Customer Review

11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good overall improvement over 3DS, April 24, 2013
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Nintendo 3DS XL - Red/Black (Video Game)
I was a 3DS early adopter, having loved the DS and being a bit too caught-up in the 3D hype. That means I did get burned on that, having bought the original for the full launch price of $250 (thanks for the free GBA games Nintendo, but they really aren't worth $80). That said, I liked the 3DS. It had backward compatibility with DS games, the 3D was a neat touch (and pretty darn revolutionary at the time) and I even liked the new menu system with the ability to download content to SD card. Since launch, Nintendo has started offering complete downloadable games which is great- saves having to carry around a lot of game cards which are always so easy to lose.

There were a few things, of course, that I didn't like about the old 3DS. First, battery life- while it isn't quite as bad as the Sega Game Gear, it was pretty bad compared to the DS Lite (or the regular DS for that matter). Second, I found the keys to be a bit stiff, reminding me of those first-generation Logitech game controllers. Lastly, the cameras were weak- effectively useless for taking real pictures and little more than a novelty.

First off, to make one thing clear: unlike usual Nintendo handheld hardware refreshes, 3DS XL is not like the DS Lite or GBA SP- it isn't supposed to render the original 3DS obsolete by being better in every way. It's being sold and marketed in parallel to the original (at a $30 higher pricepoint) and is better in some ways and worse in others. Here is the general breakdown:

Better:
Screens- most obviously the screens are much larger, making it easier to see and use 3D.
Battery life- on stock power it does last longer (1/2-1 hr more depending on use).
Keys- they are softer and more responsive, and make less noise.
Stylus- no longer telescoping.

Worse:
Weight- it's heavier.
Size- it's wider and taller (though surprisingly, not thicker), can be a bit much for little hands.

Same:
Cameras- yeah, unfortunately they still suck.
Features- same menu system, buttons, sliders, input, etc.
Other hardware- SDHC (up to 32 GB), wifi (2.4 ghz b/g), sound, mic, processor, card slot, etc.

Obviously, the increased screen size is the biggest draw, and alone more than justifies the difference in price. I'd even go so far as to say it's worth upgrading from a regular 3DS for this alone, especially if your eyesight is less than perfect. The resolution is unchanged, but it really doesn't matter much- the original 3DS had way too many pixels per inch for a handheld game system; spreading them out a bit does not hurt at all. It makes it much easier to make out detail in 3DS titles that would otherwise be overlooked, easier to read text,, and easier to use the touch controls on the lower screen. It also makes the 3D work a lot better at more reasonable range- I often had to have the old 3DS right in front of my face to use this and eventually ended up just turning it off in most games. Glare is also noticeably reduced in bright light, even without any antiglare film on it.

The key design is definitely improved. The new 3DS buttons feel more like the DS Lite's than the GBA SPs, which is a good thing. Aside from the button feel, the old inline pressure-sensitive keys for start/select/home are now actual keys and much bigger. The sliders are bigger and easier to access, and the power button is recessed so you won't hit it on accident. I can't find anything to complain about with the new key layout- perhaps the only nitpick is the joystick ('circle pad') is no bigger.

Battery life is slightly improved on the base unit. I should note though that there's a lot of cheap, very effective 3DS extended batteries for sale (I used the Nyko one). However, the only 3DS XL high capacity battery I've seen is a very expensive Japanese model (MSRP $100- yikes). It's probably both cheaper and easier to get a USB battery pack and cable. The XL uses the same charging port/voltage as the original 3DS. It comes packed with an AC adapter.

That said, there are a few unchanged things that are a bit of a letdown: no upgraded cameras, wi-fi, or processor. One would have thought with all that extra space, they'd have done something more than just add bigger screens and battery... but nope, doesn't look like it. Additionally, though the internal battery does last longer, it isn't a whole lot longer. It's a far cry from the 5+ hour boost the DS Lite gave over the vanilla DS. Most of the gains in battery size/capacity are negated by the power it takes to run the bigger screens.

A few added notes- the LED power/wireless indicators on the original 3DS were big, bright, and could be pretty distracting in the dark. The new ones are much more subdued while still being visible. I also feel that the contoured case is a lot nicer to hold than the original, even if it's heavier and larger. The standard 3DS felt a bit blocky with its sharp edges, though of course there are plenty of add-on cases that can fix that. I'll admit I rarely used the old 3DS stylus because it was simply too hard to pull out. The new one is pretty much identical to the DS Lite's, though on the other hand the touch screen is so much bigger that it isn't hard to just use your fingers.

If you haven't got a 3DS yet and are aiming to buy one, the XL is almost a no-brainer choice. It's only $30 more and the pros over the vanilla 3DS definitely outweigh the cons. About the only situation in which I'd say the regular 3DS is better is if you're a small person and want to carry it around in small pockets, or if you really really want one of the limited edition 3DS units.

If you already have a 3DS the upgrade choice is a bit tougher, but I'd say it's still worth it. Give your 3DS to a friend and stop squinting at the screen, or sell it (the original still fetches good resale price). If you're skeptical about how much better the screens are, go check it out in a store. It's very likely this will convince you.
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