Customer Review

115 of 132 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally, Nintendo delivers on the 3DS' potential (an in-depth look at the improvements and differences over the original 3DS), August 21, 2012
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Nintendo 3DS XL - Red/Black (Video Game)
If one looks at the 3DS with an unbiased, objective point of view, there is a lot to love. It was basically a next-gen successor of Nintendo's vastly successful DS console, with the horse-power of a console somewhere between the Gamecube and the Wii. It utilized a very cool 3-D effect that, when done right, really adds to the overall immersion of the gaming experiences available on it. Everything was an improvement on the original DS. Granted, it also had some caveats and issues as well. The 3DS XL does a very good job delivering the goodness of the original 3DS, while making vast improvements over its smaller brother original. In this review, I will focus on the differences and improvements this model makes on the 3DS line. I'll warn you right now, this is a long review. If you don't like long reviews, then you may want to skip this. :P

Screen Size: With a title that includes "XL," obviously the increase in size is the biggest difference between this and the original 3DS. It may be easy to hear that the screens are 90% bigger than the original, but it really is a stark difference when you take the system out of the package and see it for yourself. The XL's screens are HUGE compared to the original. It's comparable to the jump between the DSi and the DSXL, for those savvy to what that means, but in this case its even bigger because the top screen is in a widescreen format. Despite the size increase, the picture is still crisp and pops with nice detail. I thought that because the screen would be bigger, but with the same resolution as the original, the XL's picture would be distorted and fuzzy, but that's not the case here. I've put the screen detail and quality through rigorous testing since buying the system, playing many different games, and the bigger picture really makes the scenery more detailed than I ever noticed before. It's no exaggeration to say that the games actually feel new due to this greater detail. It's great!

Screen quality: Instead of the top half of the XL having a shiny, glossy finish of the screen and the area around it that the original featured, the 3DSXL features an almost "smoothed over" finish that was meant to lessen glare from the sun or other lights from bothering your eyes. It actually makes quite a difference. The trade-off is that the back-lighting seems just a smidgen less bright, but not much at all. One of the biggest problems I had with the original 3DS was the problem of "ghosting." It was especially frequent in games with areas of high contrast. This was a common issue people had with the original 3DS, but I haven't noticed it much at all yet with the XL. This is a big plus for me, because that ghosting was one of my biggest gripes with the original. I made my peace with it though, because ghosting naturally occurs from time to time with the tech being utilized in the 3DS, but to have it mostly gone here is a real treat. The colors in the XL seem brighter and a bit more vibrant as well. The touch screen is really nicely made, and seems to be a slight improvement on the original, but the difference is negligible. The saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," comes to mind.

DS backwards compatibility: Honestly, this is one of the best things about the 3DXL. If you look up comparison videos of the first 3DS playing original DS games and a DSi playing DS games, the 3DS is surprisingly inferior. The colors are more bland, the resolution is fairly fuzzy, and if you choose to play it in its native resolution to fix that blurry smudginess, the screen becomes so small it's hardly worth doing that. The XL makes drastic improvements in all of these areas. The colors are just as bright and beautiful as playing on a normal DSiXL. Due to the larger screen size, playing in a native resolution still leaves ample room for playtime and is no longer the cramp experience the first 3DS offered. If you choose that route, the screen will be close to a normal DSi. Even if you don't, the picture is still decent at full-size, shockingly. This fantastic backwards compatibility is a real plus in the 3DSXL's favor and should not be understated. Massive improvement here.

Build quality: Much like the new DSi and DSiXL made notable improvements in build quality to their predecessors, so does the XL refine the design of its predecessor. Instead of an outer glossy finish, there is a sleek matte exterior that makes the XL feel more heavy duty and refined. It definitely has a better build quality than the original. My original 3DS' top screen hinge became fairly loose and the lock-in positions a little weak after just one instance where I accidentally jostled it. The hinges on the XL click and lock into one or two set angular positions before locking into the flat position and I know there's no way this thing is going to break easily at all. That's a really nice improvement. The system is surprisingly slick in its form too. It's about the same thickness as the original (which is kind of clunky in comparison, let's be honest), and even weighs less than expected, despite the larger screen and button size, and this size and shape really comes across as a mature, sleek gadget from Nintendo. I felt the same way about their classy DSiXL system too. The buttons are also vastly improved. The home, select, and start buttons are actual separated buttons that have a bit of click to them, which is a vast improvement. The other buttons have more "squish" to them, but still click in a satisfying way. All-in-all, the buttons feel very balanced, if that make sense. They're very similar to the DSiXL's button quality, which is to say, very nice. The 3-D and Volume slider are also different. When all the way off, the 3-D slider clicks into position, and when you want to turn the 3-D effect on, you must click it out of position and then slide it to your desired position. Both the volume and 3-D sliders seem more heavy duty. They stick and stay in position very, very well. A lot of small details add up in this system, to be sure.

