Nintendo DS Web Browser Review

Discussion in 'Video Games and Technology' started by My03Tundra, Jul 2, 2007.

  1. My03Tundra

    My03Tundra LOVES TO EDIT POSTS!!

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    Initially when I heard that Nintendo was rumouredly coming out with a web browser I was stoked. For a (now) small DS Lite system, it has turned out to be a small wonderhouse(?) and it's touch screen has brought touch based gameplay to the masses that I was playing before on my Tapwave Zodiac. Sadly, despite all it had going for it, the Zodiac did not even come CLOSE to selling well enough. The Nintendo DS has never really suffered that problem.

    Before games came out for the DS using WiFi I was hearing a lot of typical hype. "You'll be able to play over the internet almost anywhere," etcetera, et al, and all of that other BS that follows typical media and first party hype. Well, I was originally VERY excited until I learned one near fatal flaw behind Nintendo's WiFi connection. For security, it is WEP or nothing. Crap. WEP?!? Well, Nintendo's reasoning behind the flawed and easily breachable wireless "encryption" scheme was it was easily supported by most products, and most gaming consoles use WEP.

    Great. Just [bleepin'] great. I hate WEP, and was running WPA-PSK w/ TKIP or AES on the laptops. Funny, Nintendo, but Sony supports WPA-PSK w/ TKIP or AES. I was sorely disappointed that they did not support WPA-PSK. Anyhow, to get around this shortcoming, I got the WiFi USB 2.0 Adapter. It worked nice, but I didn't always have a blasted computer on to "share" it's internet connection. I unplugged it from my laptop, or desktop, and threw it in one of my laptop's bags [I have two bags, have one laptop]. I gave up getting online with my DS.

    When I got my Wii originally back in February, I was tickled pink. It is definitely an awesome system and I've thoroughly enjoyed it. I initially had some issues with it and had to change out a high-end 802.11n router for a "lower" 802.11g Buffalo router that WORKS when the Wii isn't being picky.

    This past Saturday I was walking through Target with the purpose of getting a CD and being in-and-out. I got a call from a good friend in North Carolina, and walked around the store a bit. I sit all day on calls, so when I get a call on my cell I start moving around or walking. I went down the toy aisle, nothing new or on sale, went by the PS2 and PS3 stuff (waiting on price drop before I get a PS3) and nothing new. On a whim I went down the aisle where my Target has the DS stuff.

    They had the DS Web Browser, and Planet Puzzle Challenge (FUN, ADDICTIVE GAME, BTW). Since my laptop is DEAD (RAM and Motherboard issues), I've been "borrowing" an internet connection from my Mom's desktop or my Dad's laptop. I thought that if I tweaked the settings to be as secure as possible, I could enable my Buffalo router's AOSS service and get my DS and Wii online and use the DS Web Browser to surf the web. On that note, I bought the cartridge.

    I listened to the CD I bought on the way home (FWIW, Brad Paisley's Fifth Gear) and was excited to have the game and an internet connection. It was late, and I was on my way to go swimming at a friend's house, so I saved setting up the DS Web Browser for later.
     
  2. My03Tundra

    My03Tundra LOVES TO EDIT POSTS!!

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    Now comes the later part...

    When I got home to setup the DS Web Browser, I knew going in I'd have to make some changes and concessions. I'd have to activate AOSS with it's WEP and do whatever else I could to get online with the DS in the abscence of my laptop while still trying to maintain wireless security and integrity. Before my laptop crashed I managed to get most of my files, but I MAINLY wanted to get online with my own system.

    The browser itself it based on Opera technology, so most Opera or Linux oriented operating system fans should be familiar with some of the options and functions. Once you have the right network, it is rather easy to get the settings in and start browsing. Or so I thought. Before you can go have fun, you have to set a browser password and "lock" the cartridge and memory expansion pak to the DS Lite. Inlcuded with the Web Browser cartridge is a Memory Expansion Pak. There are no indications as to HOW much memory it adds, but it reminded me of the Jump Pak from the N64 days. It comes in a clear case, so it goes with any DS Lite color. It likely is for cached pages and to hold history and similar when the DS is off. I'd estimate it to be 32mb in size at most. For the "old style" regular DS you can order a Web Browser with Memory Expansion Pak directly through them.

