finish matches the colour of the DS Lite. A spare stylus is also included.


The DS Lite has the usual quality stereo speakers embedded into the top lid and rivals that of a even an average priced notebook speakers. Unfortunately the sound isn't as loud but it works just fine (you can always connect to an external speaker like what I did in the picture below). You can even use the DS Lite as a portable DAP player if you wish (provided you have a GBA flash cart).

Super Mario Bros speaker not included! (Mario speaker courtesy of Jennifer)

GBA slot

As you have probably known by now, while the GBA slot retains full compatibility with all Gameboy Advance cartridge and accessories, it is now about half the size. About 1cm of a normal GBA cart will protrude out. With an old DS you can slot in an old GBA cart to keep the dust out but doing so on the Lite will ruin the streamlined look.

It's dinky. And it comes with matching colour too!

Fortunately Nintendo bundled a GBA filter cart that covers the new slot. It even has connectors inside them to provide a better fit! Contrary to popular belief the GBA filter cart has no working electronic hardware inside them. It is merely a piece of plastic to keep dirt out.


All Nintendo DS Lite systems are compatible with Gameboy Advance games and Nintendo DS games from Japan, North America and Europe. I am a little concern that the huge Warioware Twisted cart may not work properly due to its size (it may just fling out during gaming). Anyone care to confirm? Apart from that they should all work fine. Even the original Rumble Pak works on the Lite.

Zelda Minish Cap. Best. GBA. Game. Ever. Works on the DS Lite too.


While the Japanese got three colours, we in Europe would only be getting two colours, which while is still a little stingy, is at least one more than Americans and Aussies would be getting. Yes folks, Europe would also be getting black - officially now the most sought after DS Lite variant - and the normal white version. There are now four variants of the DS Lite:

White - Japan, North America, Europe, Australia
Black - Europe exclusive
Ice Blue - Japan exclusive
Enamel Navy - Japan exclusive

I hate speculating but I am sure we will eventually see more DS Lite variants on the market. My hope is too eventually buy a Zelda gold or Mario Kart red DS Lite.

Old DS

If you care about your Mario Kart or Metroid Prime Hunters record, DO NOT trade in your old DS until you have the chance to transfer your WiFi ID to your spanking new DS Lite. It is pretty easy to transfer the ID but if you have problems check out this excellent guide by 4colorrebellion.

CEX is also buying old DS for a mind boggling 45 squid CASH which is more than the £40 trade in value that GAME is offering. Last I checked eBay DSes were going for roughly £30-35 so its best to just sell it to CEX. Hopefully CEX will keep buying back old DSes well after the Lite is released.

No DS yet?

What are you waiting for?

PSP owner

CEX them and use the funds towards your DS Lite purchase.

Two months later

The outside case is now pretty much dominated by scuffs but isn't a huge issue to me. You can always buy a polisher from your local hardware store. On the inside the paint seems to be exhibiting signs of wear. especially the area around the d-pad and face buttons. Again not really an issue for me. Buttons are as spongy as ever and still plays great.


Any objections?

If you are a fan of portable gaming there is NO reason not to get a DS Lite. If you have a DS then you should eventually upgrade to the new Lite. It is criminal not to. If you are one of those who constantly moaned that the old DS was too 'kiddie', well your criticism has become invalid. Games are hardly kiddies especially with softwares like Brain Training, Trauma Center and Phoenix Wright clearly targeted at adults.

Better spongy face buttons
Beautiful and brighter screen
New slimmer and lighter design
Battery life improvement
Better stylus

Glossy look (fingerprint magnet)
GBA carts stick out


Anonymous said...

Nice review!

Strokes white DS lite.

RichardAM said...

Awesome. I've always wanted one, naturally, but this review just has me eager to buy one all the more!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the CeX tip! I had a preorder down for GAME to trade-in but since they are offering £56 exchange I will just trade in for some games.

Nice review BTW! I can't wait to get a black one myself!

Jon Choo said...

Ano: Strokes *special* enamel DS. :P

Richard: Damn well you should! :)

Mario fan: If you can get one. Rumours has it that a whole container of black DS Lite has gone missing in Hong Kong. Bloody hongkies.

Anonymous said...

I just bought a polar white DS Lite. It is amazing how small the thing is I finally ditch my white PSP. LOL!

DS Lite FTW!

Harmunt said...

Got two whites this morning - one for me, one for the missus.

Fantastic step up from my original DS.

A Young said...

This is a pretty good and general review of the ds lite. I just recently got mines a few days ago and it is great so far. I was looking around and I was wondering if you know anything about an organizer of some sort (even hear rumors posted long time ago about having Palm OS) being on the NDS. It would be awesome to turn this thing into a palm. Let me know if you hear anything.

Jon Choo said...


I really doubt Nintendo will release a PalmOS cart (even if I wish they would). The closest there is to an organiser is DSOrganize, a homebrew application:

It's quite basic and would require a flash cart.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am interested to know whether your Imported Lite suffers from the broken hinge issue. Thanks in advance.

Anonymous said...

Great review. I am getting one for myself. A treat for xmas.

Anonymous said...

Great review, finally someone with some clear and honest information about the DS Lite! Genius work :D

You're convincing but terrible for pursuading me to spend all of my money..

Thanks though!

Jon Choo said...

Thanks. Go ahead, it is a great purchase.

Garpu said...

Hi! Noticed you have a Japanese import DS do you handle power conversion for it? I'm considering getting an ice blue one for use (primarily) in the US, although I travel a lot.

Jon Choo said...

The Japanese power plug is identical to the US 2-pin power plug so I doubt you will need anything. You could always buy a local DS Lite adaptor from a games store.

If you want to use this in Europe you will need a step down converter, or again just buy a proper DS Lite adaptor from any stores. They are pretty cheap.

Garpu said...

Thanks! It's probably cheaper to buy new adapters, depending on where I'm going to be...

Jon Choo said...

Glad to be of help.

BTW, I checked my Japanese DSL charger and the model is USG-002, which is also a North American charger.