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Nintendo 3DS XL review: bigger and better

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.

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.

Andrew Yoon was previously a games journalist creating content at Shacknews.

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  • reply
    August 2, 2012 7:00 AM

    Andrew Yoon posted a new article, Nintendo 3DS XL review: bigger and better.

    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.

    • reply
      August 2, 2012 7:32 AM


    • reply
      August 2, 2012 7:52 AM

      That is a sexy piece of hardware.

    • reply
      August 2, 2012 7:55 AM

      I'm enjoying the 3ds XL so far but it's not all the comfortable to hold, other than that I don't regret not getting a nexus 7.

    • reply
      August 2, 2012 7:58 AM

      The Giantbomb video isn't as optimistic. No cradle charger, no fancy extending pen. Not to mention the lack of the second thumbpad or option to use the thumb pad add on or that stand that came with Kid Icarus.

      • reply
        August 2, 2012 8:08 AM

        Yeah, no 2nd thumbpad (and thus no games designed w/ a 2nd thumpad) is what kills it for me.

        • Zek legacy 10 years legacy 20 years
          August 2, 2012 8:55 AM

          I think that's exactly why there's no 2nd thumbpad. They're not willing to commit to that and leave all the 3DS owners in the dust, forced to use that abortion called the Circle Pad Pro.

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            August 2, 2012 9:02 AM

            well then it goes both ways. I don't want to control a 3d based game using button controls to move the camera or worse having to use the stylus. Until they fix it, I won't support the 3Ds. I really doubt they'll even fix it for the 3DsLite if there ever will be one, using your logic. Which is sad because I've bought every single Nintendo handheld since the original brick Gameboy. It's one of the reasons why my eyesight is so piss poor.

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          August 2, 2012 10:09 AM

          That ship sailed the day the original 3DS came out and lacked a second analog. You can't split your userbase mid-cycle by making games that only later hardware revisions can play.

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        August 2, 2012 8:33 AM

        I prefer that it doesn't come with the cradle charger. It's far easier to just plug it in and carry around the tiny AC adapter.

        There will be a Circle Pad Pro for the 3DS XL. Yeah, it's dumb that they didn't do it from the get-go, but considering how few games support it, I don't really miss it. Ultimately, my review isn't "this is a perfect system." But if you're gonna get a 3DS, I'd opt for the XL over the vanilla model.

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        August 2, 2012 10:08 AM

        Biggest downside for me is the lower pixel density is very obvious, similar to the way it was on the DSi XL. You can see the tiny black lines between pixels in any area with somewhat uniform coloration, like against a blue sky or on the white of the home screen.

        The longer battery life is inarguably better, but for sharper screen and easier portability I think I still prefer the original.

    • reply
      August 2, 2012 8:34 AM

      How does pushmo look/play on the new hardware???

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      August 2, 2012 9:04 AM

      Nintendo are starting to confuse their customer base with way too many iterations of their hardware.

      • reply
        August 2, 2012 9:10 AM

        I think it's more a matter of panicing and dumping the brand to get as much money out of the system before moving on. To put things into perspecitve, the original DS came out in 2004. It took two years before the redesigned DSlite came out, two years after that for the DSi, and another year before the DSXL came out.

        The 3DS came out in 2011, the 3DSXL came out in 2012.

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          August 2, 2012 2:25 PM

          Panicking from what? They need to continue to reiterate to increase value and reduce cost. I don't see what's so special about wanting to make it better.

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            August 2, 2012 2:34 PM

            was saying they took their time between revisions for ~5-6 years on the original DS because it was selling quite well enough. In just a year's time they knocked, what, $80 off the price and added a new sku for the 3DS. In my opinion that doesn't look like a company that has total confidence in the future of the 3DS as it currently stands.

    • reply
      August 2, 2012 9:33 AM

      this will ruin my chances of selling my 3ds

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