Super Size Me! – Nintendo 3DS XL Review
Nintendo has finally shipped the latest iteration of the Nintendo 3DS, the 3DS XL, and while some may tell you that size doesn’t matter, in this case it makes a world of difference!
The first thing that you’ll notice is, of course, the significant size difference over the Nintendo 3DS. Measuring 3/4 of an inch wider and almost a full inch longer, the 3DS XL makes for a much larger unit. However, Nintendo seems to have learned their lesson from the DSi XL’s design in a couple of ways. First, the frame of the 3DS is slightly smaller than its non-3D counterpart; and second, the 3DS sports a more rounded design on the corners. These two design improvements make the 3DS far less cumbersome to fit in your back pocket than the DSi XL, which at times felt like you were wrestling an alligator to stow it behind you.
Additional improvements include the location of rubber bumpers on the top half of the unit that rests nicely on the square frame of the lower screen to prevent the top screen from being scratched. Furthermore, this keeps you from having to rape your Xbox 360 for its rubber feet to prevent scratches from occurring. Larger buttons are also used for the Select, Home, and Start instead of the low-profile buttons that looked like they were covered by a cheap sticker. Also, the 3DS XL sports a 3D slider that has a real tactile click to it when you move it to the off position, and keeps it from sliding up if you accidentally brush across it. The stylus has been relocated to the right side where you can easily reach it with your fingers, instead of the top middle area behind the screen, and the shoulder buttons are a bit lower profile, giving it less of a “oh crap, that’s what we forgot to add!” feel.
The finish on the 3DS XL is rather enticing as well, featuring a metallic matte finish as opposed to a glossy plastic; the result is a unit that looks more grown up than its predecessor which makes shelling out $200 a little bit less bitter of a pill to swallow over what is essentially a 3DS with bigger screens. The box art for the unit simply does not do the 3DS color scheme justice, as it makes the Red and Blue look too soft, whereas the actual color of the units are quite striking. The 3DS XL also comes with a 4GB Lexar SD memory card instead of the 2GB card that came with the original 3DS giving you a little bit more room to play out of the box.
From a perspective standpoint, the 3DS XL seems to carry some additional improvements. The speakers, while most likely containing the same size drivers as the original unit, have a larger hole pattern, which gives the XL a slightly fuller sound than the smaller handheld. Furthermore, even though the larger screen still sports the same 800×240 pixel resolution, there’s no real pixelation that’s noticeable from the larger viewing area. Another benefit of the larger screen is that the 3D viewing seems to be far less strenuous on the eyes. Previously, the thought of having to view a game on the 3DS with 3D mode enabled for more than five minutes required me to take an ibuprofen and some Dramamine before pushing the power button; however, my eyes seem to strain less with the XL unless there’s a rapid shift in perspective. For those of you that have the same problem, you might find the 3DS XL a more enjoyable experience.
The Nintendo 3DS XL isn’t without some design faux pas; The SD card slot is still uncomfortably deep, and unless you have some long fingernails, it’s difficult to insert or remove the card without using some kind of helper like a game cartridge to make sure it’s fully seated. The XL also has similar hinges to the original 3DS, and after just a few hours of use, I can already feel the top screen getting a little floppy. The stylus also has a hard plastic tip, which unless you have a screen protector installed, means you’ll be buffing scratches out of the touchscreen in no time flat. Of course, the 3DS XL launches without any accessory packages for softer styluses or screen protectors available, so I’m just using my fingers for the time being to prevent marring my shiny new toy.
Also, a sore spot for many people will be the battery life. From a full on charge to the time the battery light began flashing, it only took about four hours of continuous gameplay. Ten minutes later, the 3DS XL was completely powered down. You would think that with all that extra room inside the case they’d be able to pack in enough battery for a good cross-country flight at least. As soon as Nyko comes out with a revised Power Grip, you can bet I’ll be waiting at the front of the line for one.
The most glaring omission to the 3DS’ ‘biggie-size’ design is the lack of a second analog control. Nintendo missed a golden opportunity to do their consumers right by integrating a second stick underneath the letter buttons on the right side. This would eliminate one of the biggest gripes with the original design, and given consumers some extra value in purchasing the XL; however, in continuing with the tradition, Nintendo is instead opting to create a Circle Pad Pro XL to attach to the 3DS XL, turning an engineering oversight into a new revenue stream.
Overall, the general design of the Nintendo 3DS XL is relatively unchanged save for the obvious growth spurt over the original console. Some minor design decisions make it easier to pack away when you’re on the go, and the larger screens go a long way in making gameplay a much better experience. If you have the original, the motivation to upgrade is purely an aesthetic one. But if you’re still on the fence about getting a 3DS, it’s definitely a sharper looking piece of hardware than the previous iteration.
The Nintendo 3DS XL receives a 3.75/5.0.
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