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Hardware Hacking Nintendo Portables (Games) Build

Disassembling the US Nintendo DSi 102

Posted by timothy
from the keep-all-27-pieces dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Yesterday iFixit tore apart the Nintendo DSi and found several internal upgrades from the outgoing DS Lite. It seems that an experienced hand can completely disassemble the DSi in less than ten minutes using standard tools, especially since the job does not require a tri-wing screwdriver. This should make repairing and tinkering with the DSi substantially easier. The DSi now includes two integrated cameras that, unfortunately, have only 0.3 megapixel resolution. This is certainly a bit underwhelming considering most mainstream phones have cameras of at least 1.3 megapixels. As for chips, Nintendo is using a Samsung MoviNAND integrated 256 MB Flash memory / MMC controller chip, as well as a custom ARM CPU + GPU is stamped with the revision code 'TWL.' The DSi's chips all had manufacture dates around September 2008, indicating that Nintendo has been stockpiling these devices for quite a while prior to the North American release."
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Disassembling the US Nintendo DSi

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  • Interesting (Score:4, Informative)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatmanNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @06:35PM (#27510935) Homepage Journal

    I'm surprised that they decreased battery capacity. I thought the reduced battery life was a side effect of the component upgrades. Apparently, that's not the case. Even more surprising is that the DSi mainboard is technically smaller than the DS Lite, but the unit has a larger footprint thanks to an expansion board hanging off the side. The board appears to be the contact points for the system's buttons.

    I wonder if the larger footprint was necessitated by the larger screens? One would think that Nintendo would shave off a bit of space from the sides, but perhaps that didn't yield as good of a grip as the DS Lite.

    • Could the decreased battery be a weight issue?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Threni (635302)

        Yeah, my DS is way too heavy. Thank god someone's taking my complaints seriously.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by master5o1 (1068594)
      They've got to leave room for improvement for the DS micro (Remember GBC? -> GBA -> GBA SP -> GB Micro) => DS -> DS Lite -> DSi -> DS Micro
      • Re:Interesting (Score:4, Insightful)

        by BenoitRen (998927) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @07:35PM (#27511675)

        That's not a good comparison, as the Game Boy Advance was wildly different in capabilities from the Game Boy Color. Meanwhile the DS, DS Lite and DSi are essentially the same system.

        • by cizoozic (1196001) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @11:42PM (#27513539)

          That's not a good comparison, as the Game Boy Advance was wildly different in capabilities from the Game Boy Color. Meanwhile the DS, DS Lite and DSi are essentially the same system.

          So it's true - Nintendo is developing better business sense with time!

        • by Blublu (647618)
          The DSi is to DS what Gameboy Micro is to the GBA; no more backwards compatibility, but a better screen. Personally, I would rather go for the DS lite which has only a tiny bit worse screen than DSi but still really good, and would recommend the same to everyone.
  • 0.3 Megapixels... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @06:41PM (#27511009)

    0.3 megapixels is equivalent to a resolution of 640x480 pixels, which is twice the resolution of each individual Nintendo DS screen. The lower resolution CCD costs less, and the images are far easier to process in real-time with the DSi's limited resources.

    • by faragon (789704) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @06:50PM (#27511135) Homepage
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I'd rather have a nice crisp 640x480 picture than the amazingly noisy and poor quality X-Fuckabit cellphone camera.
    • by msimm (580077)
      In other words, it's a glorified view-finder and moving your photos to any other device or media would be pointless.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Toonol (1057698)
      Yes, I think the resolution makes sense for the DSi. Especially since I think it may figure into some game mechanics in the future; the cameras mounted on every Wiimote are only 320x240, I believe. They are IR sensitive, but I believe that all digital cameras are unless specific IR filters are installed. Does anybody know what the maximum frame rate is for obtaining images from the DSi cameras? Can it capture 30+ frames a second?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by bencoder (1197139)

        cameras mounted on every Wiimote are only 320x240, I believe.

        actually they are 1024x768 and can capture very fast, but presumably it's mono only. There's also no way(in software) to get at the output of it, before it goes through the SOC that does blob detection.

