How Nintendo DS Works

DS Features

Screen shot of Animal Crossing DS
Screen shot of Animal Crossing DS
Photo courtesy Nintendo of America, Inc.

In creating the DS, Nintendo was aiming for a vehicle that allowed developers to do some exciting things never before seen in video gaming, let alone handheld gaming. Enter the two screens. Demos for the DS showed how some of those developers chose to navigate the new territory. Some games gave two completely different perspectives on the on-screen action, while others used the second screen to display gaming peripherals like maps, menus and object inventories.

What Nintendo hopes is the most innovative aspect about the two screens, though, is that they allow for an entirely new input system in video gaming. For all of its dazzling innovations, video games are essentially still controlled by pushing (and pushing and pushing) buttons. With the DS touch screen, there is an entirely new world of controls that are now possible for gamers. At E3, some of the most lauded demos for the DS allowed gamers the ability to draw their way through a game, control characters through touch or use the stylus to "carve" objects onscreen to create digital sculpture.

Screen shot of Metroid Prime: Hunters Screen shot of Metroid Prime: Hunters
Screen shot of Metroid Prime: Hunters
Photo courtesy Nintendo of America, Inc.

And it's not strictly for gaming. Also on deck are applications that allow players to write messages, utilize an onscreen keyboard and send and receive text messages during game play.


In addition to the touch screen, the DS also allows for voice or sound input into the game. Yes, that's right: New video games could not only interpret button pushing and screen tracing, but also claps, shouts or screams. Developers can create games where players would control characters through voice recognition, but that's not all. The microphone also allows gamers to chat wirelessly with each other, a feature popularized by programs like Xbox Live.


The DS also features wireless technology for connecting gamers to one another and the Internet. Many thought that Nintendo would install Bluetooth technology in the DS, but it opted for the stronger and wider range of IEEE 802.11.

Nintendo also looked to Xbox Live and its mega hit "Halo" for inspiration in allowing the DS to connect gamers to one another. Up to 16 people can play each other on the DS, and with a wireless LAN connection, that number could increase indefinitely. Add in the possibility of multiple players engaging in game sharing (using only one cartridge to allow many people to play the game), and you can see why some people in the video game industry are very excited about the handheld with two heads.

Tech Specs

Prior to release, Nintendo was extremely tight-lipped about the exact specifications of the DS for fear that a competitor might try and beat it to the market. Now that it's out, the company lists these specs:

  • Size (closed): DS - 5.85" wide / 3.33" long / 1.13" tall; DS Lite - 5.24" wide / 2.91" long / 0.85" tall
  • Weight: DS - 275 grams; DS Lite - 218 grams
  • Upper Screen: Backlit, 3-inch, semitransparent reflective TFT color LCD with 256x192 pixel resolution and .24 mm dot pitch
  • Touch Screen: Same as upper screen, but with transparant analog touch screen
  • Brightness: DS - two settings; DS Lite - four settings
  • Color: Capable of displaying 260,000 colors
  • Wireless Communication: IEEE 802.11 and Nintendo's proprietary format; wireless range is 30 to 100 feet, depending on circumstances; multiple users can play multiplayer games using just one DS game card
  • Controls: Touch screen, embedded microphone for voice recognition, A/B/X/Y face buttons, plus control pad, L/R shoulder buttons, Start and Select buttons
  • Input/Output: Ports for both Nintendo DS game cards and Game Boy Advance Game Paks, terminals for stereo headphones and microphone
  • Other Features: Embedded PictoChat software that allows up to 16 users to chat at once; embedded real-time clock; date, time and alarm; touch-screen calibration
  • CPUs: One ARM9 and one ARM7
  • Sound: Stereo speakers providing virtual surround sound, depending on the software
  • Battery: Lithium ion battery delivering six to 10 hours of play on a four-hour charge, depending on use; power-saving sleep mode; AC adapter
  • Languages: English, Japanese, Spanish, French, German, Italian
  • Color: DS - Silver and black; DS Lite - White

Source: Nintendo