One of the main reasons I got the new DSi was to see how the Web Browser compared to Browsers in other mobile devices. I was pleasantly surprised and impressed at how well the Browser on the DSi works.
The Browser is a version of Opera for the DSi that works very nicely with the touch screen. There has previously been versions of Opera available for DS and DS Lite on cartridge form, but the difference here is on the DSi it's a Free Download/install from the DS Game Store, where previously in cartridge form it cost about $20. This is what the address bar entry looks like on the DSi.
Notice the convenient entries for quickly entering 'www.', '.com', '.net', '.org', '.co', and '.jp' each can be entered easily with the touch of the stylus or finger. Also text input can be easily switched between Hiragana, Katakana, english, and other alphabet sets.
By default the Top screen displays a Zoomed out view of the webpage, and the Bottom screen displays a Zoomed in view of the webpage. This can be easily swapped on the fly by pressing the 'Up-Down' icon, and there is a nice animated transition affect when the screens swap.
There is an RSS Feed Reader built into the Browser, when an RSS Feed is selected it displays the Feed Titles from the feed in a Fullscreen list with an arrow next to them, click on the Arrow next to a Title and the Entry Body slides out from the arrow. The RSS Feeds can be saved as a Bookmark for quick access later on.
The Browser doesn't have any Flash support (not even Flash Lite), but I wasn't surpised by this considering the limited resources of the DSi both in storage space (without an SD Card inserted) and RAM. But it also can't play MP3s or audio files linked on a webpage either.
All actions on the DSi are performed with Single tap, having no Double Tap action provides good consistancy and I think makes things easier for the user. So while there is no double tap action, I was surprised to find that Long Press is a recognized action, and when long pressing then sliding the Stylus or your finger across the words text on the page can be highlighted! I found this very impressive, considering no other Browser that I know of has the capability to highlight text on a mobile device; this includes the iPhone Browser, Android Browser, S60 Browser, windoze mobile Browser, Netfront Browser, and the other versions of Mobile Opera; none of them have support for hilighting text on a webpage! After I discovered that text could be highlighted, I looked for a Copy/Paste option but found none. I was thinking, what is the purpose of highlighting text if it can't be
copied? Until I noticed that the Search icon lit up when text was highlighted..
After pressing the Search icon I was asked if I'd prefer to
use Google or Yahoo to search with. I selected Google, making it the
default Search engine, clicked Search and was immediately brought to the Google results for the search! This is an amazingly quick and easy way to search for text you see on a page, the usability of this feature is excellent!
To Summarize here's a list of the Pros and Cons about the Browser.
- One of the most important things in a Browser is that it's Easy to navigate, and the DSi Browser accomplishes this with easy to scroll up/down/left/right and around the page you're viewing using the Touchscreen.
- Navigating in the Browser works best with the Stylus, but it can also be used with your finger.
- When Scrolling Up/Down/Left/Right both the distance the Stylus moves and the Speed that it moves is used, this makes scrolling down a long page easier because quickly touching and flicking the Stylus will cause the Browser to scroll down quicker than repetitively pressing on the screen and dragging the length of it.
- Shortcuts for quick entry of URLs (ie. 'www.', '.com', '.net', '.jp', etc.)
- Built-in Search using Google or Yahoo.
- Support for reading RSS Feeds.
- Ability to Highlight Text, then easily Search for the highlighted text with Google or Yahoo.
- I don't think this is such a big problem, but several people that tried the Browser wanted to control the Zoom level (ie. Zoom into our Out from the page.) The Browser on DSi has no support for controlling the Zoom level, but with that said I found most of the time the Zoomed in view to be readable and the Zoomed out view easy to tell where on the page I was.
- No Flash support.
- No support for playing MP3s or other audio audio from the Browser.
- While loading a large page the performance of scrolling is affected, but it is still pretty easy to scroll around.
- It's fairly easy to cause Memory Full messages when loading a large webpage, when that happens the page stops loading and what text and images were rendered is viewable. During the time that a page is loading scrolling around the page still works pretty well. I don't know how much RAM is available on the DSi, but my guess is it's less than most S60 mobiles/iPhone/Android devices that I'm comparing the browsing experience to. Thus the Memory Full message isn't unexpected.
The Browser on DSi provides a Comparable experience to the iPhone/iPod Touch Web Browser, eventhough the DSi has a Resistive Touch screen, and the iPhone/iPod Touch as a Capacitive touch screen. I'd say the DSi provides a fairly high benchmark for ease-of-use in a resistive touch device. While certainly having Google and Yahoo quickly accessible from within the Browser is not something new (iPhone/iPod Touch Browser, Android Browser, and Opera Mini have already had Search built-in for some time), the ability to highlight text is something that no other Browser (that I know of) on a Mobile device have support for. Based on my experiences with the Browser, it's no laptop replacement, but it is a welcome new application on the DSi and will come in handy for quickly looking up information or browsing websites when on the go.