First of all the bad news: my EZ Flash V doesn't work with the DSi. I knew this would be the case, but had to check anyway. The card is recognised on the menu, but when selected an error message immediately appears. Oh well, I still have the phat DS for homebrew until someone hacks the DSi.
The console itself has a most peculiar finish to it. It's as if the plastic used is "fuzzy". I don't really know how to describe the feeling that you get when you touch the outer case, but it sets my teeth on edge somewhat. Rather like touching polystyrene or chalk.
Once you boot up, the main menu is a new version of the old firmware. I'd completely forgotten about the new-world paranoia too, all those messages about health and safety that loopy's firmware hacks got rid of so many years ago are of course back on the 'i. And there doesn't seem to be a way to get the console to boot directly to the inserted game. You always have to go through the menu.
This menu also has options for the camera, the sound thing, connect to the DSi shop, as well as the old DS download play and pictochat that have been there since day 1 (and nobody actually uses). In addition, any downloaded games from the store appear on this menu in their own icon.
A new feature that was long overdue is in the way the wifi-settings are changed. Rather than have every game that needs to connect to the internet reimplement the settings screen, the firmware itself has a way to update them. This is a good move, although all the existing DS games will still use a different method to the new built in one, even if the settings themselves are stored the same way in the internal memory.
The first thing I did was to download the new Web Browser application for free from the DSi shop. The browser is based on Opera 9.50 and is pretty nifty. More on that in a minute though. First off, it seems that the firmware itself is updateable. The first time you connect to the "DSi Ware" shop, it updates the system. This means that any future firmware-hacks to get homebrew running will be an inevitable arms war with Nintendo. A bit sad really. If the shop were done correctly (i.e. like the Apple app store or the Android equivalent) then the DSi could have been an amazing platform for homebrew. But Nintendo are real control freaks, they make Apple look like some bunch of free for all hippies. For example, before you connect to the DSi Ware store, you have to agree to some sort of Excentric Unenforceable Licence Agreement (or "EULA" as they are known). One of the clauses states that if you sell your DSi you must erase any software you have downloaded from the shop first, as the right to use the software is not transferable. It's quite clear that Nintendo do not want to sell you games, but to sell you a licence to play a game on a given console.
I must say that when you download a game or program from the DSi Ware store, the "progress bar" is great!
I haven't really tried out the built in sound program/toy thing, so no comments on that.
The cameras that are built in are low res - I've seen ambiguous reports on the interwebs that one of them is 0.3 megapixels and the other is 3.0 megapixels. I can confirm that they are both lame-oh 0.3 megapixels. Never mind, they work quite well for the amusing games and stuff that are available at the moment.
You can store your photos onto either internal storage, of which there is about 32MB, or onto SD cards that fit into the side of the console. The internal storage is shared with applications that you download from the store.
Speaking of cock ups.... There is no way, via either the camera tool or via the Web Browser, to upload your photos to any sort of web site or anything. For example, in gmail the "attach file" control is greyed out - the browser doesn't implement the input type="file" form element.
The camera software lets you trade images locally, i.e. with other DSi users in the same room, but that is all. Hilariously there is another paranoid legalese message when you try to do this: "you acknowledge that you are entitled to distribute these photos and frames and agree that they may be modified, distributed and/or posted by the recipient and/or third parties." Given that you can only exchange the photos with someone stood next to you, this seems a bit overkill to me. A console that has a camera and is wifi enabled, but has no way to send those photos via the intertubes seems like a huge missed oportunity to me. I look forward to some homebrew program that will allow us to do this. Oh. No. Homebrew doesn't run on the DSi. Gah!
You get 1000 "free" points for the store when you first connect to it. Free as in "you just payed 170 euros for the console, the least we can do is give you some cheapo games for it". Apart from a couple of rehashes (Pyoro, Paper Plane) and some puzzle games (I'm more than fed up with brain draining), there is a Wario game that makes use of the camera, "Warioware: Snapped!" it is called. I wish I had read this review (rating: 4/10) before downloading it though. It is amusing for a few minutes, but has no replay value and is not even very practical to play. I get the feeling that this is going to be the pinnacle of camera based games on the DSi, however. It plays similar to the eye-toy games on the Playstation, with the added irritation of the screen being tiny. On the plus side, the replay mode at the end of each round is amusingly done.
The first DS game I plugged in to the 'i was Etrian Odyssey II. It ran fine, so at least the much touted region lock out is not applied retro-actively. I'm on to the 4th stratus, which (if you forgive the minor spoiler) has some quite colourful cherry blossoms and trees. On the DSi they really are extra colourful. The new screen is a lot clearer than the phat one. Even on brightness 1, the lowest, it is brighter than the phat DS screen. The size is slightly larger too, but not so much that it makes any difference. Even side by side it is difficult to notice the difference. I suppose it couldn't be made too big at the same resolution or games would start looking pixelated.
So all in all what do I think of the DSi? Well, as an upgraded DS it is OK if you don't have a DS lite, which I don't. The lack of uploadable photos from the camera is a missed opportunity, what with everyone having Facebook accounts and whatnot nowadays. The browser is cool, even if it does run out of memory when reading pages on blogger.com. In column mode it feels a lot like Bunjalloo ;-) of course these Opera guys have a lot more resources than I do to get things right. They also have Nintendo breathing down their necks, so get things (like no file uploads) wrong too. I wonder if their will be updates to the browser? Given that it is stored in RAM, rather than ROM, it is possible that new versions will appear. Given how tightly Nintendo control everything, together with their restrictive software quality control process - which would make even minor upgrades an expensive effort for Opera -, I won't hold my breath.