Review - NDSL replacement cases

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Apr 5, 2008
  1. thieves like us
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    Member thieves like us chaos personified

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    GBAtemp.net review of...

    NDSL replacement shells

    Manufactured / Distributed by: clearxbox.com, dealextreme.com, nebulahk (ebay seller), nds-central.com, WiiRoom (ebay seller)

    By thieves like us - 5th April 2008

    Review Contents & Index:
    • Introduction
    • project SHOCK! - nds-central.com
      - Cases Reviewed
      - Packaging
      - Contents
      - In Detail
      - Summary
      - Score
    • Full Replacement Housing Cases for NDS Lite - dealextreme.com
      - Cases Reviewed
      - Packaging
      - Contents
      - In Detail
      - Summary
      - Score
    • DS Lite Clear Ghost Case - clearxbox.com
      - Cases Reviewed
      - Packaging
      - Contents
      - In Detail
      - Summary
      - Score
    • NDSL Shell Replacement Case Kit - WiiRoom (ebay seller)
      - Cases Reviewed
      - Packaging
      - Contents
      - In Detail
      - Summary
      - Score
    • Transparent Replacement Housing Case for NDS Lite - nebulahk (ebay seller) / dealextreme.com)
      - Cases Reviewed
      - Packaging
      - Contents
      - In Detail
      - Summary
      - Score
    • Side by Side Comparison Chart
    • Where to Purchase
    • Disassembly Guide
    Introduction
    Looking to trick out your ds lite and make it stand out from the rest of the crowd? Or maybe you just need to give it a much needed face-lift after months of abuse? Over the past year, quite a few Hong Kong based companies have updated their product rosters to include replacement shells for the latest incarnation of Nintendo’s portable powerhouse.

    So, without further ado, let’s dive in and see which of the many available replacement cases give you the best bang for your buck.

    [​IMG]
    from left to right: transparent replacement housing case ( nebaluhk - ebay seller) / (dealextreme.com), ndsl shell replacement case (wiiroom - ebay seller), full replacement housing case (dealextreme.com), project SHOCK! (nds-central.com), clear ghost case (clearxbox.com)

    project SHOCK! (nds-central.com)
    Cases Reviewed
    Arctic Blue, Strat Clear (both semi transparent)

    Packaging
    A relative new comer to the business, NDS-Central’s project SHOCK! line was the first aftermarket shell available for the DS Lite. Packaged in a small bubble-wrap pouch inside a nice glossy black package, they obviously spent some time and money to make sure that everything looked professional when they launched back in autumn of 2006.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Contents
    • - upper shell half (2 pcs)
      - lower shell half (2 pcs)
      - slot-2 cover (outer half only)
      - D-pad, A/B/X/Y, L/R, start and select buttons, power and volume slide switches
    In Detail
    Forgoing the costly dual-injection method that Nintendo chose to use, all of the project SHOCK! cases are cast in a single color (transparent clear for all but the arctic blue kits) and then painted. This allows NDS-C to produce their entire product line-up through a single injection line, reducing costs and eliminating down time to change out the different colored raw materials for the injection process. It also explains why all of their opaque kits are bundled with clear buttons and slide switches.

    The build quality is actually quite good, and all of the included components appear to be manufactured to the same specifications as Nintendo’s own parts, allowing you to mix and match with your existing case parts a breeze.

    Not content with copying Nintendo’s efforts verbatim, a few modifications have been made that not only separate them from the rest of the pack but are welcome changes. First and foremost, an extra row of speaker holes have been added (9 vs. the standard 6), making for a noticeable increase in the maximum output level of the ds lite’s tiny 1” speakers. In addition, the Start and Select buttons have also been modified, adding a small depression to their tops, allowing them to be easily accessed with the tip of the stylus and the markings for both buttons have been cast as raised letters, eliminating the need to [ink] stamp them. Although self explanatory, the marking for power, headphones and volume have been left off entirely. Finally, the raised dual screen logo was removed from the upper shell, making it easier for those wishing to express their creativity, giving a smooth surface to work with for decals/skins or custom paint jobs.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Unfortunately, the project SHOCK! cases were (and are still) not as complete as everyone was initially lead to believe by their advertising. Not only did the kits ship without a [matching colored] stylus and the accompanying channel to store it, but also neglected was the inner half of the slot-2 cover and the metal ground shield, leaving you with the task of “vulturing” your original case. And while this doesn’t end up posing too much of a problem for those using their opaque cases (other than an odd colored stylus), the opaque channel is pretty noticeable for those choosing to go the transparent route.

