We have finally got our hands on the Nintendo 3DS XL and have discovered that it should definitely be considered as the Nintendo 3DS’s big brother and not as an improved 3DS. They are two totally different handheld consoles and one might not be what you are looking for.
In the box we get a 4GB SD Card, which is double the amount that comes with the 3DS and with Nintendo pushing for gamers to purchase titles from the eShop this is essential. Lots of literature as well as AR Cards are supplied and that is everything that comes in the box, if you live anywhere excpet the USA. How do I charge my 3DS XL I hear you ask? Well Nintendo thought that you the consumer would already have one on hand, plus it cuts costs. This is probably the stupidest move I have ever witnessed Nintendo make.
First let's take a look at the exterior form factor design of the 3DS XL. The corners and lines are far more rounded than the 3DS, the unit is relatively slim and light too. The lid sits the two 3D cameras and is completely free from any decals or emblems and that clean look is beautiful. The edges and rear are also smoother and cleaner than the 3DS, Nintendo have removed that eye catching for all the wrong reasons two tiers of plastic look too. But everything is matte plastic and that leaves a slight cheap feel.
The sylus supplied is positioned on the right hand side of the XL and this placement is bliss. Having the stylus situated on the back of the 3DS was so annoying and cumbersome to achieve. The stylus is around the same length as the stylus supplied with the 3DS when expanded. The SD card slot has also been moved to the right and this doesn't really improve anything.
When we open up the console we are presented with the buttons and joystick layout that we are used to with the 3DS. The circle pad is situated in the top left and under that the D-Pad is placed. On the right we see the a, y, z & b buttons and on the very bottom of the right tucked next to the touch screen the power button is located. Along the bottom edge of the touch screen the start, select and home buttons are to be found. All the buttons feel nice and pleasant to use, they are soft and responsive. The joystick is also bliss, Nintendo have found the sweet spot with this layout and despite the increased size of space it doesn't seem that noticeable when engrossed in a game.
So far a limited selection of colours have been debut, check our Amazon links below to see what colour choices are available in the USA and Europe. Most colours are entirely black with different lid and base colours. The only exception we have seen to this is the all white model. The lid colour choices are red, blue and silver. I'd prefer the 3DS XL in block colours and I'm not keen on Nintendo diving into this overly black design theme.
Let's get onto the main attraction of the XL and that's the bigger screens. The top stereoscopic 3D screen has gone from 3.53 inches to 4.9 inches. The touch screen has gone from being 3 inches to 3.53 inches. These are dramatic increases and when both consoles are side by side the XL looks like a folio tablet. The colours and vibrancy of the displays is actually better and bolder and the viewing angles are quite liberal. But the resolutions haven't changed and unfortunately this creates an ever so slightly stretched fuzzy image at times. It's not that noticeable because you hold the XL quite a distance away from your eyes and inbuilt anti aliasing technology does an amazing job, but when up close it's occasionally very distinguishable. Apparently this is the exact same problem the DSi XL had and we would have definitely of liked Nintendo to of incorporated a high res display. But if you have eye problems or just want larger screens this is a perfectly acceptable gaming machine.
The 3D effect is still effective, just on a bigger scale. You can also still adjust the intensity of the 3D via a slider located next to the top screen. I am one who actually enjoys the 3D gaming experience so I have it turned on most of the time. You can still play DS cartridges and 3DS cartridges but we can confirm the system is still region locked. I don't understand why Nintendo do this, the DS wasn't region locked and game sales surged. So it can't just be because of pirating.
Audio quality is good. It's rich and volume can get reasonably loud. They definitely serve there purpose and it slightly ups the 3DS's. Microphone quality is a little muffled and is sensitive to background noisy like always.
Battery life gets around 1-2 hours longer than the 3DS in our tests. The 3DS gets around 4-5 hours of battery life and the 3DS XL achieves a very solid 6 hours. This increase is quite significant. To charge the battery from drained takes just under 2 hours which is a far less amount of time than Nintendo's claim of 3.5 hours which is good.
The two 3D cameras on the lid of the 3DS XL and the inside camera have not seen any upgrades. They are all still 0.3 mega pixels and image quality is terrible from all. You're not going to use this camera for serious photo taking but at least cameras are included and some games take advantage of it which can be interesting.
One big gripe we have about the XL is where Nintendo have decided to position the headphone/ headset jack. It's now on the left hand side of the front and it's positioned in the middle on the 3DS. When it's in the middle anything you have plugged in doesn't interfere with the way you hold the console but when it's on the left it's in the way and digs into my hand.
I'm not going to go into any detail on the 3DS operating system but it has in no way changed and doesn't include any additional features on the XL. However the inbuilt Wi-Fi seems to be a little stronger, this could either be down to an element of improved software or hardware.
The 3DS XL is priced at $199.99 in the USA and at £179.99 in the UK.
Despite some of the short comings of the Nintendo 3DS XL, this is a very solid handheld console. Those who don't mind a mild knock on image quality and portability but would love bigger screens should seriously give this a consideration. But no dramatic changes have been made to warrant an upgrade from the original 3DS.