Nintendo 3DS XL review: bigger and better

By Andrew Yoon, Aug 02, 2012 7:00am PDT

It's been a week since the Nintendo 3DS XL arrived in the Shacknews office. And I am absolutely in love with it. Yes, the XL is simply a larger version of the 3DS, but it's an upgrade that's entirely worthwhile.

Perhaps the most striking aspect about the 3DS XL is that while the screens are much larger, the system does not feel significantly larger. No, it will not fit comfortably into your pants. But, it also doesn't look like a Fisher Price toy like the original DSi XL did.

Nintendo 3DS XL

Not only do you get much more screen real estate in a form factor that isn't significantly larger than the original system, but the 3DS XL is a much better constructed piece of kit than the original. Nintendo devices tend to feel more like toys than consumer electronic devices, but the 3DS definitely bucks the trend. Not only does the smooth matte finish look great, it feels terrific to the touch.

I'm especially fond of how much brighter the XL's screens are. The 3D slider also feels better, with a bit more resistance than the original 3DS. There's also a click to indicate that the feature is fully turned off. The bigger bottom screen also makes it easier to use your hand, instead of reaching out for the stylus, when navigating the menus of certain games.

Nintendo 3DS XL

While its larger screens and more solid construction make it an obvious improvement over the original 3DS, the XL is not a perfect system. Firstly, while the screen is bigger and brighter, it doesn't offer a higher resolution screen. That's to be expected, but the larger screens only exacerbate the 3DS' already-low resolution. You don't have to be a videophile to notice individual pixels, especially when reading text.

I'm also not a fan of the bottom three buttons, either. The Start, Select, and Home buttons blend into the system, which is a nice effect. However, they are incredibly mushy and simply feel terrible to use. Battery life also leaves much to be desired. The XL hasn't really improved much on the 3DS, and the battery still drains much too quickly in Sleep Mode, especially when StreetPass and SpotPass are turned on.

Owners of the original 3DS may not find much reason to upgrade to the 3DS. However, those that have yet to buy one will definitely want to get the XL. For only a little more bulk, you get a whole lot more screen real estate and a design that's far more attractive. The Nintendo 3DS XL will be available on August 19th for $199.99.

This review is based on a retail Nintendo 3DS XL system provided by Nintendo of America.

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