Skip to main content

What is the Difference Between Nintendo DS Models?

Nintendo DS- Buy It to Touch It

The Nintendo DS is currently the top selling video game console on the market. Hard to believe? The latest numbers have the Nintendo hand held selling in excess of twenty-five million units, just in the United States alone. The DS is a bona fide sales monster, and don't expect the demand to shrink.

Nintendo has a long history of offering upgraded models of old hardware (Game Boy Color, anyone?), and the DS is no exception. Let's take a look at what they have floating out there. What is the difference between the old school, clunky DS systems and the sleeker, modern ones? What's the difference between the Nintendo DS and the Nintendo DSi?

Featuring the innovative stylus touch system, two separate screens, wifi for on the go multiplayer, and tons of other neat toys, the Nintendo DS is definitely the best portable system on the market.


DSi XL: The Latest and Greatest

Nintendo is never content to just let a piece of hardware be, especially not their portable hardware. After seeing the original DSi become a success, they've since released a superior version. Bigger and with a clearer screen, it is the largest DS released to date.

Differences between the DSi XL and the DSi

  • The DSi XL's screen is almost 100% larger than its slim cousin.
  • The DSi XL comes preloaded with a Brain Age software title.
  • The DSi is significantly lighter than the DSi XL
  • The original version has a better battery life, lasting around ten hours on a single charge when compared to the XL

All in all, other than the reduced batter life, the DSi XL is a significant upgrade all around. Like the DSi it features built in wireless, TWO cameras and other great features. They come in a variety of different colors.

If you are buying a DSi XL, be sure to get a new carrying case as well.  As the XL is larger than the other models, it is unlikely it will fit into any older, non-XL cases you might own.

Fatso vs the Lite

She ain't heavy, she's my vidyagame

She ain't heavy, she's my vidyagame

In the beginning (we were heavier)

The original DS is somewhat derisively refereed to as the DSfat in online circles, and for good reason. Compared to the newer models, it is thick, and clunky. While still reasonably sized for a portable system, it is nearly twice the width of the newest model, and quite a bit heavier too.

What really differentiates the two systems, though, is the original DS's lack of a backlit screen.What this means is, it will be difficult to see the action in low light conditions. If you're the type who only plays their portable systems in the sun, then this shouldn't concern you too much. However, if you're not a fan of only being able to play your consoles in the most optimal of climates, you might think twice about using the DSfat.

The original DS models are very rare, however. You will only see them in previously owned sales markets, such as eBay or Gamestop. So, ideally, you shouldn't have to worry too much about the limited features this older mode contains. Keep an eye out for it if you are going to buy used though. You might be in for a surprise if you aren't paying enough attention.

The DS Lite

If you're going out to buy a new DS, this is probably the one you're goig to end up with. The DS Lite is well, light and lit. Skinny, light weight, and with a newly redesigned button placement, the newest model of the Nintendo DS is a comfortable on-the-go gaming tool.

A backlit screen with four varying levels of brightness (Protip: keep it low to save your battery charge) let you play even in the blackest night. And isn't midnight out in a starless field when everyone wants to play Pokémon, anyway?

Like its big brother, the DS Lite is able to play all of your old Game Boy Advanced cartridges. There are also some great deals and alternate versions available, so check those out.

Bundles and Pretty Colors

Right now, Nintendo is still offering some great special bundles featuring some of their top games and specially modified DS Lites. Recalling the original cartrdige for their classic series, the Phantom Hourglass bundles comes with a copy of the latest Legend of Zelda game along with a shiny golden DS. Ladies (might) enjoy the pink Nintendogs pack. But don't let gender stereotyping stop you, buy whichever package makes your heart soar.


Hybridizing the DS: The Nintendo DSi

The newest Nintendo DS model is a one of a kind mix between a camera and a portable gaming system. The Nintendo DSi is an amazing system that shows just how innnovative Nintendo can be when designing their new systems. However, it is not the end all, be all of portable gaming systems. There may be a few reasons someone might want to choose a regular Nintendo DS vs. the Nintendo DSi.

Scroll to Continue

Nintendo DSi Pros

The DSiwill be continue slimming down, being a good ten percent skinnier than even the svelte Lite. Nintendo has made the ability to carry the DS with you anywhere one o their top priories, and it is paying off. If phones keep getting smaller, why not our systems?

But not everything is getting smaller. While the overall width has decreased, the screen size of your DSiwill be slightly larger than previous DS models. Previous models had a 3 inch screen while the Nintendo DSi has a 3.25 inch screen. From personal experience, the change is noticeable but only barely. It has very little effect on the actual gameplay.

