I always find it extremely interesting the degrees to which consoles change throughout their lifespans. Occasionally consoles stay fairly static (the GameCube, Xbox, N64, and others saw no great change from beginning to end), but others managed to reinvent themselves in both form and public perception. Sometimes, slim lines reinvent the image of the console. Other times, they make necessary functional improvements. Here’s a list of the best 5 Console Slim Lines that managed to combine the two.
5. Game Boy Pocket
Some of you may look at the Game Boy Pocket as fairly unimportant in the grand scope of console reinventions. But I’d argue that in the context of all the subsequent items on this list, the Game Boy Pocket still manages to impress me because it not only reduced the number of necessary batteries from a whopping 4 double-A’s to a measly 2 triple-A’s. And the screen was bigger.
In a more general sense, the Game Boy Pocket capitalized on it’s amazing portability, a much needed change from the bulky nature of the original. Seriously. Have you held an original Game Boy recently? It’s a heavy, lumpy brick, and the world benefited from getting a slimline.
4. Xbox 360 Slim
The original Xbox 360 will go down in video game history as one of the most hilariously flawed console models ever produced. The Three Red Lights live in infamy with everyone who’s ever been face to face with them (which is many, many people) and before some of you clammer to the comments to claim that your original is still kicking so hah ha, I will admit my very own Xbox 360 lasted for quite a few years before deciding to die on me. But percentages don’t lie, and something ridiculous like 54% of Xbox 360’s may have kicked the bucket over the years. That’s so many broken consoles.
Luckily, Microsoft wasn’t going to let the game go on forever, and we finally got a much needed revamp. The Xbox 360 Slim is a handsome console with sleek edges and much, much quieter fan. While I’m not the biggest fan of the touch buttons, and an improvement over the outdated sliding disk drive would have been nice, I enjoy the fact that the Xbox 360 slim represents a greater attention to engineering prowess from Microsoft, something that I’ve always felt was a little absent from their hardware manufacturing.
It also had built in wireless internet, a much welcomed addition, and USB 3.0 support, meaning that those with Kinect wouldn’t have to plug in an extra cord in the wall. In general, the 360 slim is a handsome improvement. It would likely fare better if it was even more innovative, and not just a technical catch-up to the reliability, quietness, and wi-fi ready standards already in place by Sony.
3. Game Boy Advance SP
Finally, after so many years of having to huddle under a lamp to see any action, we were given a Game Boy with a backlit screen. Yes, Japan got this years before with the Game Boy Light (basically a Pocket with a turquoise-toned light built in), but this was the real introduction most of us got. And boy did that open up a whole new perspective. We could play our handheld games at night. Without a lamp. Game changer.
And the improvements didn’t stop there. This was the first Nintendo handheld to offer a rechargeable battery, which was a major plus for both money saving and waste reduction. It was also the first Nintendo handheld since the Game & Watch days to include a hinged folding design which protected the screen from unwanted damaged. This very design definitely laid the groundwork for the DS, which is, of course, Nintendo’s most successful console to date.
Many of these innovations and positive changes should have positioned the Game Boy Advance SP in first, but one flaw keeps it from achieving it. For some reason, Nintendo decided to take away the headphone jack. Sure, there’s a hidden audio functionality built into the power input, but we shouldn’t need a dongle to listen to the audio. That’s like… core handheld.
2. PS3 Slim (the first one)
Yes. The PS3 slim came out an era for Playstation when Sony was clearly letting some functionality slip through the fingers of its audience. So yeah, it’s disappointing that we lost Linux support and the the number of USB ports has dwindled. But I with defend the importance of the PS3 slim to my death.
Why? Because the PS3 was once plagued with so many issues. At launch, it was too expensive, too devoid of quality titles, and too goddamned big. It wrecked the public image of the PlayStation brand, which had previously held so much adore thanks to the PS2. The PS3 Slim, for all its strange design and lack of eccentricity, represents a major turning point in the PS3’s cycle. It’s when it grabbed the reigns and turned things around.
For one, it’s really the first time the core marketing and design of a console has ever been so drastically shifted. Gone was the bling Spiderman 3 font and the audacious glossy finish that makes any PS3 that’s not brand new look awful thanks to natural accumulation of dust and scratches. Now PS3 could get more conventional about its image and focus on getting back its games. And after all that, the PS3 is actually doing quite well for itself. So, you know, important slimline. If only they didn’t muck all that up by doing a pointless third. Sigh.
1. Nintendo DS Lite
Anyone else here have an original DS (which I will designate the “DS Fat” for the sake of this article)? God damn that was an ugly thing. Like the original Game Boy it just took up too much space and was clearly designed with as little emphasis on style as possible.
Now that isn’t to say that the DS as a concept was flawed. Oh good lord no. The DS would end up being the best selling system of all time, and Nintendo should be applauded for taking the necessary steps to innovate and experiment with its functionality. But it was soooooo ugly. And no one knew that more than Nintendo, because they followed it up with something spectacular.
The folks at Big N must have taken a few minimalism design notes from Apple when coming up with the DS’s followup. It’s sleek, it’s shiny, and it’s so beautifully basic that it even manages to (in my eyes, at least) outclass the more overly complex layering found on the first 3DS. It even managed to retain all the functionality of the original, including the GBA compatibility (which booted the DSi off this list, for the record), while managing to actively improve on them. Didn’t like the stylus of the original? Well now it’s a little wider and in a much, much more convenient location. Liked having two screens but thought they could be a little dim, especially with darker toned games? The DS lite gave them a much-welcomed brightness boost.
In general, the main reason the DS Lite tops my list is because out of everything I could think of, it shows the greatest departure from the original. Everything is improved upon and nothing is lost, except for excess space. It represents Nintendo’s evolving understanding of style married with simplicity, a lesson many an electronics company could learn (and would later learn when smartphones started coming out). Sure, even the DS Lite would later get improved upon itself, as it did have a lack of built in software functionality, limited wireless connectivity, and a loose, squeaky hinge. But the gap between the DS Fat and the DS Lite was so great that I have really no choice but to select it as the very best.