Nintendo 3DS XL mainNintendo 3 DS XL Review

Our rating: 4 stars

The 3DS XL is Nintendo’s latest portable game console. It’s an update or rather, a larger sized version of the regular 3DS released in 2011. The 3DS was revolutionary in itself, being the first handheld console to offer 3D visuals. The 3DS was successful but not a huge hit on the market, probably due to a combination of technical issues and limited availability of games.

Since the 3DS was released, more games have followed, and Nintendo have developed the XL to have another stab at dominating the handheld market with their 3D graphics. It’s bigger than the original 3DS and that’s just about the only difference – but it’s a massive difference. The screen is much larger and this is really noticeable when you’re playing.

But is this enough to make consumers want to buy Nintendo 3DS XL over its rivals from Sony, the PSP 3000 and PS Vita? Let’s take a look.

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Nintendo 3DS XL Video Review

3DS XL Features

Nintendo 3DS XL colorsNintendo 3DS XL price: from $209
Battery life: 3.5-6.5 hrs
Dimensions: 6.1 x 3.7 x 0.9 inch
Screen size: 4.88 and 4.13 inch
Weight: 11.9 oz
Screen resolution: 800 x 240 px
Color choice: red or blue cover
(inside they’re both all black)

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What We Like About The Nintendo 3DS XL

Screen Size

The screen size is the only major difference between the 3DS and the 3DS XL, but as we already said, it’s a huge difference. The Nintendo 3 DS XL screen sizes are 4.88 and 4.13 inches for the two screens, the biggest Nintendo has ever made for a handheld console (although still not as big as the PS Vita). This makes the console 6.1 inches long, just slightly longer than the original DS, although with a significantly bigger screen. It’s still a comfortable size to hold and noticeably smaller than the PS Vita, although it’s too big for most pockets.

Nintendo 3DS XL compare sizeBut the important comparison is with the regular Nintendo 3DS, whose screen was too small for many players. A lot of people had trouble even seeing what was going on in a game, and parents worried about eyestrain. The screens of the XL are an amazing 90% larger in terms of area: that means it has almost twice the viewing area of the original 3DS.

You can see what this means in practice from the Nintendo 3DS/3DS XL comparison picture on the right here. The screen is more like that of a large smart phone and not so far from the size of a small Kindle.

Nobody ever complains about a screen being too big, so it was a great idea for Nintendo to do this. As well as being easier on the eyes, it means you have more chance of getting things right when you are using the stylus on the touch screen. Having tiny targets can be so annoying!

Battery Life

Another thing that is an improvement over the first 3DS is the slightly longer battery life. It’s gone from 3-5 hours to 4-7. That’s still not great but it’s acceptable for a handheld device with the power that this one has. The extra hour or two could be just the difference between lasting through your day and not.

Improved 3D View

The main problem with the original Nintendo 3DS was that you had to hold it in an exact position in order to view the 3D graphics. It was inconvenient at the best of times and if you were riding in a car it was virtually impossible.

They have improved this a little bit and you now have a bigger range of viewpoints for the 3D effects. This helps, although it’s still not perfect if you’re traveling.

Good Build Quality

The Nintendo 3DS XL looks and feels like a well built device. It’s not too heavy but it’s not flimsy as a feather either. It seems sturdy enough to survive being dropped from time to time. Nintendo have a great reputation for hardware and the 3DS XL seems like a good example.

Ease of Use

Compared with the 3DS, the Nintendo 3 DS XL is way easier to use – and not only because you can see what’s happening on screen so much better. The size makes it easier to hold and most important, the controls are better positioned. They’re easier to reach and they also feel much more responsive. The circular pad responds better too. All round, you get a much better play quality.

Backwards Compatibility

The Nintendo 3DS XL plays all Nintendo DS games. Of course, the old games don’t have 3D visuals, but this is a great move by Nintendo because it means you can upgrade from an old DS and still play all of the same games.

It also means there is a huge range of games already on the market, so a new player can buy Nintendo DS games for their 3DS XL as well as the new 3D games.

You can also transfer content stored in the memory of your old DS into your new 3DS XL. This means you really don’t lose anything by upgrading. This is another great aspect for people who already own a Nintendo DS.

What We Don’t Like

Only One Circle Pad

Despite a lot of customer feedback about the single circle pad on the 3DS, there’s still only one on the 3DS XL. This is crazy. Two of these pads would create so many more gaming options, even opening up the possibility of multiplayer gaming like on a home console. Nintendo have missed a great opportunity here.

Limited Range of Nintendo 3DS Games

This might not be a deal-breaker because as we said, you can play DS titles on the 3DS XL, but right now there are not a lot of Nintendo 3DS games that take advantage of the 3D graphics. So you might not see the full potential of gaming on the 3DS XL until the range starts to increase – and that probably depends on whether the device is more popular. If more people don’t buy Nintendo 3DS XL compared with the first 3DS, there may never be a lot of 3D games.

Less Portable

One good point about the small 3DS was its portability. We’ve lost that of course in gaining screen size. The 3DS XL is too big for most pockets. However, if you’re used to larger devices like the original DS, you probably won’t have a problem with that.

Image Quality

Something else that you can see from our comparison picture is that the graphics on the larger device are a little fuzzy. This isn’t just our photo. Nintendo didn’t increase the resolution at the same time that they enlarged the screen, so what you get is the same graphics enlarged to a bigger size. They don’t have the crispness that you might expect from a device released in 2012. They’re just okay, but not up to the quality of Sony’s PSP 3000 or PS Vita.

3DS XL Review Summary

Our rating: 4 stars

If you’re a Nintendo fan then the 3DS XL could be a great choice. If you don’t already own a 3DS you’ll want to see what the 3D games can do, and if you do have a 3DS, you will definitely appreciate the bigger screen, although it’s annoying to have to upgrade so soon. And if you’re upgrading from a DS you’ll be glad to know that your games will work on the new device.

In summary, if you’re looking for the newest Nintendo portable console, then you’ll want to buy Nintendo 3DS XL. But if you’re not specially oriented toward Nintendo, you might be swayed by the conviction that the PSP 3000 is a better device.

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Nintendo 3DS XL Review

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