        • by Josejx (46837)

          I'm pretty sure this isn't true, simply because the output from the cameras is displayed on the screen when you raise or lower the Wii Remote sensitivity.

          • by tepples (727027) <tepples&gmail,com> on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @09:19PM (#27512577) Homepage Journal

            Each side of the sensor bar has half a dozen infrared LEDs in a line. But have you ever noticed that the dots on the Wii Remote sensitivity screen are always perfect circles? The screen actually reads the four biggest blobs (X, Y, brightness) and draws them to the screen as circles with radius proportional to brightness. So you're not seeing the direct output of the 128x96 pixel* sensor in the Wii Remote but instead an interpretation of this info.

            * The effective resolution is 1024x768 because the remote's firmware uses brightness and area information to refine the estimated position of the centroid of each blob to 1/8 pixel increments.

    • by UnknownSoldier (67820) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @11:44PM (#27513553)

      > equivalent to a resolution of 640x480 pixels, which is twice the resolution of each individual Nintendo DS screen.

      Each LCD on the DS only has a native resolution of 256x192 (almost the same as the old Apple ][s, except 15-bit.) Twice the resolution is 512x384. So you really should say "...which is more than twice..." (I would know, since I shipped a DS game last year, and this year.)

      For comparision, the Acer Aspire One also uses a 0.3 megapixel camera (which I've found to be OK.) So while the megapixel resolution isn't great, the issue is over-rated IMHO. The low resolution is party to cover up the low native resolution of the LCDs.

  • Megapixel fetishism (Score:3, Interesting)

    by guspasho (941623) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @06:50PM (#27511145)
    0.3 megapixel pictures are far easier to share and probably far easier for the ARM CPU to manipulate than 1.3 megapixel pictures. From a usability perspective the megapixel makes a lot more sense than trying to edit a much larger picture on such a small screen or trying to use such a small device to transmit the picture wirelessly to your friend's DSi.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      It really makes no sense not to have at least a 2MP camera on the outside, for taking actual pictures. To be limited to 0.3MP in and out is kind of pathetic. The parts are cheap.

      • by guspasho (941623) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @07:25PM (#27511535)
        I find your signature ironic since the post you responded to explains why it makes sense to use a smaller camera.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by drinkypoo (153816)

          The post was wrong. Well, that's my opinion anyway, but that's the obvious subtext when you make a subjective statement like that. Using a low-MP camera on the inside is fine because there's no need for anyone other than DSi users or the DSi itself to look at you with it. Putting such a pathetic one on the outside is pathetic because it eliminates many potential uses which demand a higher-megapixel camera. You can already subsample a camera sensor, so that you can treat a whatever-megapixel camera like a ca

      • Maybe it's 0.3 good MP? versus the 1.3 MP of very adulteratedgarbage that you get out of most cameraphones. 1.3MP That you can't even display on said cameras small low res screen and are so crappy you couldn't be arsed to download them anywhere else.

      • Do you really think 2MP is going to get much out of a tiny CMOS sensor with a static plastic lens and a focal length of a couple of millimeters?

        Also light sensetivity is an issue. Many phones perform extremely poorly in low-light conditions. This would be worse for the intended uses of the DSi. Using a lower resolution sensor helps.

  • The real question is, does Flashme work with it?
    • by aliquis (678370)

      I doubt it since it run a different software?

      • Flash cartridges and such act like a regular game cartridge as far as the DS is concerned. Current ones use some kind of security hole in the system, and I think the reason they're not suppose to work with the DSi is that the security hole has been closed.
        • by aliquis (678370)

          He was talking about flashme, not flashcarts, flashme is a modified firmware which allow booting from slot 2 / gba without a passme device (which identifies as a game and then start processing from the gba slot in DS mode) and also disables the warnings.