Battery life: In my personal experience, the original 3DS had battery life that lasted about 4-5 hours with the 3-D slid up, 5-7 without 3-D, and roughly 6-8 hours with DS games. The 3DS XL is supposed to last 3.5-6.5 hours with 3D, 6-8 without, and 8-10 with DS games. It's not a HUGE improvement, but every bit counts. If you're like me and play a lot of the time with the system plugged into the wall, it won't really matter all that much anyway, but for those who want to play on the go, this is a really nice improvement over the original.

Sound: Supposedly, the sound tech in the 3DSXL is pretty close to the original, but I (and others, I've checked) have noticed some differences. The speakers on the XL seem a bit quieter than the original. Not a ton, mind you, but it's noticeable. The speaker volume level seems to depend on which game you're playing too. 3D Classics: Kirby's Adventure seems just as loud as before, but better now. I tend to play my 3DS with these amazing headphones on, and the difference becomes really noticeable then. The sound from the XL with headphones seems a lot more detailed and ambient than before, and the volume level is fine. The highs, mids, and lows are distinctive with no aspect overpowering or distorting the others. Much like the visuals, I'm hearing things in games I never heard before, and it has enhanced my experience even further. Great stuff here, and a very pleasant surprise!

Memory: The 3DSXL comes with a 4 GB SD card, making for a much bigger space for storage than the 2 GB SD card included with the first models. This is nice. I almost filled my first one up and still had a lot more games to get. Granted, you can buy any sized SD to use with the 3DS after some formatting, but having more space right off the bat is nice.

Any issues?: In many ways, the 3DSXL is what the 3DS should have been from the beginning, and it's a fantastic little handheld. It's not quite perfect though. For one, where's the second analog slider? There's ample room under the right-hand face buttons for it, but alas, no slider. It's not a problem that bothers me much, but I must note it because there are many who will view it as an issue. Imagining the boat-peripheral they're making for this system makes me giggle a bit. It conjures up visions of Nintendo releasing a laptop-sized 3DS with trigger buttons, lol. I understand they kept it out due to tech/power/space optimization, which makes sense. Personally, I never cared much for a second slider, and not having one has pushed developers to come up with some really creative things in the past on the DS and 3DS alike. I also find the design of the XL to be, like the original, cramped and painful to hold after a while, especially in high-action games. It's definitely better, don't get me wrong, but the cramping is still there a bit. I am waiting for CTA-Digital to release a Sega Saturn-esque hand grip for the system. :D Perhaps the most annoying thing about this handheld is the d-pad. It works just as well as the one before, but now it's extremely "clicky." I don't mean the button clicks when you use it; that has always been the case with the 3DS. What I mean is, now the d-pad seems to be looser in its area, and so makes this "clickety" sound against the bracket if you lift your thumb off of it even if only for a split-second. It can be really annoying. One more personal gripe: the color choices. Really Nintendo? Bright blue and red? The DSiXL had really mature, fetching color options that made the system feel like an adult's gadget. These slick red and blue colors are a lot less subtle and elegant. Don't get me wrong, I own a teal 3DS (not exactly the most "mature" color choice) and love it, but I wish there had been a more subdued teal, gold, or forest/jade green finish to choose from. Just you wait, as soon as I post this review, that option will become available, knowing my luck. lol

