reviews\ Aug 26, 2012 at 11:45 am

Nintendo 3DS XL review

We all saw it coming. The original 3DS hadn't even been on the market for more than a few months when gamers everywhere were already predicting a revised version of the handheld. A few individuals such as myself were actually waiting for a new 3DS model. The Big N told us it wouldn't come anytime soon, and it marked down the price tag on the original. Oh, but Nintendo, you sly devil, I was on to your trickery from day one, so I, like many others, waited.

Here we are just over a year since the launch of the 3DS, and the Mario company has released the 3DS XL. But is this $200 device worth buying? Should you opt out of buying the regular ol' 3DS and get this much larger version? Should you maybe upgrade to the 3DS XL if you already own the original? The answer is yes.

The first thing worth mentioning is how comfortable the 3DS XL is. I had absolutely no cramping issues during my lengthy New Super Mario Bros. 2 sessions. The touchscreen works as well as ever, and the placement of the buttons, circle pad, and D-pad is great. Admittedly, it took me a short while to get used to the circle pad and D-pad positioning, but that's probably because I never gamed on the original 3DS all that much. After a few minutes, I was entirely accustomed to their placement. Also worth mentioning is the fact that there are now actual Home, Select, and Start buttons, which is certainly nice.

3DS XL - 1

That matte finish is sexy and smudge-free!

The 3DS XL boasts larger screens than the original 3DS. These suckers are a whopping 90 percent bigger, as many Nintendo ads will tell you ad nauseam. It really is impressive how much better the larger top screen makes the 3DS XL. The extra width is certainly welcome, and it makes focusing your vision on games a less taxing experience, especially if you dig playing with the 3D setting turned all the way up.

Speaking of games, the wider screens don't do much to make 3DS titles look ugly. A lot of folks thought graphics would take a massive hit, but that's not  the case. Yes, games are stretched out to fit on the upper screen, and if you're super anal about pixel density, you may notice a very slight dip in visual quality, but it's not even an issue. Regular DS games, on the other hand, do look noticeably worse on that large screen. Super Scribblenauts, for example, suffered from some oddly disjointed animation. If you absolutely need to play DS games on the 3DS XL, you don't need to worry about any hideous game-breaking graphics, but just be aware that those DS visuals are being blown up to fit on a much larger screen.

3DS XL - 2

Those big-ass screens really do make a difference.

The 3D effect in the 3DS XL is once again quite novel. Because the system has that nice large screen, the 3D probably won't be as visually tiring for some folks. If you were one of the many individuals who had eye straining issues after long play sessions, you'll be glad to know that the visual effect of the 3DS XL is easier on the eyes. Personally, I like playing with the 3D setting turned all the way up, and I have yet to experience any problems. I will note, though, that you need to look directly at the screen, as moving your head or the 3DS XL even slightly throws the stereoscopic visuals off.

As far as built-in functions are concerned, you've got all of the features from the original 3DS. The AR card games are still a decent though short-lived distraction. You can take pictures and create Mii characters. You can even explore the web using the not-so-awesome browser. Really, though, the 3DS XL isn't meant to be a multimedia device. It's a gaming device, and a fine one at that.

The biggest gripe I have with the 3DS XL is that the volume doesn't sound all that loud when it's at the highest level. You can hear it well enough, but I feel like the highest setting could have been louder. As it is, some gamers may have a tough time enjoying the sounds of their favorite titles if they live in a particularly noisy household or neighborhood. I found that wearing headphones provided me with a much more enjoyable experience as I gamed on my 3DS XL.

3DS XL - 3

Apparently, this is how people look when they play on their 3DS XL.

To put the battery life of the 3DS XL into perspective, I clocked in over four hours of New Super Mario Bros. 2 and spent just under an hour checking out the handheld's other features, and I used up most of the battery life. I had the 3D setting all the way up the entire time, used medium brightness, and had the volume up halfway due to my preference for wearing headphones. With those settings, the 3DS XL gives you about six hours worth of battery life. Obviously, if you've got the 3D turned off or are playing DS games, you can squeeze more juice out of the portable. As it stands, the six-hour average isn't great, especially since charging the darn thing takes about two or three hours, but it'll have to do.

Overall, the 3DS XL is by and large a superior handheld gaming device when compared to its predecessor. The matte finish gives it a slick look that ensures you don't get gross fingerprints all over it, and it even comes with a 4GB SD card for all of your downloadable gaming needs. Its large size, while certainly welcome, also means it's heavier, which may pose a comfort problem for the kiddies. That said, most elements of the 3DS XL — the screens, the larger size, the 3D effect, and the added comfort — come together to provide gamers with a Nintendo handheld that's worth the $199.99 asking price.

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About The Author
David Sanchez David Sanchez is the most honest man on the internet. You can trust him because he speaks in the third person.
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