          Though, for this purpose having flashme on a DSi don't make sense at all, but I guess he meant a firmware replacement without copy protection / which made it possible to load a flashcart. Anyway, lack of hardware and probably very different firmware makes me

    • One of the main reasons for release this new DS was to disable the flash cartridges that are around now (or so I've read).
  • by kamelkev (114875) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @06:56PM (#27511211)

    I'm really curious if the various mechanisms for running homebrew applications still work.

    I have an R4 chip from my regular DS - my guess is they've closed up whatever hole was opened and a new method will be found, but has anyone tested this so far?

    • I'm not wildly familiar with the issue; but my impression is that all the current DS methods were closed; but that Nintendo didn't make any real "progress", if you can call it that, toward building a hardcore lockdown hypervised mess, and that hacks are expected to appear in the fairly near future.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tlhIngan (30335)

        I'm not wildly familiar with the issue; but my impression is that all the current DS methods were closed; but that Nintendo didn't make any real "progress", if you can call it that, toward building a hardcore lockdown hypervised mess, and that hacks are expected to appear in the fairly near future.

        The DSi is more like the Wii in that respect - there are firmware updates available - heck, there's one when you open the box and try to get your free 1000 points!

        So any holes found will be closed, and others reop

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Current cards don't work but there are DSi cards already being demo'd.

      As of right now they're not for sale, nor any input on if older generation cards can be flashed to DSi mode.

    • by aliquis (678370)

      There has been cards out which work for long, such as AceKard 2i. The question is if they will work forever or not.

      Older cards don't work.

    • by Djehuty3 (1371395) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @07:24PM (#27511521)
      R4s, Edge, M3 et al will not work on the DSi - however, the newer "EZ Flash Vi" and "Acekard 2i" both will. I am not aware of any other DSi compatible carts though.
    • by peckox (1267026)
      They disabled all existing DS homebrew cards, but few weeks after release of the japanese DSi you could already buy DSi specific homebrew card. There are 2 already on the market, Acekard 2i and R4i (which is just a shameful copy of the acekard), both works on the US DSi, and european DSi (well, on the european only when the language is set to english :) )
  • It seems... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @07:14PM (#27511417)

    It seems that an experienced hand can completely disassemble the DSi in less than ten minutes, using standard tools

    A non-experienced one will take 10-30 seconds with no tools at all. This may not make repairing and tinkering with the DSi substantially easier

  • Stockpiling? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The DSi's chips all had manufacture dates around September 2008, indicating that Nintendo has been stockpiling these devices for quite a while prior to the North American release.
     
    Or it might have something to do with the fact that the DSi was released in Japan in November 2008.

  • Till the DSi is rebuilt into something geeky like the Millennium Falcon or the Battlestar Galactica? That's the sort of hand held gaming that I can get behind!
    • by Ash-Fox (726320)

      Till the DSi is rebuilt into something geeky like the Millennium Falcon or the Battlestar Galactica? That's the sort of hand held gaming that I can get behind!

      Adama wouldn't stand for networked computers on his ship.

  • Underwhelming. (Score:2, Informative)

    by wiggles (30088)

    This rev of the DSi is really underwhelming. I traded my old DS phat in for $50 off of the DSi, and though the upgraded screen is nice, I'll never use the damned camera. It doesn't support mp3. Downloadable games are nice, but I haven't found a single one worth downloading at launch. I'm hoping somebody comes up with a way to play old snes roms on it via the SD card -- if that happens, then my purchase was totally worth it. Otherwise, I'd have stuck with a DS lite if I had that option.

    • by Arkine (686418)
      What you want already [dealextreme.com] exists [dealextreme.com] for the DSi.
      • Last I checked, SNES emulation on DS had about 0 fully working titles, and about the same number of basically playable titles. When did that change?
        • Not to condone piracy or anything, but there are a plethora of SNES emulators available on the Nintendo DS. Some of these (such as snesDS [googlepages.com] or SNEmulDS [snemul.com]) do have fully working games that run on the DS. The real problem here is that most of these emulators have stop being updated so compatibility issues aren't being resolved.
          • by dbIII (701233)
            One other thing worth mentioning is you can play mp3 files on the original DS and above with Moonshell or DSorganise - both free software. The first is better for music and the second better for long podcasts since it's easier to start in the middle of a track.