    Also MIA from the kits are the following components; upper LCD shield, lower LCD frame and the silicon pieces (used to cover up the screw holes). While this oversight may seem inconsequential to some, the fact is that all of the replacement shell kits for the original DS systems contain them, as well as sell for approximately 1/3 the price that NDS-C is charging for their kits.

    The spruces (injection points) appear to have been hastily removed, leaving milky stress marks. Again, while this isn’t as apparent with the opaque or arctic blue case, it is extremely noticeable with their strat clear transparent case.

    Summary
    The project SHOCK! case is a reasonably solid product with a wide variety of colors to choose from. However, it suffers from a high retail price and [what I perceive to be] an incomplete parts list.

    Pros
    • - perfect fit, allowing users to mix and match with existing parts
      - decent build quality
      - wide variety of unique colors
    Cons
    • - high price
      - missing many of the parts expected in a [complete] kit (color matched silicon pieces to cover the screws, stylus and channel and inside half of the slot-2 cover)
    Score
    6.5/10.0



    Full Replacement Housing Cases for NDS Lite - dealextreme.com

    [​IMG]
    Cases Reviewed
    Black, Pink

    Packaging
    Obviously set up for retail (the box even has a hang tag hole on the top flap), I’m amazed at the lengths these companies are going through for something which is ultimately a throw away item. And, if they really wanted me to retain the box (to store my old parts), it would have been nice if they had used a something slightly larger that you didn’t have to practically tear apart in order to remove the contents.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Contents
    • - upper shell half (2 pcs)
      - lower shell half (2 pcs)
      - slot-2 cover (2 pcs)
      - D-pad, A/B/X/Y, L/R, start and select buttons, power and volume slide switches
      - color matched stylus
      - silicone color matched stylus
      - color matched upper LCD shield
      - full set of replacement screws, posts and springs
    In Detail
    One of the more complete kits in this cross-review, almost everything that you’d expect to find is included in these kits. In fact, the only thing missing is a corresponding colored lower LCD frame. Even more amazing is the fact that the pink case is actually dual injection molded (clear outer layer) just like the original OEM parts. Unfortunately, also just like the original OEM case, the replacement black kit is also simply painted with glossy black finish (no clear outer layer).

    Taking detail to the next level, all of the licensing, logos and patent information have been faithfully replicated [stamped] on the bottom shell, making your completed make-over look that much more authentic. The makers even went so far to provide and attach unique [mock] serial no. stickers on each case. Given a side-by-side comparison, you might be hard pressed to pick out the original part from the replacements. In what is becoming a noticeable trend, he outer shell halves are shipped with a protective sheet of semi-sticky plastic to help prevent them from becoming scratched.

    These aftermarket parts are nearly identical in spec to Nintendo’s original parts. For those of you just looking to repair a damaged case, this is a potential time saver since it allows you to only replace the parts out that are scratched, cracked or chipped. And while the ability to mix and match with your existing components works perfectly for the lower half, you may have some trouble with the upper halves.

    While not dual injected, the d-pad and A/B/X/Y buttons, along with the indicators for the start and select buttons, headphones, power and volume have all been crisply ink stamped. Even the replacement stylus has been manufactured with the softer clear tip, opposed to molding it from a single piece of ABS.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    The only negative comments that I have for this product lack of top shells matching up with the OEM parts and that due to the excessively tight packaging, small surface scratches were found on edges and sides of the shells where the protective wrap didn’t extend to.

    Summary
    Given that there are still plenty of times where certain color variations of the DS Lite can be hard to find, the 20usd retail price is a pretty good value. In addition to the initial black and pink offerings, the 2 other Japanese exclusive colors (ice blue and navy) have also been reproduced and are now available.

    Pros
    • - reasonably priced
      - perfect fit, allowing users to mix and match with existing parts
      - the pink case is dual injection molded, just like the OEM parts
    Cons
    • - missing color matched LCD frame (for the lower LCD panel)
      - color selection is limited to official color schemes (no unique colors)
    Score
    8.0/10.0


    DS Lite Clear Ghost Case - clearxbox.com
    Case Reviewed
    crystal clear (transparent)

    Packaging
    More of what I expected for replacement shells, the ghost cases were initially shipping out in non-descript, generic white boxes. Unfortunately, no care was taken in the packaging of my parcel and everything was pretty much crushed upon arrival. Furthermore, all of the parts outside of the shell halves (all of the buttons slide switches) were hastily thrown into a small plastic baggy which was tied twice to keep everything inside. This didn’t work very well, as one of my kits arrived missing both the “X” and one of the START/ SELECT buttons.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    note: clearxbox.com has since updated their packaging, and now ships all of their ghost case line in a blister type package that we’ve all come to know and hate, requiring to you wage war on it with a knife and/or scissors to free the items trapped within.