But what really sets the DSi apart is the two cameras attached to the sleek chassis. If you weren't happy with having a digital camera, a camera phone, and a disposable from Walgreens in your bag, good news! Your DS can take pictures now. One is located on the outside of the hinged case to take quick snaps of friends, while another is located on the face near the screens, presumably to capture nerds in their natural habitat.

The camera's aren't just for taking photos though. Games are already beginning to use the Nintendo DSi camera in-game. Ghostwire for instance has players literally wandering around their apartments, using the Nintendo DSi to find apparitions hiding so they can take care of it. Other games like Wario Ware: Snapped and Monster Hunter are also making use of the camera. For those who want to be able to have the full Nintendo DS library at their finger tips, it looks like the DSi will be a must.

Nintendo DSi Cons

First of all, goodbye GBA! Nintendo officially discontinues support for the Game Boy Advance with the newest model as it will no longer support last-gen portable games. If this matters to you, then you might be better off sticking to the previous incarnations of the DS.

The real bad news is that all the added features are energy hogs, meaning the DSi will have a significantly reduced battery life. The DS has been renowned for its long battery life, and the limited longevity of our smaller, photographic new toy might not win it any fans.

The older models had a minimum battery life of 14 hours, but the DSi can run out of charge in only 9 depending on settings. Unfortunately, this is a pretty big draw back for a portable gaming system and one customers should strongly consider when choosing to buy a new Nintendo DSi.

  • Nintendo 3DS Launch Titles
    Interested in 3DS games? Read here to find out about the amazing titles slated to be released alongside the system opening day!

Differences Between The 3DS and Other Models

Debuting in March 2011, the Nintendo 3DS is set to revolutionize the video game industry. Featuring glasses free 3D visuals and unprecedented visual output, the 3DS creates a new benchmark that all other handheld systems have to live up to.

But how is the 3DS different from its ancestors? In addition to the obvious addition of 3D graphics, a number of changes have been made to the 3DS design that consumers should know about before they make their decision. Read on to find out about the changes to the Nintendo 3DS from the original Nintendo DS model.

Analog Control: In addition to the standard cross-shaped D-pad, the Nintendo 3DS will feature an analog thumbpad that will make it easier to control games which take advantage of 3D.

Screen Size: Although larger than the DS Lite, the 3DS does not have as large a screen as the DSi XL. That's still plenty big, though. The reason for the change is due to the width of the system. It isn't quite as skinny as the newer DS models, due to the 3D hardware inside. To keep it portable and comfortable to hold, it has to stay a little smaller.

Battery Life: The only real complaint about the 3DS is the relatively short battery life. Players can expect about 3 to 5 hours of charge for their 3DS when playing games in the third dimension. The charge can last a bit longer when the user is playing a regular 2D DS game, but it will still be significantly lower than the 10-15 hours a standard DS can run.

Graphics: Even if there were no 3D elements added, the 3DS would still be far superior. Capable of successfully porting Xbox 360 games, it is hands down the best looking handheld gaming device of all time. Although games are limited to the resolution of the screens, players can expect blistering 3D graphics that wouldn't seem out of place on their living room TV.

Price: Nintendo defied expectations and announced that the 3DS would debut at $250. While this is still a bit pricey compared to the average portable gaming system, it is still significantly lower than the 300-350 dollars experts had originally estimated it would cost.


Sarah Forester from Australia on February 05, 2014:

I always have trouble getting my heads around consoles with all their versions as I'm not much of a console gamer. I do know that the new 2DS looks really impressive to me.

Veronica on May 13, 2012:

So In a few months it will be my birthday and I really want a DSi but now I am not so sure!The DSi looks really cool but I am also wondering which would be better the DSi,The DSi XL or The Nintendo3DS so I was wondering which one is best like which one can do the most?They all look so cool!

Reneki on December 22, 2011:

Ive never had a DS but 2 weeks ago i bought the nintendo 3DS and is AWESOME i love it!!!

Anomynouse on December 20, 2011:

I have a ds lite and was wondering if it has wifi if not tell me which does

skippy on November 20, 2011:

Do you have to buy a new set of games if you change models?

Mario Man on September 14, 2011:

Could anyone tell me if the old Nintendo DS will fit into the Nintendo DS Lite normal carry case, or is the DS bigger than the DS Lite?? thanks.