I realize this review is very long, but when considering tech purchases that are this pricey, these kind of reviews always helped me make informed decisions better. I have both the original and now the XL, and I must say the 3DSXL feels like the "true" 3DS. The system should have been like this from the start, honestly, and when it was originally announced, I, along with many others, hoped for an XL edition. Now we get it and it has been well worth the wait. For those who don't own a 3DS yet, this is the perfect time to get it. This system finally delivers on the promise of the original 3DS, and now there's an excellent library of titles for newcomers to joyously embrace. At a mere 30$ more than the original for practically double the space and a big jump in hardware quality, it's more than worth it. This is a great value. I'm glad I got the original a year ago, but I am absolutely thrilled to get this version, and heartily recommend it to all gamers with a heart container for Nintendo. It's not a choice you'll regret. I hope you enjoyed this review and found it helpful. Have a good day. Toodles.
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Tracked by 4 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 19 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 22, 2012 1:02:27 PM PDT
Exceed88 says:
That was a nice read, there is one thing I'm still wondering though. I hear some people talking about the XL's speakers being quieter than the standard 3DS's overall. Have you noticed any discernable difference? Also props for a Saturn reference and I do agree on the color matter. Would it really kill them to make the other regions' colors available all at once? There was a silver/black and all white system in addition to the two colors we had.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 22, 2012 1:19:33 PM PDT
T. Hill says:
That's a very good question! From what I have noticed, the speakers do indeed sound a little bit quieter. Not a lot, mind you. It seems to depend on what you're playing too. 3D Classic: Kirby's Adventure sounds just as loud as before, but better now. The quality of sound in headphones is noticeably better though. The soundscapes are a lot more detailed and ambient than before. Overall, I'd say it's an improvement.

I'll edit my review to say this.

Posted on Aug 22, 2012 3:12:31 PM PDT
Dude just go to and you will find awesome skin and colors for your 3dsxl I promise you!

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 22, 2012 4:58:55 PM PDT
Exceed88 says:
That's actually what I intended to do. I was going to do that with the original 3DS before deciding to wait and see the 3DS XL.

Thanks for the heads up. I can deal with weaker speakers as long as the headphone sound quality hasn't been negatively impacted as well.

Posted on Aug 22, 2012 6:08:23 PM PDT
You think the DS games looks better? I think they look terrible. A lot worse then the original 3DS. I'm enjoying the XL so far but the DS games look like crap. They're still fun as hell though. =)

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 23, 2012 12:38:07 AM PDT
awesome! I got my matte finished gamecube and sp skins from there because I hate finger prints.! I'm liking the 3ds I'm more impressed with the aiming abilities it has in ocarina of time in first person view than I am with the wii-mote. I will defiantly buy a Wii.U now!

Posted on Aug 30, 2012 1:49:31 AM PDT
Elbongo says:
If you are disappointed with the sound quality try switching the audio setting from Surround to Stereo. This makes them louder and is better if you don't use headphones. Just go to Settings on the home screen and find >Other Settings>--->(page 2) Sound--->Stereo.

Posted on Aug 30, 2012 6:59:38 AM PDT
Great review. While i do notice lighting is a tiny bit dimmer it really makes no real difference. Are you surprised by some reviews that claim pic is less vibrant?

Posted on Sep 6, 2012 1:51:04 PM PDT
Winter says:
Nicely done! I'm a fan of detailed reviews--I struggle to keep mine short but with tech like this you really can't afford to leave out information to people.

Speaking of which - you mention sound issues and I wondered if possibly you had AVLS turned on? It's a setting (short for "Automatic Volume Leveling System") that's supposed to dampen sound to preserve your hearing. If you don't like cranking the volume to the top when you're on those lovely headphones you linked to, you might check to see if that feature is on and try again with it off.

Hope that helps - again, good review.

Posted on Feb 20, 2013 8:59:11 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 20, 2013 9:00:06 AM PST
T. Hill says:
Edward, Some may be nitpicky about emulation still, but I think it looks good. Personally, I play DS games on my DSiXL simply because I'm a purist, BUT for those who don't have an original line DS, the 3DSXL works great. The DS has an incredible library of classics, and now 3DS owners have a system that will play all those really well in addition to the now-great (and becoming ever-greater as time goes by) 3DS library. Best of both worlds.

Elbongo, thanks for the suggestion. It actually worked well for me, but I think it's still quieter than the original DS's "stereo sound" setting. It is better on "stereo setting" though, you're right. I think the XL's speakers are perfectly fine, and with headphones, it's a great system. Definitely more defined and high quality than the original DS.

Naz, yeah, it's a little surprising to me when people complain about that. The lighting isn't dimmer, it just seems that way because of the material they used for the screens now. It's more smoothed over than the original 3DS's shiny screen. I think that gives it the impression of having weaker lighting, but it's practically the same. It's just as vibrant as before, easily. There will always be nitpicky people out there who will do nothing but find things to complain about.

Pyanfar Chanur, thanks a lot for the kind words. Your reviews are fantastic, so that's a real compliment coming from you. :) I tried finding that setting you mentioned, but I couldn't find one. Switching the setting from "surround" to "stereo" helped raise the volume quite a bit though, so it's all good.
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