    Contents
    • - upper shell half (2 pcs)
      - lower shell half (2 pcs)
      - slot-2 cover (outer half only)
      - D-pad, A/B/X/Y, L/R, start and select buttons, power and volume slide switches
      - color matched (clear) stylus
      - tri-wing screwdriver
    In Detail
    I’ll pull no punches in stating that compared to the other offerings available, this kit is pretty substandard. If fact, had the kit not been purchased for review purposes, I would have returned this product immediately for a full refund. Second to last in terms of piece count, the ghost cases beat out the project SHOCK! offerings by including a matching clear stylus and a tri-wing screwdriver. It’s kind of sad that like nds-central.com, clearxbox.com also feel the need to promote their product as a “complete” kit (when it’s clearly not).

    Like the project SHOCK! cases, the ghost case have stripped the raised DS logo from the upper shell and have used the 9-hole pattern for the speakers to allow for increased output, but that’s where the similarities end. Unfortunately, whoever engineered these parts for clearxbox.com didn’t bother to compare them against the OEM parts. Not only are the dimensions slightly different from the original case components (making it more difficult to mix and match), many of the parts within the kit are not usable straight out the box without having to file, sand or otherwise trim the excess “flash”.

    The total lack of quality in terms of fit and finish can be found in just about every component of the kit. The d-pad and both of the slide switches have been molded larger than they should have, requiring trimming and/or sanding to fit them in their proper places. The match between the halves of the lower shell was off, resulting in the two pieces not seating together properly. Force was required to hold them in place while screwing everything back together. In addition, the top half of the shell, which even when assembled without the LCD panel, appears to be bowed. This results in the plastic parts grinding when opening or closing the system.

    Imperfections from the injection process tend to show up more prominently in a transparent product vs. an opaque one. These include things such as residue from the mold release agent (causing portions of the case to appear milky instead of crystal clear) as well as injection spruces being twisted and broken off instead of cleanly cut and trimmed. These flaws were evident in both kits that I received.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    clearxbox.com made the conscious choice to not label the L/R, A/B/X and Y buttons. And while esthetically speaking, this may suit those who are looking to further light their systems with SMD’s underneath to illuminate the buttons, it did make it harder to determine which button went where (or in my case, which one was missing from my kit!).

    On a positive note, the ghost case was only one of two kits reviewed to include a tri-wing screwdriver (at no additional cost), which is required to open up your system and perform the swap.

    Summary
    The ghost kits from clearxbox.com could have been a good product, however they missed the mark by manufacturing and marketing a product comprised of shoddy parts that don’t fit together well. It’s a shame that the quality and contents don’t justify the price, considering that clearxbox.com is the one of the only companies offering a wide variety of unique transparent shell colors.

    Pros
    • - wide variety of transparent colors
    Cons
    • - high price
      - poor fit and finish
      - like the SHOCK! cases, missing many of the parts expected in a [complete] kit
    Score
    4.0/10.0


    NDSL Shell Replacement Case Kit - WiiRoom (ebay seller)
    Cases Reviewed
    Crimson/Black, Ice Blue, Navy, Pikachu edition, Legend of Zelda Tri-Force edition

    Packaging
    Obviously set up for retail (the box even has a hang tag hole on the top flap), I’m amazed at the lengths these companies are going through for something which is ultimately a throw away item. And, if they really wanted me to retain the box (to store my old parts), it would have been nice if they had used a something slightly larger that you didn’t have to practically tear apart in order to remove the contents.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Contents
    • - upper shell half (2 pcs)
      - lower shell half (2 pcs)
      - slot-2 cover (2 pcs)
      - D-pad, A/B/X/Y, L/R, start and select buttons, power and volume slide switches
      - color matched stylus
      - silicone screw covers (4 upper, 2 lower)/runner bumpers (color matched)
      - upper LCD shield (color matched)
      - lower LCD frame (color matched)
      - full set of replacement screws and posts
    In Detail
    One of only two truly complete kits in this round-up, everything, and I mean everything sans the electronic guts that make your DS spring to life are included inside of these tiny cardboard boxes. From the well manufactured shell halves to the stylus channel and replacement stylus (complete with a softer translucent tip) to the silicon screw covers and color-coordinated upper LCD shield and lower LCD frame, all of the non-electronic components are included in the package.