    Within the browser, there is a built in web page filter that as far as I can tell can't be turned off. It is there so "children don't access inappropriate sites." Hell, I'm an adult who can make my own choices even if I do appear a bit childish at times. I REALLY wish it could be disabled, but I can live with that. My... uh... "stuff" can wait until I'm back online with my Wii or when I get my PS3 this Fall. Like most filters it does have its loopholes, but it also seems (on a test) to filter out some websites for hunting, shooting and other things. Odd.

    Initially the browser opened up in a single column page view (SSR mode) that is good for reading text sites, but NOT good for viewing graphically oriented sites like here or most other websites out there. You can switch to the typically demonstrated Overview Mode, but it slows down page loading times and loads pages as they are seen. There is also a LOT of vertical and horizontal scrolling in Overview Mode. With Overview Mode you can switch between top and bottom screens with the X buton. Once a page is loaded, Overview Mode is not too bad, but the scrolling with the set zoom levels does impede the browser. In SSR mode it loads pages in a "handheld friendly" as far as I can tell, by disabling some images, and tries to speed things up by loading less. Both web views are good, but limiting because of the DS's limited screen size, despite the "Dual Screens."

    At least the DS has both handwritten AND touchpad (QWERTY layout) text entry methods. Yeah, PSP, owners it hurts. You get a MUCH better screen, yet no decent text entry method. Ouch. I hated that on my PSP when I had it online.
     
  3. My03Tundra

    My03Tundra LOVES TO EDIT POSTS!!

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    And even LATER...

    When it comes to text entry, stick to the touch based keyboard method. The handwritting input system is good if you write clearly and perfectly vertical, but it's accuracy is questionable. Forget writing special characters, as they are not commonly recognized and come out odd.

    Beyond the text entry method, the DS Web Browser has the standard fare and controls. Back, forwards, stop/refresh, website address, and other inputs that are in Opera if you're familiar with it. The browser itself is quite robust and has even a favorite website feature, but it is not the problem as far as I can tell, the DS is.

    When Nintendo designed the DS for wireless play, they didn't design or designate much throughput (input/output) capacity into it because of the low bandwidth nature of their games. Sure, the games over LAN or WiFi are fast and there usually isn't much slowdown but the web browser seems to be too much for the wee little system. It has to read between the paths on the DS's onboard memory and memory expansion pack as well as handle all incoming packets (pieces of information). It seems to literally lag it down, and pages load no matter what the view mode rather slowly. It is rather disappointing and makes the rather capable DS look overtaxed, and saddly, even burdened.

    Another factor that comes into play with the slow loading page is battery life. When you're playing a WiFi game, you aren't too worried because you can just quit the game. But, when you're trying to get information from the internet and pages load twice or three times as slow as on a standard PC it is a concern. Whenever you engage the DS' WiFi feature your battery life could be cut in half. That 18 hour gaming session offline could become a 9 hour or shorter session online. With web browsing there is apparently no distinction between a game or when caching and loading web pages. They both seem to take up as much processing time. Do note that the further away you are from a connection (i.e. your router), the slower the speeds and more power is used. I've had my fully charged DS Lite be drained in six hours of mostly WiFi browsing and that addictive as hell Planet Puzzle League.

    I do recommend the DS Web Browser simply because of accessibility, and not for its "blazing fast" speed. In a pinch it will give you a full website and allow you to access critical information (news, e-mail, etc) but I'd recommend doing it when you're not in a hurry. When vacationing, it would be the ideal option for a hotel room with wireless access. Just be aware of it's faults and issues.
     
  4. DevilzFan

    DevilzFan CobraIsland.com Veteran

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    what? no porn on my ds? no thank you. good day sir!
     