            Homebrew reqires third party cards or flashing the rom via wifi - wikipedia has quite a bit on DS homebrew software.

        • by Scoth (879800)

          I guess it depends on your definition of "fully working". If you mean 100%, absolutely-can't-tell-it's-not-real emulation, then maybe not. But there are lots and lots of fully playable titles. The biggest problem is they have manual layer settings, which can make some games a bit funny with backgrounds showing on top of sprites and such. Usually not a big deal to fix by fiddling in the settings, but it can be a pain. I've played through most of LttP, DKC, FF3/6, and some of Chrono Trigger on it. It complete

          • Don't over-glorify emulation on the DS, it's not nearly that good.

            Let me make a short list:

            The best emulated platform is NES, but the most-compatible emulator (NesDS) has a serious flaw: the touch interface to save games is confusing, and often it loses my save states after I turn the emulator off (and I'm not the only one seeing these problems [gbatemp.net]). About the only thing I play emulated on my DS is NES games that use battery backup, because for some strange reason that isn't broken in NesDS. But the list of g

    • It doesn't support mp3.

      It does support AAC though, which produces higher quality sound for the same bitrate, and is less patent-encumbered than MP3.

      • But it's also a format that most people would have to convert their current files from, with a loss to quality, or re-rip their disks to encode into that format.
        • That's true if most people do indeed have their music in MP3 format, but there are a large number of iPods out there and hence a large number of iTunes installations. The default import format in iTunes is AAC and iTunes Store purchases are in AAC format, so there are likely to be a large number of AAC files and music libraries out there.

          The usage of the term 'MP3' is likely to exceed the use of the actual format, because it's entered the language can be is taken to mean any compressed music file.

  • Now I won't have to buy it.
  • by Lord Bitman (95493) on Thursday April 09, 2009 @05:27AM (#27515547) Homepage

    Can't wait for this to be (jailbroken? is that an applicable term?) opened up. As in, really, I can't wait, so I asked Nintendo how to become a developer "officially". Still waiting for a response, not expecting one.

    Why do people lock down hardware? I definitely wouldn't have bought one myself without a clear path to being able to develop things for it :/

    • Companies want control over what their hardware can do. Nintendo in particular is afraid of not having control over every piece of software released for their consoles. They're worried about their company image, and feel that there is potential for it to be sullied by something that a developer could create.

      On a slightly more cynical note, they expect people to pirate software as well as write software that copies commercially released titles, and they want a way to ensure that their software doesn't have
    • Because Nintendo built it's business on locked-down hardware. Every other gaming console so far has done it. It's the business model.

      And sorry to disappoint you early, but becoming an official developer is tedious and expensive. And it is intended for commercial companies. More info here [warioworld.com]

  • The TWL codename stands for TWeLve, as it is the 12th Nintendo Hardware platform. Can you name them all?

    Chris

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      NES GB SNES VBOY GBP GBC N64 GBA GC GBASP DS DSlite Wii DSi

      That's what comes to mind off the top of my head, if you don't count the Playstation. Two of those are just shrinks of another system, so if you do count the Playstation (which was to be a Nintendo platform) then you get twelve. NES is also Famicom, which had a microphone on controller 1 IIRC. SNES is also Super Famicom, from which it differs only in the shape of the cart port, which was their form of region control. You might also be convinced to t

      • The Game Boy Micro and Game Boy Light (Japan-only release that was like a GBP with an internal light) come to mind. Again, a size+compatibility-reduced version of a different system, and a feature-enhanced version of another system. Like you said, it all depends on how you count.
  • Can you boot Linux on that thing?

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