Kirby and luigi on August 31, 2011:

i wish i had a 3ds

aComputerHero on August 24, 2011:

Seriously... fix your article. Just got to Wikipedia and you will see that the original DS was backlit. I own an original, 2 lites, and a XL -- all are lit.

Parents: If you are getting one for small children go for the lite and put down 15 bucks for some "Nerf Armor" (check and read the reviews.) You might be tempted to get a cheap used "original" ds but the hinges break easily and it will not be long before you little kid breaks it. Lite is the way to go.

Insured Insurances on May 15, 2011:

awesome blog...!

LUVS NINTENDO!! on March 10, 2011:

I have every nintendo from the game boy pocket to the ds fat including the wii... i skipped the nds lite cause i thought it was pointless to get it if you have an nds fat so now am getting the ndsi and skipping the ndsi xl... but waiting for nds3d.. but i think if you have nds fat don't get nds lite and if you have ndsi then don't get ndsi xl cause it will be a waste of money... =) I LUV NINTENDO!

LUVS NINTENDO!! on March 10, 2011:

I have every nintendo from the game boy pocket to the ds fat including the wii... i skipped the nds lite cause i thought it was pointless to get it if you have an nds fat so now am getting the ndsi and skipping the ndsi xl... but waiting for nds3d.. but i think if you have nds fat don't get nds lite and if you have ndsi then don't get ndsi xl cause it will be a waste of money... =) I LUV NINTENDO!

iJoey on February 23, 2011:

i think nintendo just going out of its way to make somethin new. the dsixl was just 2 times bigger than the dsi so does that mean bigger is better? WRONG! i got the dsixl and i couldn't fit it in my pocket unlike the dsi. so, wuts the difference????????????????????????????????

lil zee on January 18, 2011:

this is loverly i ve not goting myn but am going to get it in 8 days tym i cant wait and today is the 18 of january 2011. cool

Thanks on December 13, 2010:


the nintendo lite is the best.

Thank u for the info this will be so useful when nagging my dad to get me 1.


Matthew Gabriel from Eugene on October 18, 2010:

Very very very good. You gave me much to think about for I so much wish to buy one in the near future. Though.... I have been waiting with word of the KH 3D game coming to the 3DS. I can't wait to hear your review of that handheld when it does come out.

charlene on August 01, 2010:

umm just curious can you play NDS roms in the 3DS?

anton on July 21, 2010:

I have a DS Phat. I have had it since the release day. I have seen no need to replace it.

Though I may get the 3DS when it comes out; actual innovation? Score!

king214 on July 19, 2010:

I have a Ds lite and in my opinion the "DS XL" is pointless

Nintendo 3DS & DS Lite differences on June 25, 2010:

There is info on a picture in this link (in the text as I didn't know if I could put it in the box) of the difference between the DS Lite & the new Nintendo 3DS.

leanne on March 24, 2010:

you know, i have the ds original and all my friends got the dsi when it came out but eventually theres gonna be a new model with better features and guess what..... everyone elses ds is gonna be old and boring but not mine! LOL

Stephen Gowen from Nashville, TN on March 21, 2010:

hey this hub is great, very informative. Lots of people do not know which DS to get anymore, there are so many. I'm probably going to wait for the DSi XL

Kicky on February 08, 2010:

im 9 turning 10 and ive got a normal ds

and its so slow is it worth getting a dsi

and how much are they compared to a ds lite

wtt on February 03, 2010:

i have a dsi

bebee on December 10, 2009:

Thank you so much for this article! I was totally confused on which DS to buy. You really helped me figure out which one to get and its the Lite for my daughter thanks

luvmm on November 23, 2009:

Thank you so much for this article! I was totally lost when I started looking for the nintendo DS. You really helped me figure out which one to get.

too confused on November 16, 2009:

your page has given this mom good insight on choosing the best game console for her kid. thanks.

Cannon on November 13, 2009:

Thank you so much, this info id so helpful.

BT on November 12, 2009:

There is portable GO do you know?

spooky77 on August 30, 2009:

what is a nintendo (nintendogs) DS lite ?

monet on April 23, 2009:

the ds anddsi

Abodos on March 28, 2009:

A nice little guide for people who don't regularly keep up with the latest video game news but would still like to buy the Nintendo DS. The only thing missing is some info on the new DSi coming out in April.

mike on February 19, 2009:

the orginal ds does have a backlit screen but it not as bright as the lite.

kidsrfun on November 28, 2008:

I have a ds lite

Iknow what aDS can do for you

You can learn hand eye

Related Articles