    It was nice to see a manufacturer actually take the time and provide the matching parts for the LCD shield, border and silicon pieces when they could have gone the cheaper route (like so many other companies), by either leaving them out altogether or manufacturing everything in a cookie cutter “one color fits all” fashion.

    In addition to 6 basic colors (black, crimson/black, ice blue, metallic rose, navy and silver), the seller also offer kits for a few of the special “limited edition” ds lites cases, including the metallic gold tri-force (u.s. phantom hourglass) and yellow pikachu editions. Given their wide selection, there are quite a few options available to dress up your vanilla system.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    That’s not to say that their cases aren’t without their own set of flaws and shortcomings. Unlike the original parts and some of those from dealextreme.com, none of these shells sport the dual injected, clear outer layer. Instead, a layer of clear coat gives most of their cases a high gloss finish similar to that found on the OEM shells. And while this clear layer does provide a nice high gloss shine, it doesn’t help to hide small scratches or scuff marks like the dual injection clear plastic does. Defects and/or imperfections like (like air bubbles and dust specs) are accentuated when the clear coat is applied. While most of the kits that I ordered were ok, 2 of my 10 samples had numerous imperfections that were noticeable.

    It’s also obvious that some of the parts for some of their kits (pikachu, I call you out) were produced at different times or on different lines (resulting in the use of a different die-lot of base materials). This is most evident in the yellow pikachu edition kit (which is molded from a yellow impregnated plastic, opposed to a base color which is then painted afterwards) resulting in complementary pieces that don’t match one another. Additionally, like the crimson/black and cobalt/black systems, the bottom half of the pikachu kit was not clear coated. I’m not sure if this was simply a mistake or if it was intentional.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Those issues aside, the last caveat is the final cost. While their “buy-it-now” prices on ebay.com are pretty much in line with the others covered here, the shipping costs will empty your wallet by another 18.99usd.

    Summary
    Overall, most of the kits from ebay seller, wiiroom, are top notch. However, the 19.00usd cost of shipping knocking their final score down a notch.

    Pros
    • - perfect fit, allowing users to mix and match with existing parts
      - wide variety of color options, including limited edition shells
      - complete kit, everything is included
    Cons
    • - high shipping costs
      - potential dust/air bubbles in finish
    Score
    8.0/10.0 (7.0/10.0 pikachu edition)


    Transparent Replacement Housing Case for NDS Lite - nebulahk (ebay seller) / dealextreme.com
    Cases Reviewed
    Blue, Clear, Pink and Smoke (all semi transparent)

    Packaging
    A generic white box, featuring a die-cut window to indicate the color of the shell inside, is what you receive. Nothing special, but then again, I didn’t really expect anything more considering what the product is.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Contents
    • - upper shell half (2 pcs)
      - lower shell half (2 pcs)
      - slot-2 cover (2 pcs)
      - D-pad, A/B/X/Y, L/R, start and select buttons, power and volume slide switches
      - color matched stylus
      - silicone screw covers (4 upper, 2 lower)/runner bumpers (color matched)1
      - upper LCD shield (color matched)1
      - lower LCD frame (color matched)1
      - full set of replacement screws and posts
      - tri-wing screwdriver2
      - philips screwdriver2
    1 color matched in the smoke kit, white in all other kits
    2 supplied with kit from nebulahk (ebay seller)

    In Detail
    Although I can’t be sure, it would be a good guess that this latest batch of transparent cases come from the same manufacturer that produced the other kits that dealextreme.com offers (see above). They not only boast the same exact markings on the bottom of the shells (all of the RSA, FCC and other logos as well as all of the patent information), but also include a color matched frame for the lower LCD panel.

    The fit and finish is also the same (aka near perfect), allowing you to mix and match to your heart’s content. All of the markings (d-pad, A/B/X/Y, L/R buttons, as well as the headphones, power, start, select and volume) are clean and crisply stamped in a bright white ink, making the entire package look very slick.

    The channel housing for the stylus has been molded in the same [transparent] color as the shell, allowing for an unobstructed view of the circuit board from both the top and bottom. While a mock serial no. sticker is not included, the depression to accommodate it still remains allowing you to transfer the one from your original case.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    The only downside to these transparent gems is that scrapes and scratches tend to show more prominently leaving white, stress marks against the glossy semi-clear surfaces. However, this is more a trade-off with all transparent plastic items and not a flaw in the product itself.