  5. CrypticIllusionist

    CrypticIllusionist Well-Known Member

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    I imported the browser from Japan about a year ago, I don't have a DS Lite and in Japan the browser was also released for the original DS. Now, I didn't have to set any kind of lock when I first used it, and I've never encountered any blocks on any sites aside from PayPal. The only problem I've had with it is that it (at least the Japan version) is very slow; thankfully, I am a patient person and am able to overlook that.
    Another, more insignificant, difference I'd like to point out is that the RAM pack for the DS Lite browser in Japan was white, instead of transparent. Also, in case you're wondering, the original DS's RAM pack is a dark grey, just like most GBA cartridges.
    Anyway, back to my original concern. The imported browser I have would load the homepage of TFW2005 in something around 50 seconds; I'd just like to know if the North American release is any faster.

    EDIT: And yes, it does tend to drain battery life faster than normal games.
     
  6. Kupp

    Kupp Ford Fanboy TFW2005 Supporter

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    I don't have filter issues on my DS, he may have the filter on, not sure.

    I was using it in line at Botcon, it was fun. But with the site lag, viewing here was a complete pain. But I enjoy it once I got the interface down.
     
  7. MegaMoonMan

    MegaMoonMan www.megamoonman.com TFW2005 Supporter

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    It sounds like it's a waste of time unless you are absolutely desperate for portable web browser.
     
  8. funkatron101

    funkatron101 TFW2005 Supporter

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    I would never pay for something that should be standard for the system. That should have been included with a system upgrade.
     
  9. Smasher

    Smasher HUNKY BEATS

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    That sounds like a lot of work.

    Maybe the succesor to the DS will have the feature built in and more user friendly.
     
  10. Kupp

    Kupp Ford Fanboy TFW2005 Supporter

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    That is also completely true, it is still neat however, but mostly as a novelty.

    Now if you could download e-book files, and use the DS to read them, that would be useful.
     
  11. My03Tundra

    My03Tundra LOVES TO EDIT POSTS!!

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    You have to consider that what should be standard now, wasn't considered an option until AFTER the PSP was launched. Sadly, the DS doesn't have the reflashable and upgradeable ROM like the PSP does. Had the PSP come out with a touch screen, I think it would be trouncing the DS right now. Touch, and motion, based gaming is nothing new but thanks to Nintendo it is new to the masses.

    You and me both! I'd DIE to have my DS as a full-on PDA type system and Nintendo is tentatively "testing the waters" with its Web Browser and touch based games which are doing very well. Sure, such features are nothing new, but after some major failures and losses (N64, Virtual Boy) they are a lot less likely to jump out with something truly different.

    If you have a PSP, and can live with its disappointing text entry system it is BY FAR a better and more "web friendly" device. Unlike the poor DS, the PSP has reflashable and upgradeable ROM, which allows for Flash support updates and the like. Nintendo omitted FLASH ROM or EEPROM to save costs, and keep the system price down. Based on the upcoming "PSP Slim" rumors and its much lower introductory price I'm concerned that they'll lose one of the PSP's best features.

    The DS Web Browser serves the purpose of providing a web browsing experience and service for those who normally don't have one. It is far from the most convenient or ideal solution, but it is one of the most economical IF you have the right existing infrastructure (WiFi, right security settings, etc.). I've had to invest additional money to get devices that support my Wii and other hardware.

    True, I've gone back through and noticed some of the sites that should be blocked aren't. And, I have confirmed that PayPal is blocked. The earlier mentioned password prompt has to be initially set, but can be disabled once you are in the browser.

    There are of course changes between the two, mainly localization issues. Flash enabled content is not supported (YouTube) mainly due to a lack of available RAM even with the Memory Expansion Pack. Also, some scripting loads differently, but that is just the way Opera handles it. I do wish the DS had a Firefox style browser versus Opera as I'm heavily biased towards it and Firefox seems to load pages faster, or is that just me?

    With the release of the Memory Expansion Pack, and a cartridge that is capable of storing content (as to exactly what, or how) is a plus. With Nintendo's Wii Ware announcement the timing and products make sense together. You could use your Wii's WiFi or the DS' own WiFi connection to download and have content directly available even when the device is powered off. If the individual price is right for a Memory Expansion Pack for DS or DS Lite, you could download and store Game Boy Color to maybe even Game Boy Advance style games and keep them with you. I doubt we'll see Nintendo directly support music or video content, but game related content is another story.
     

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