Nintendo 3DS XL – Go Big or Go Home

8.5 Overall Score

Screens are enormous | Larger screens are great for watching video and gaming without squinting | More comfortable in your hands | Bigger SD card bundled in

No Circle Pad Pro built in | No improvements to hardware aside from the battery | Speakers are slightly worse than original 3DS

While Nintendo had a great start with the original Nintendo 3DS, it had its problems.  These problems included a very low battery life, the fact that those with big hands would experience cramping while playing their 3DS, and once people saw other portable screens on devices like the PlayStation Vita or even the Nintendo DSi XL, many people wanted larger screens.  Out of nowhere this past June, Nintendo announced the Nintendo 3DS XL.  This is more of a luxury product, not a redesign of the Nintendo 3DS which will still be on store shelves alongside this new XL model.  The 3DS XL’s screens are 90% larger than their smaller counterparts.  Aside from the larger screens, there are also other small improvements such as a larger SD card and 20% more battery life.  Are the big screens of the Nintendo 3DS XL enough to get people excited or is bigger not always better?

The first and most noticeable thing about the Nintendo 3DS XL are those larger screens.  The screen sizes of both screens have been increased by 90%, making the top screen 4.88 inches and the bottom screen 4.18 inches.  Compared to the normal Nintendo 3DS, it is night and day.  The XL screens really make a difference in how you play your games.  Until I started using the 3DS XL, I never realized that I actually had to squint at my 3DS in order to see the games.  Playing on the XL is much more comfortable.  Feeling that my eyes are completely open while playing is kind of cool.  With bigger screens, I’m able to see more, even being able to find that last collectable balloon that I had searching months for in Pilotwings Resort.  Not only that, but the 3D effect is definitely improved.  I noticed more depth in each game I played and because of the larger screens, the 3D has better viewing angles.  I would say though that the 3D still feels the same on the eyes.  A lot of people are saying that the 3D is easier on their eyes with the XL.  So far, I would say that it’s only slightly better, not by much. The bottom screen is also much easier to use.  When tapping items with the stylus, it’s much easier to hit what you want and the icons on the screen are so big that they really feel like actual buttons.

As far as DS, DSiWare, and virtual console games go, they look better on the XL screen.  Without one to one pixel mode, they look like bigger versions of how they looked on the 3DS.  With one to one pixel mode, the games come out at a tolerable size.  For those looking to play doing one to one pixel mode, it’s not so bad anymore, however, I still prefer to play with these types of games blown up to fill the entire screen.  And as for 3DS games, the screens may have gotten bigger, but the resolution remains the same.  Games simply look better because they are bigger and you can better make out all of the details on the larger screens.

Aside from just larger screens, there are also other small improvements that really add up.  Because of the larger screens, the Nintendo 3DS XL is larger than the original 3DS (still pocket sized).  The original 3DS was so small that my hands would cramp while playing.  It was just not comfortable.  For those with bigger hands, the 3DS XL remedies this.  Playing 3DS games actually feels comfortable for once.  I’m now much more open to longer play sessions on my 3DS XL without worrying about my hands hurting after an hour or so.  Even for games such as Kid Icarus: Uprising which is played with one hand on the system, playing is much more comfortable.  You won’t need to use the stand it came with in order to play comfortably.  Aside from this, there are other minor improvements to the hardware such as the click the 3D slider makes when you set the 3DS to 2D mode and when you lift the screen up half way, the 3DS XL will click into place.  This new orientation is great for watching videos.

Another improvement comes in the SD card used to store photos, music, and games.  While the Nintendo 3DS comes with a 2 GB SD card, the Nintendo 3DS XL comes with a 4 GB SD card.  Considering Nintendo is planning to release digital copies of all of their upcoming retail titles on the 3DS eShop, having that extra storage space will come in handy if you never want to go to the store to pick up a 3DS game again.  If you already own a 3DS, copying all of the files from one SD card to the other is as simple as copying and moving the files on your computer.  Transferring content from an old 3DS to the 3DS XL is very easy and straightforward.  And finally, the last improvement comes in the battery life.  I have not tested the 3DS XL enough to confirm this, but apparently it has 20% more battery life.  I notice an improvement in battery, but need to do more testing to really get a straight answer.

While the Nintendo 3DS XL improves gameplay, it’s surprising to me that Nintendo did not take the opportunity to improve on the 3DS hardware.  The camera lenses remain at 0.3 megapixels and there is no second circle pad built in.  Nintendo has said that a version of the Circle Pad Pro will release later this year for the Nintendo 3DS XL, but they really should have built it in as there’s plenty of space for it.  The only issue I had with the 3DS XL is with its speakers.  While the speakers are good, they are not as loud as the Nintendo 3DS.  It is a fairly small difference, but a noticeable one.

After trying out plenty of different games on the Nintendo 3DS XL, I definitely will be unable to go back to a regular 3DS.  For those serious about gaming on their 3DS, upgrading to the XL should be something to consider.  The 3DS still has four or five years left on the market if all goes according to Nintendo’s plans. With games on the horizon like Paper Mario: Sticker Star, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, Animal Crossing, Pokemon, Super Smash Bros., and plenty of others, it’s clear that upgrading to the 3DS XL is a wise investment.  The larger screens and larger system improve the gameplay experience dramatically and watching video on the system is finally enjoyable.  It’s more comfortable to hold and still fits in your pocket.  While no opportunity was taken to improve the hardware aside from the screens and battery life, the Nintendo 3DS XL is just awesome!  Current 3DS owners should highly consider investing in one if they play on a regular basis while those who have yet to own a Nintendo 3DS should spend the extra $30 on an XL over the regular 3DS as you get bigger and better things for that small premium.



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Author: Adam Shear View all posts by
Contributing Writer. @AdamShear. When he's not spending his hours working in the TV industry, he's spending his time playing video games and thinking about them.
  • Raven Poplar

    I’ll be getting an XL if I ever end up buying a 3DS.