    A few minor issues prevented this product line from achieving a near perfect score. First off, while the transparent black case was packaged with color matching silicone parts and LCD frames, the blue, pink and clear cases all come packaged with white pieces. Also, while the pieces to cover the screw holes on the upper LCD panel were adhesive backed, the bumpers and bottom feet were not, forcing you to find your own method of securing them.

    Finally, the manufacturer chose to make the top LCD shield adhesive backed instead of packaging in a double-faced taped frame to hold both the shield and the LCD panel to the top inner shell half. And while this isn’t a major issue, I personally don’t like the idea of affixing the LCD panel with something that will potentially leave a sticky residue should you need to go through the process again.

    Note: The cases for this review were purchased from ebay seller nebulahk, however, I noticed that were also available (cheaper too!) from dealextreme.com after the fact.

    Pricing aside, and based solely on my experience with them, I would avoid nebulahk at all costs and order the kits from dealextreme.com. Not only was my original order was lost in the mail, forcing me to wait a period of 20 business days (one month) before they would allow me to file a claim for replacement product. After the one month period had elapsed, nebulahk ignored all of my email inquiries about the claim and forced me to file a claim with Paypal and SquareTrade in order to get the replacement product mailed out.

    When the cases finally did arrive, it was in an interoffice paper envelope (the kind with a piece of string that holds the flap shut, which in fact, was the only thing holding the envelope closed). I find this an inexcusable considering the 39.98usd that I was charged in shipping costs.

    Summary
    This is a very classy looking product for those in the market for a transparent case. I would, however, recommend using the double-sided sticky frame and LCD shield from your original system and avoid “gluing” the enclosed replacement shield to your top LCD.

    Pros
    • - reasonably priced (and free shipping from dealextreme.com)
      - perfect fit, allowing users to mix and match with existing parts
      - nice variety of transparent colors
    Cons
    • - the pink and blue kits come bundled with white silicon pieces and a LCD shield and border, not color matched components
      - half of the silicon pieces lack the adhesive backing
    Score
    8.5/10.0

    Side by Side Comparison Chart
    [​IMG]

    notes:
    1. the channel that the stylus is stored in is included and molded in the same colour as the shell
    2. in addition to including both halves of the slot-2 cover, the dummy circuit board (which allows enough pressure to keep the slot-2 cover in place) is included as well
    3. the A, B, X and Y letters are present in raised form (part of the injection mold) on the project shock! Cases
    4. the A,B, X and Y buttons provided with the clear case were not marked, making it a bit harder to determine the correct button positions. my kit was missing two of the buttons.
    5. one of the kits contained two "Y" buttons (based on the notchings), however it was stamped correctly with the letter "X". I had to use a modeling knife to carve the proper notches in order to use it
    6. screw covers (4) were present for the top shell portion in the crystal clear case that I received, but not the clear blue case. missing were the two runners and the bottom shell pad covers
    7. the frame color for the upper lcd shield and lower lcd frame doesn't necessarily exactly match the color of the system
    8. only the clear black case came with the lcd shield, frame and silicon pieces in matching color. the clear, blue and pink transparent cases come with white pieces
    9. link is a .pdf file that was shamelessly stolen from nds-central.com's flickr site


    Where to Purchase
    - project SHOCK! nds-central.com

    [​IMG]
    - Full Replacement Housing Cases for NDS Lite dealextreme.com
    - direct link: black
    - direct link: pink
    - direct link: white
    - direct link: camoflage

    - DS Lite Clear Ghost Case clearxbox.com

    - NDSL Shell Replacement Case Kit WiiRoom (ebay seller)

    [​IMG]
    - Transparent Replacement Housing Case for NDS Lite
    - dealextreme.com direct link: transparent (clear)
    - dealextreme.com direct link: transparent blue
    - dealextreme.com direct link: transparent pink
    - dealextreme.com direct link: transparent smoke (black)

    - Transparent Replacement Housing Case for NDS Lite nebulahk (ebay seller)
    Disassembly Guide
    A rather detailed guide for disassembling a DS Lite that I wrote a while back can be found here. While it is still lacking the information for disassembling the top half, it is still pretty useful in its own right.


    This review was written for GBAtemp.net ONLY. The article and all included photos are property of GBAtemp.net
    If you see this review on any other site please let me know via e-mail - thieves [@at@] GBAtemp [.dot.] net


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