There’s a strange hypocrisy surrounding Nintendo portables. Apparently it’s okay for Apple to release (considerably more expensive) new iPhones on a yearly basis, but Nintendo releasing three or four hardware revisions over a more than six year period is treated as a gross betrayal of trust.
That’s how many models of DS they were anyway: the original phat model, the far sleeker DS Lite, the more mulitmedia DSi, and its larger variant the DSi XL. As the name suggests it’s the DSi XL that this first redesign of the 3DS resembles the most, not only in size but in the fact that it doesn’t change anything substantial about the portable’s abilities.
The 3DS XL is just an ordinary 3DS with bigger screens, but given the nature of its key 3D effect this brings with it some fairly significant improvements over the older model.
The first thing it does though is enable a much sleeker redesign for the console itself. The 3DS was a peculiarly ugly device, with its multiple bevelled edges and cheap-looking option buttons making it look more like a Chinese knock-off than a real Nintendo portable.
The 3DS XL still won’t be giving any Apple designers sleepless nights, but it’s an immediately more attractive looking piece of hardware. There are three colours available at launch: Silver + Black (as you can see the one we have), Red + Black, and Blue + Black.
3DS XL – bigger and better
Despite the 3DS XL being wider and deeper than the original 3DS, it’s actually slightly shorter when sat closed on a flat surface. The exact dimensions according to our measuring tape (although it’s difficult to be exact given the curved edges) are 15.4 cm wide x 9.2 cm x 2.0 cm high. That compares to 13.4 x 7.4 x 2.1 cm for the original 3DS, so it’s bigger but far from monstrous.
Opening the 3DS XL up there are some satisfying clicks for the lid as it settles into the two suggested positions for the top screen. But in both positions there’s quite a bit of give in the hinge, so that it wobbles back and forwards slightly as you move it. We never noticed this while distracted playing a game, but it does seem odd and slightly worrying when opening it up.
The interior has exactly the same layout as before but the matte, rather than gloss, finish is uniform across the top and bottom. The three option buttons at the bottom – Select, Home, and Start – are now actual physical buttons, not the cheap-looking stickered things of the original. It’s an improvement but it does seem a little plasticky and we miss the gloss finish of the old top screen.
It’s far too early for us to tell whether the infamous screen-scratching problem of the old 3DS has been fixed or not but the whole border around the bottom screen has been redesigned and we’ve got to assume that this was a priority for Nintendo.
There are other minor physical differences – the speakers now have more holes and the stylus is no longer retractable but stored horizontally on the right-hand side like the DS. What you can’t see though is the battery, which importantly has been increased from 3.5 to 6.5 hours for the original 3DS to 6 to 10 hours for the XL.
That is a significant change because 3 hours or so really wasn’t good enough and although again we haven’t had much time to road test the 3DS XL in all situations it does certainly seem to have about twice the battery capacity (depending on how you use it).
3DS XL – it does still work with Kid Icarus’ stand
But of course the most important change for the 3DS XL is the size of its screens. Nintendo’s mathematicians are characterising it as being 90 per cent bigger, which in real terms means up from 3.02 inches across on the 3DS to 4.88 inches for the top screen (the PS Vita’s is a straight 5 inches). The bottom screen is also larger, up from 3.02 to 4.18 inches across.
The problem we had with the DSi XL though is that by increasing the size of the screen but not increasing the resolution (which would require a significant hardware upgrade) it had to stretch out the visuals until they looked unpleasantly pixelated – particularly those using sprites rather than polygons.
The 3DS XL also works at the same resolution as the original 3DS but Nintendo must have some sort of superior filtering software working with it because all of the games we played on it look great. With small text in particular you can see still see that the displayed images are being stretched but it’s rarely noticeable in-game and a price well worth paying to see the 3DS’s games on a bigger, better screen.
Better not because it’s brighter but because the angle at which you can see the 3D effect is now noticeable larger. The ‘sweet spot’ that creates the 3D effect is not only easier to find but also easier to maintain as you move the console about or sit it flat on a table.
We’re not sure if this is simply a side effect of the larger screen or because Nintendo have changed something in the way the display works. But we’ve been trying the 3DS XL on a range of people over the weekend – both those that always use the 3D option and those that turn it off – and they all said it was much easier to use.
In fact those that usually turned the option off were shocked to remember just how good the effect is. To our eye’s the actual strength and depth of the 3D effect is unchanged but everyone remarked how much better the games looked on the larger screen, with Resident Evil Revelations in particular – one of the few 3DS games with photorealistic visuals – looking stunning.
But even the cartoonish visuals of Kid Icarus: Uprising, Super Mario 3D Land, and Mario Kart 7 were noticeably more appealing. Although the screen doesn’t seem brighter the colours appear much more vivid and this clearly isn’t just a supersized version of the same screen technology.
The only downside is we still experienced image ghosting when playing in 3D, particularly with Kid Icarus for some reason. But you get that with even very expensive 3DTVs so we assume it’s just a limitation of current 3D technology as a whole.
