Nintendo 3DS vs Nintendo DSi: Is 3D Worth the Cost?

By Louis Ramirez, dealnews senior feature writer

Like it has done with its mascot, Mario, Nintendo has rebooted its DS handheld multiple times. In the latest 3DS incarnation, Nintendo is betting hard on 3D gaming, but is the new handheld a gimmick? Or is Nintendo trailblazing the future of mobile gaming? Find out in our DS gadget battle. The winner in each category of comparison is marked in bold.

Nintendo 3DS vs Nintendo DSi

Nintendo 3DS
Nintendo DSi
3.5" 800x240 (3D)
3" 320x240 (touch)
3.25" 256x192
3.25" 265x192 (touch)
One inner
two rear
One inner
one rear
8 ounces
7.5 ounces
Other features
Circular pad, multiplayer, voice chat, browser, motion/gyro sensor, 3D slider, SD card slot, 3D picture-taking, augmented reality games
D-pad, multiplayer, voice chat, browser, SD card slot
5 - 8 hours (non 3D content)
3 - 5 hours (3D content)
9 - 14 hours
*Amazon preorder includes a $25 credit.
**Based on our last deal on dealnews.

Old vs New
Hardware-wise, the 3DS easily trumps the DSi. The screens are bigger, they offer a better resolution and they now support 3D games (without the need for 3D glasses). The 3DS also has better features, such as stereo cameras (for taking 3D photos), support for augmented reality games and coming this summer, support for Netflix streaming.

However, there are three factors that keep the 3DS from completely dusting its predecessor — price, battery life, and 3D performance. Some kind of price jump is expected from a new gadget, but keep in mind that you can practically buy two DSi systems for the price of one 3DS. (Based on our last Nintendo DSi deal, since expired.) While we expect the price to drop as better deals arrive (we just listed a Nintendo 3DS Handheld Game System preoder with a $25 credit for $250), battery life, however, is unlikely to improve, which is a shame considering this handheld is designed for on-the-go use.

More troubling is the handheld's performance. Although its received praise from the likes of CNET, PC Mag, and Engadget, practically every review has mentioned 3D performance is hit or miss and very sensitive to viewing angles. That's not what you want to hear from any device promising a 3D experience. Early adopters should also keep in mind that this is a first-generation handheld. That means it may take a while before we see any must-have titles that truly take advantage of the 3DS' features.

If you're a hardcore on-the-go gamer, the DS is the platform to play on. No PSP or iPod touch can get in the way of that. However, we still recommend you wait until deals on the 3DS start coming in, even if that means hanging out with your old system until Black Friday. However, casual gamers who live in a 99-cent Angry Birds-driven world — you're better off passing on the 3DS altogether.

An avid gadget lover, Louis Ramirez has covered technology for Gizmodo, CNET, Laptop, and various other publications. Follow him on Twitter — @LouisRamirez. You can also sign up for an email alert for all dealnews features.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).


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