Nintendo 3DS XL Review

by on July 23, 2012

Nintendo-3DS-XL-ReviewNot too long ago, I professed on the staple podcast on our network (The Godcast) that I didn’t think that Nintendo would announce a revision of their 3DS hardware. One thing was certain though, if they did prove me wrong, it would be to include things like the second analog stick, rectifying past-errors to make the ultimate hand-held Nintendo console.

Yet this isn’t the case, the XL doesn’t have a second analog stick, and there is in fact a Circle Pad Pro add-on for the XL in the works. In fact, in some cases the XL has created issues – however minor they may be – where there wasn’t issues to begin with. So why exactly am I going to tell people that they should think seriously about buying a 3DS XL? Well, there are caveats, but we’ll get to those.

Let’s not be too quick to ignore said issues, the weight increase isn’t an issue, but the design might be distasteful to some, feeling even more plastic and cheap than the original 3DS. On top of that, despite having every opportunity to change the Select, Home and Start buttons to a less awkward feeling design, they are mostly the same, or at least of a similar styling.

Remember that gorgeous new stylus design, the extendible one? Well, the increase in size means that Nintendo have done away with the stylish design of the stylus and replaced it with the plastic model from previous DSi (and earlier) models. Is it a deal-breaker? Not really, but it’s worth mentioning all the same.

3DS XL To 3DS Comparison - Open

Depending on how you hold a 3DS, the placement of the headphone slot may be an issue. Most handheld games can happily be enjoyed with the sound turned off, but some titles, like the wonderful Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy require sound, engulfing you, as is their want in the world, of joyous orchestral musings. The headphone slot has moved from the centre of the device to the left, not far from where most people will cradle the XL into the crack of their palm. It’s not agony, sure, but it can cause minor discomfort and, to be honest, it’s hard to work out why it was moved at all.

To counteract the negatives, the SD card has been upgraded from 2GB of storage to 4GB. Some may argue this is of little consequence, but with Nintendo moving towards digital distribution with the likes of the New Super Mario Bros. 2, at some point that doubled-up (size wise) SD card may come in rather handy. Add a vastly improved battery life (we’re talking nearer 6-8 hours on the XL, as opposed to the 3-5 on the original 3DS) and we’re finally talking here.

You’ll note that I’ve left the pièce de résistance to last; the one true reason you’ll find the 3DS XL a desirable purchase: The larger screens, but before we get onto that, let’s recap some of the changes from 3DS to XL:

  • 3DS Top Screen: 3.53 inches – XL is 4.88 inches
  • 3DS Bottom Screen: 3.02 inches – XL is 4.18 inches
  • 3DS Weight: 235g – XL is 336g
  • 3DS Length: 134mm – XL is 156mm
  • 3DS Width: 74mm – XL is 93mm
  • 3DS Height (closed): 21mm – XL is 22m

Before getting my hands on the device, like most people, I felt the larger screens (and they’re massive compared to the 3DS) would be of detriment to the visuals. Upscaling an already tiny resolution to a larger screen rarely works, but in this case the XL’s killer-feature is the screens. Fans of handheld gaming will no doubt have dabbled with the PlayStation Vita, or the huge-screened behemoth that is the new iPad, and if you fall into that category, you’ll love this redesigned 3DS for these screens.

3DS XL To 3DS Comparison - Closed

If you want to, I’m sure you could find pixelation somewhere, but playing a multitude of 3DS titles is an utter joy on the new XL. However, the larger screen doesn’t just bring cosmetic joy, the touch screen being bigger improves controls. There are games you’ll play that are mostly traditional interaction based – D-Pad, Buttons etc – that will have occasional touch-screen flourishes. Most of the time you’ll just throw a thumb at the screen; imprecise to the max. This new, larger touch screen means even a chunky thumb will hit the target every time. Even though touch screens have come on a long way since the DS, Nintendo seem steadfast in sticking with their style, which is to be expected as upgrading to a nicer capacitive screen would increase cost, which is not why they are trying to do.

One thing that a large screen can’t excuse however, is the lack of an AC charger with the device. It’s almost unfathomable that two versions of the XL weren’t put into production; an “upgrade” model (no charger, slightly cheaper) and a “new customer” model (charger included). That said, with the XL being able to take a charge from a DSi, DSi XL and 3DS charger, maybe most potential buyers will have a charger already. I hope this is a trend that doesn’t catch on though, it really shouldn’t affect the price of a product to include a charger.

VERDICT: The 3DS has finally picked up steam and has a reasonably large library of truly excellent games. If you don’t own a 3DS yet, this really is the ideal time to jump in, especially if you can buy from a retailer bundling the charger for free. If you’re just after an upgrade, well, the screens really are lovely and I even found the 3D easier to use for extended periods thanks to the larger viewing area. The screens will literally be the reason to upgrade, if you fancy it.

Despite so many missed opportunities, somehow Nintendo have gotten me again. Don’t expect a revolution with the XL, but do expect the ultimate 3DS.

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