Note the lack of an AC adapter
This is definitely the version of the console we’ll be using in the future though, especially as transferring all your system data across from your old 3DS is relatively easy (and accompanied by some wonderful Pikmin animations). We were a bit worried we’d lose all our StreetPass Miis, but that’s thankfully not the case.
Swapping the data on the original 2GB SD card for the new 4GB one is more complex though and the easiest way we found to do it was via a PC.
The final irritation is of course the much puzzled over absence of an AC adapter in the package. We just used the one from the old 3DS but why Nintendo thought penny pinching over that was worth all the fan complaints and consumer confusion we couldn’t imagine. We also miss the charging cradle for the original 3DS, but apparently a new version will be released at launch (£19.99 for the cradle and adapter, £6.99 for the adapter alone).
new Circle Pad Pro will also be released in Japan, but hasn’t been confirmed for the West yet. But apart from perhaps Metal Gear Solid 3D we’ve still not played any game that really requires it.
The 3DS XL is released in the UK on July 28 and as usual Nintendo is claiming they can’t set a RRP for it in Europe. But judging by online stores they all seem to have settled on £180. That’s compared to about £130 currently, for the original 3DS.
In terms of the console’s game line-up it has a small but impressively high quality catalogue of games, and we’d thoroughly recommend the likes of Mario Kart 7, Kid Icarus: Uprising, Resident Evil Revelations, Super Mario 3D Land, The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time 3D, Cave Story 3D, Star Fox 64 3D, Rhythm Thief The Emperor’s Treasure, and Ridge Racer 3D.
The only new games that are out on July 28 are expanded eShop game Freakyforms Deluxe: Your Creations, Alive! and art package New Art Academy. But New Super Mario Bros. 2 is out on August 17, and this week you have Theatrhythm Final Fantasy and on July 20 Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance]. Professor Layton And The Miracle Mask is out in October, while Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon and Paper Mario: Sticker Star are the big games for Christmas.
It is very tempting to say that the 3DS XL is the console the 3DS always should’ve been. Particularly for adults the larger size is easier and more comfortable to handle, and the 3D effect notably less restrictive. It’s still not perfect, but it’s certainly a useful step towards that goal.
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zelda is my mam and luigi is my dad.
There sure is a lot of bad tampered people in this comments section. And I’m not sure I understand any of the arguments they’re making. The 3DS can’t have a remodel because you don’t like Nintendo? Is that about the size of it?
This sounds like a perfectly useful upgrade that doesn’t do anything anyone that already has a 3DS is going to feel that bad about. Where’s the hate coming from?
I don’t agree that the original 3DS looks ‘cheap’ but it certainly doesn’t feel robust. I treat all my stuff with kid gloves but opening the top screen up to play still feels far too delicate. Considering it’s supposed to be a ‘portable’ machine I don’t think I’d feel too happy taking it out and about. It’s also too crowded and the 3D ‘sweet spot’ too narrow (I had to turn it off for RE: Revelations as it was just ruining the game for me). But, really, who cares about any of this when New Super Mario Bros. 2 is out next month? Yayyy!!!
By the way, is it just me or does anyone else really like watching unboxings on Youtube? I love ‘em.
I think you’ve made a slight error in your article regarding the battery life.
The 3DS XL has a battery life of 3.5-6.5hrs for 3DS software and 6-10 for DS software. The original 3DS has a battery life of 3-5hrs for 3DS software and 5-8hrs for DS software, so although the 3DS XL has a bigger battery, you’re only going to get 3.5-6.5hr play time out of it (an 0.5-1.5hr increase), not 6-10hr (a 3-5hr increase.)
Why don’t they make a 3DS the size of a two 50in television’s and then we will have full size 3d without glasses.
Have they done away with that b@5tard region locking, though?!?!?!
Why compare Nintendo to apple? iPhone is exactly that it’s a phone first! And the mobile phone market moves faster than the console one. Apple have to release upgrades to phones to meet consumer demands because if they don’t Samsung or others will.
How many galaxy s phones has there been in 3 years? 3… If apple don’t release updates they lose their custom and that’s bad business! Whether people upgrade its up to them.
Apple do alot of wrong things but regular updates in the phone, tablet and computer ranges is not one of them, blame all the companies because they all do it or consumer demand.
Sometimes I wonder if anyone proof reads GC These days.
Will nintendo release something like a HDMI, so it can be played through television.
What about three different machines over six years. Game Boy Colour, Game boy advance and the Nintendo DS. I don’t call it strange hypocrisy and no I have never owned an apple. GC Nintendo favouritism showing through again and where’s that included power supply you said we were getting in the UK.
“In terms of the console’s game line-up it has a small but impressively high quality catalogue of games,”
easily pleased arnt we?
“Resident Evil Revelations in particular – one of the few 3DS games with photorealistic visuals – looking stunning”
photorealistic? for goodness sake Jenkins, put your glasses on.