Nintendo 3DS vs DSi: Which Should You Get?

3DS vs DSi

Nintendo 3DS vs DSi: Which Should You Get?

Are you looking for a handheld console to play games during the pandemic but can’t figure out which one wins among 3DS vs DSi? Or do you just want to compare your Nintendo 3DS with your friend’s DSi?

Well, for bragging rights or not, we are going to help you understand which console is better by comparing them both thoroughly in this article.

In this guide, we’ll talk about:

So let’s get going.

Nintendo 3DS vs DSi: Comparison

Let’s compare the two consoles categorically.


The Nintendo 3DS comes with two screens, but as the name suggests, it also has a 3D display. Yes, the top screen of the 3DS is a 3.53” 3D display that gives players a depth effect. This 3D display has a resolution of 800 x 240px, which makes it 400 x 240px for each eye. The bottom display is a resistive touchscreen with 340 x 240px resolution.

The Nintendo DSi also has two screens, but it lacks the 3D feature the 3DS provides. However, the lack of a 3D display may not be a big deal to many gamers because people usually turn it off as it changes the gaming experience. Both the top and bottom screens are 3.25” with 256 x 192px display resolution. The DSi screens also have less peak brightness as compared to the 3DS.


The Nintendo 3DS comes with support for all DSiWare games. All the original and downloadable games developed for the DSi are termed under DSiWare. So you can play many new and all existing DSi games on the 3DS. Bringing up the 3DS game library to over 1350 titles

That is not the case with the Nintendo DSi. It doesn’t support 3DS games because it lacks the hardware to run games in 3D. It also doesn’t have the motion gaming feature so all new games developed for 3DS won’t run on the DSi. The total library of games of the DSi is also significantly less than the 3DS, as it stands on just 689 titles that is half of what the 3DS offers.


The 3DS has a very simple button layout. It has 10 buttons in total, 4 lettered buttons (A,B,X,Y), 2 shoulder buttons (L,R), Start and Select buttons, a Power button and a Home button along with a D-Pad and an analog input called the Circle Pad. It also has a slider to turn on/off the 3D effect, along with a volume slider and a wireless switch.

The DSi features almost the same buttons as the 3DS, it only lacks the Home button but the rest 9 buttons are the same. A stylus is used to provide input to the lower touch sensitive screen. Other than that it also comes with a directional pad for gaming input. It lacks the 3D slider because its top screen does not support 3D effects.


The 3DS features three camera sensors, one above the top screen facing the user, and two outside of the device. The two cameras combine to capture 3D photos and videos. All three cameras have a maximum resolution of 640x480px. These cameras are only capable of digital zoom with one-point focus. The handheld also has a microphone in the bottom. 

The DSi only comes with two cameras, since it is not a 3D console so it doesn’t need two external cameras to capture 3D images. Instead it only has two 0.3-megapixel vga digital cameras. One is placed on the internal hinge to point towards the user, and the other is placed on the outer casing to point away from the user.


The Nintendo 3DS has a much better spec sheet as compared to the DSi. It is powered by a dual core 45nm ARM11 MPCore-based running at 268 MHz. Its graphics processor is also clocked at 268 MHz. It has 128mbs of RAM. But all this power takes a toll on its battery, the handheld console only lasts 4-6 hours with 3D enabled.

On the contrary, The DSi has very inferior hardware. It is powered by two ARM architecture CPUs, ARM9 and ARM7 both clocked at 133 MHz and 33 MHz respectively. It comes with only 16mb of RAM, that is 1/8th the RAM of 3DS. However, lower spec sheet means better battery life, the DSi can last upto 14 hours on the lowest settings.


The Nintendo 3DS has more software features, it comes preloaded with the Mii maker, the eShop and an internet browser. It also has a more customizable main menu, you can change it to look more like a DSi main menu or change the size to make it small or big. It also shows a preview of the selected app on the top screen.

The Nintendo DSi lacks many software features as compared to the 3DS, it does not have augmented reality games, nor can you stream anything on it. It also has a non-customizable linear main menu. Unlike the 3DS, only the name of the selected app is shown on the DSi’s top screen.

Exterior Design 

From the outside, one thing that’ll catch your eyes first is the reflective glossy finish of the Nintendo 3DS. The gloss finish makes it a fingerprint magnet which can be annoying at times. As of size, the 3DS measures just a smidge smaller than the DSi with 135mm and 74mm of width and height respectively. It weighs 235g and has a thickness of 20mm.

The DSi has a matte surface which is better both practically and aesthetically. It is 1mm bigger than the 3DS in terms of width and height. However, it only weighs 214g with 19mm of thickness.


In terms of features, the 3DS is a clear winner because of its 3D compatibility, it comes with a 3D display, a motion sensor and gyroscope for three-dimensional gaming. You can also capture and share 3D pictures using its two external cameras. The Nintendo 3DS comes with a feature to stream movies from Netflix. 

The Nintendo DSi lacks almost all features when put next to the 3DS. For instance, it can take pictures too, but only in 2D. It can play AAC music files from a SD card, but 3DS can play AAC and MP3 music files. So overall the DSi is behind the 3DS when it comes to features.


The Nintendo 3DS was launched for $249.99 back on 27th March, 2011. Nintendo discontinued the complete 3DS family 9 years later on 16th September, 2020. Now you can pick up 3DS for just $140.00 which is a lot less when compared to its original launch price.

The Nintendo DSi was launched fairly cheaper than the 3DS for just $149.99 on 5th April 2009. It was also discontinued after 5 glorious years on 30th September, 2014. The DSi has only decreased $30.00 as you can purchase one for just $130.00 today.

Overall Experience

The gaming experience of the 3DS is better. It packs more power with 8x RAM and a better CPU, it has twice as many titles than the DSi and many more interesting quirks and features like 3D gaming with motion sensors. It’s also one step ahead in terms of display, now combine that with better software features and 3DS provides an overall superior gaming experience.

On the other hand, the gaming experience of the DSi is also good, just not as good as the 3DS. The only category it excels in is its battery life, which accounts for a better gaming experience, but in comparison with the 3DS, it’s still far behind.

FAQs – Nintendo 3DS vs DSi

Let’s answer some top questions about Nintendo 3DS vs DSi.

What does Nintendo DSi and 3DS stand for?

The DS of the DSi stands for “Dual Screens” and “Developer’s System” and “i” plays a more symbolic role in its name. A Nintendo representative has clarified that “i” makes DSi your own personal handheld console. The 3DS has a very simple meaning, the “3” emphasizes on the console’s capability of its “three-dimensional-screen”.

Is Nintendo 3DS better than DSi?

The 3DS is better in every category. It just has more. It has more power, more ram, more display resolution and more games.

Do 3DS games work on DSi?

No, DSi cannot play 3DS games as it lacks the hardware to support the 3D feature. On the other hand 3DS can run all DSi titles which accounts for its bigger game library.

Is the Nintendo DSi discontinued?

Yes, Nintendo quitely discontinued the DSi on 30th September, 2014 just 10 days before the release of the New Nintendo 3DS and New Nintendo 3DS XL.

Our Verdict 

Coming back to the original question, 3DS vs DSi, which one should you get? Well, since you can pick up a 3DS for just 10 bucks more than the DSi, then there’s no reason to go for the latter other than if you’re a collector looking for old handhelds. 

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