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Hardware Review: 3DS XL

January 18, 2013

The following is a hardware review of the 3DS XL, the first revamped version of the Nintendo 3DS Hardware Line. This review focuses on the differences between the original 3DS model and the new 3DS XL model. Unlike the Wii U review, this review will not go into every feature the 3DS has. This is a comparison review, as well as a general feel review when testing out certain software. 

To the shock of everyone, last summer Nintendo released a new hardware model in the Nintendo 3DS line, known as the 3DS XL. Seeing as the DSi XL sold decently, Nintendo apparently decided to make an XL version of the 3DS, and gave it one or two physical modifications (Note: Physical. The Menu, the software it runs, ect is all the same as the original 3DS.) Typically, I stick with the first model of the handheld I get when it comes to Nintendo products (with the exception of the Gameboy Advance SP, which I felt was a great improvement over the original GBA.) However, special circumstances gave me the chance to purchase this new model and give it a try.

How does it look: I went with the blue/black version, which I personally thinks looks wonderful! Unlike what the packaging and some online photos would have you believe, this model is a darker shade of blue, and looks incredibly shiny. I honestly was not expecting the handheld to look this nice. I’m not sure what the red/black version looks like, but if it’s anything like this handheld, it probably looks like a ruby.

The handheld also has a very noticeable size difference compared to the original model (yes…. DUH. It’s called the XL. I know.) Honestly though, I was always focused on the screen size being a little bigger. I did not expect the handheld to be as big as it is. This handheld will not fit in most pants pockets like the original 3DS did (and if it does… it will probably feel uncomfortable sitting down…) However, for someone like me who puts their handheld in their jacket pocket/backpack, it doesn’t affect me that much. It’s still very easy to carry around, and is not that big of a nuisance.

Opening up your 3DS features a nice looking black inside, with (obviously) two large screens. One large touch screen, and one slightly larger main screen/3D screen. The inside looks a little plastic like, but still looks very nice.

Screen Size Comparison: From what I can tell, the advertising for this handheld seems to be correct. These two screens are significantly larger than the original 3DS’s two screens. I’d also like to note that the main screen/3D screen gives the Wii U Gamepad’s screen (size-wise) a run for it’s money as well. This screen will make handheld games feel like console games… or at least make you feel like you’re playing at a quality the Wii U Gamepad plays at (even if the graphic levels are no different than the original 3DS.)

Physical Features: These are the main differences I noticed. Not sure if I’m missing any, feel free to point out any I missed if you own a 3DS XL or know all the main differences.

– The Stylus Holder has moved from the back of the handheld to the side. This makes it much easier to take out and put away your Stylus, as well as give you a reminder of whether or not you forgot to put it back in it’s holder when the handheld is not in use.

– I feel like the charger that came with the handheld is a bit different than the original 3DS’s charger, but I may be wrong. I know the battery life for the handheld is definitely longer than the original’s.

– The “Start”, “Home” and “Select” buttons have been made larger and feel more like buttons than the originals did.

– Control Pad, Circle Pad, and the standard A/B/X/Y buttons are about the same… although I’d like to note the lack of a second circle pad. Nintendo made an accessory for the original 3DS to have a second circle pad, as well as additional trigger buttons. One is apparently being made for the XL, but why not build it into the 3DS XL?

– The Power Button looks a bit different. It is not a square and is not elevated like the original 3DS’s power button. By that I mean it is a PAIN IN THE NECK TO PRESS. It takes me one to two times to press the power button to turn on and shut off, as I have to try to see if I’m pressing the button wrong. This is frustrating and unacceptable.

How do the games look: While the 3DS XL just blows up the picture you would see on the 3DS original, it doesn’t feel blown up at all. In fact, I’d say it makes all the games I tried out on it much more detailed! I tried out various virtual console games (NES Games, Game Boy Advance Games, Game Boy games) and they looked much better than on the 3DS original. Game Boy Advance games especially looked significantly better enlarged than they did on the original 3DS. I did not try with a DS game, but I’ll assume it looks better on the 3DS as well. I also tried out the Fire Emblem: Awakening demo on the XL, and it looked gorgeous! I can’t compare with the original 3DS, but I’m pretty sure the demo would not look as nice as on the XL. This alone makes the handheld worth the price. Despite not having the engine the current Nintendo console has, I’d say this handheld truly gives the feel that I’m playing console games.

Transferring over data from the original 3DS: It was actually less frustrating than you think it would be. There is a menu option in system settings to transfer over data from one 3DS to another. Like with the Wii U, it features Pikmin moving over your data on the 3DS that is receiving the info. One thing to note is that your games will stay on the SD card for your ORIGINALLY OWNED 3DS, not the one you are transferring to. I’ve been told that you need to copy data from the SD Card on to your computer and transfer it to the 3DS XL’s SD Card on the computer to have your data on the new SD card that comes with the 3DS. My laptop doesn’t have that capability, and I have no interest in buying something to allow it to do so for one time only, so I’m sticking with my original SD card from the old 3DS.

Final Verdict: Despite some frustration with the stupid power button, I’d say this handheld was worth upgrading to. If you don’t own a 3DS, I suggest (unless you really need a cheap option) to get the 3DS XL. It looks nicer, the picture quality looks nicer, and it feels much better to play with. There are some things I wish the handheld had (like a second circle pad) but it doesn’t detract from the product. The 3DS XL is a fantastic handheld, and I can’t wait to play some of the next big 3DS titles with it. Well done Nintendo!


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