Nintendo 3DS XL Review: Bigger Is Better
Do the system's jumbo screens make it a must buy?
Here's some advice: If you currently own a Nintendo 3DS and can't decide whether to make the jump to the new 3DS XL, do yourself a favor and avoid this new system at all costs. Not because it's bad, mind you. Nintendo did a great job with this revamped machine. No, the reason we insist you ignore the handheld has everything to do with its 4.88-inch top screen, because once you look into it, you can kiss the old 3DS goodbye.
It would be one thing if the screen was 40 percent larger, or even 60, but 90 percent represents a stunning increase; the same holds true for the lower touchscreen, which was supersized to an impressive 4.18-inches. The screens don't simply enhance the 3DS. They consume it.
That said, interested fans want to know if the games look superior, to which we say, yes and no. Yes because everything looks better in jumbo, especially cut scenes and even glasses free 3D, which seemingly draws us in like never before. No, because Nintendo didn't increase the resolution. As such, you can forget about some newfangled HD display. This isn't PlayStation Vita quality. At the same time, it didn't need to be, as the 3DS XL does a fine job displaying the entire catalogue of games, including Super Mario 3D Land, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D and Resident Evil Revelations. If anything, it simply gives those with weary eyes a chance to hold the machine further away, instead of sitting hunched over with the device pressed to their faces. That privilege is worth at least $75 of the $199 asking price.
Screens aside, there's more to love about 3DS XL. Nintendo ditched the glossy exterior for a matte finish, significantly cutting down on fingerprints. Then it moved the headphone jack to the left of the touchscreen instead of directly beneath it, and although it's another small change, the stylus is exactly where it should be, on the right of the system. You can also forget about that flimsy retractable stylus bundled with the old 3DS. This one is made of firmer plastic.
Then we have the 3D slider, which is made of a different plastic than the original model. Now there's a switch of sorts that lets you lock the slider in place to avoid accidental 3D, if such a thing exists.
What don't we like? The Select, Home and Start buttons (located beneath the touchscreen) feel unresponsive, though they work just fine. Beyond that, the camera is still a low-resolution disaster, and unless our hearing has begun to deteriorate (a real possibility), the volume seems lower than usual. Not that big a deal, since we normally play with headphones anyway.
Taking all this into account, the XL's screens are its biggest selling point, and we have to admit, make all the difference in a frenzied game of Mario Kart 7. There's still room for improvement, but at the end of the day, this is one heck of a redesign. The sooner you get your hands on one, the faster that old 3DS will become a distant memory.
Buy a 3DS XL if...
1. You really want bigger screens.
2. If the current 3DS is too small for your humongous hands.
3. Prefer the matte finish over the old 3DS' glossy exterior.
Don't buy a 3DS XL if...
1. You think Nintendo has one more (and better) redesign on the way.
2. You think $199.99 is too much.
3. You think quite highly of the current, and cheaper at $169.99, 3DS.
[3DS XL will be available August 19, will come in Red and Blue, and will retail for $199.99.]
Review unit provided by Nintendo