We've had plenty of time to play with our 3DS XL. Plenty of time to really get familiar with Nintendo's latest Xtra Large handheld. And it's been enlightening. We have discovered many wonderful - and some not-so wonderful - things about the console. Things we were previously completely clueless about. Because we didn't have a 3DS XL.
So with the various 3DS XL launch dates creeping closer (July 28 in Europe, August 19 in US and August 23 in Australia), anyone tempted by the amply proportioned handheld will undoubtedly be interested in reading about the 11 things you couldn't possibly know about 3DS XL unless you've got one...
1. Although the device is dimensionally superior, the box it comes in is smaller than the 3DS packaging
When I put the boxes side-by-side, I was surprised at how much smaller the XL packaging is compared to the original 3DS' storage receptacle. Logically my brain thought the XL box would be bigger. Because XL.
Above: It's funny because the XL is in the smaller box
But the unexpected size variance is easily explained - rather than being some physics-defying advancement in cardboard containment technology, it's because the XL doesn't come with a charger. So that explains that. Well I thought it was interesting. No? Oh.
Note: The US 3DS XL does come with a charger so the box will almost certainly be proportionally more jumbo.
2. It feels heavier, but the extra weight isn't a problem
Picking up the XL for the first time it feels significantly heavier than the standard 3DS. No surprise really as it's officially 101g more heavy. That's about equal to the combined weight of four regular packs of crisps. Which is an extra 536 calories. So balance four bags of Ready Salted on your 3DS and you'll get an idea of the difference it makes. Admittedly it's not a huge addition of bulk, but it's still noticeable.
Above: Those bags of crisps represent the weight difference between the two machines. The two pikachu represent friendship
However, the extra ballast is efficiently distributed and consequently NOT burdensome - I haven't suffered tired wrists or muscular atrophy or fallen into a lactic acid induced coma. Both my daughters (6 and 8) also use it with zero complaints of uncomfortable over-encumberment. So unless you're weaker than a little girl, you'll be fine.
3. You might not like the plastic casing at first because it feels cheap, but then you will probably change your mind about it
First impression when I unsheathed my XL bad-boy and opened it up was that it felt plasticky and cheap and consequently of comparatively inferior build quality to the original. The highly scientific 'tap-it-with-a-fingernail' test corroborated my initial assessment of toy-like cheapness. Disappointing.
Above: Here we see the 'tapping-it-with-a-fingernail' testing process in action
However. While the XL's dull plastic shell lacks the sparkly premium finish of my Aqua-Blue 3DS, it has one massive advantage - it doesn't show finger smears. One thing I can't stand is dirty sausage grease all over my clamshell handheld, so I have grown to completely love XL's matte finish. Even if it does feel a bit cheap.
4. When it's in your hands, it really is very comfortable to hold
The XL's roundedness offers a huge improvement in terms of hand comfort. I've always found the more angular edges of the not extra-large 3DS have a tendency to dig in and leave indents on my palms. Not enough to make me cry or anything, but the curvier XL is a much more ergonomically satisfying slab to hold.
Above: Note the ability to fully stretch thumbs when using XL - regular 3DS requires thumb bending
Better still, the extra-size of the machine affords thumbs the luxury of being able to stretch out fully when using the circle pad and face buttons. In fact, going back and using my not big 3DS feels positively cramped now.
5. Oooh, the games look lovely on the big screen
The retrospectively diddy screens of the regular 3DS are definitely sharper and brighter than those of the XL. But unless you have the two machines side-by-side you'd be hard pushed to notice much of a difference.
Above: The screens look equally bright and sharp here. But when you're in the room comparing with your own eyes there's clearly a difference. Honestly
Despite the slight diminishment in visual fidelity, getting to play the likes of Mario Kart 7 and Super Mario 3D Land again in glorious bigger-vision is an absolutely joyful experience. Bigger really is better (but not necessarily as sharp or as bright).
6. The stylus is actually smaller and not as sexy as the regular 3DS one
The 3DS stylus has a lot going for it. Like a) it's got a shiny metal shaft with plastic tip, b) it's telescopic and c) it's quite long. So imagine my dismay when I extracted the XL's stylus for the first time and discovered that a) it's made completely of plastic, b) it's not telescopic and c) it's not quite as long. Personally I much prefer the old 3DS stylus.
Above: HAHA I put the styluseses up my nose but don't try it at home because I'm a professional and know what I'm doing
But I hardly ever use the stylus anyway and the XL one is still a perfectly adequate prodding tool. So not really worth mentioning. Feel free to ignore me.
7. Two clicks - the hinged screen has two exciting 'click' positions
So you know when you open your 3DS the screen 'clicks' and 'locks' into position at the furthest point of opening? Well, XL has got double the amount of those screen positions. Yes. The hinged screen conveniently clicks in two different positions - around 120 and 155 degrees of angular opentude.
I must admit I only use the 155 degree option, which is the angle featured on the regular 3DS. But still, it's nice to know there's an alternative, secondary angle option available if it's ever needed. It's good in terms of consumer choice.
8. And the 3D slider has an exciting click position as well
Rather than just sliding up and down with no discernible tactile indicator of position, the XL's 3D slider now offers a noticeable click when it enters and exits the 'Off' zone. Pretty exciting.
Above: This is XL's 3D slider area. The tactile click is not visible in this image
However, it's not all good news. LED fans will undoubtedly lament the absence of the green '3D' light which can be found next to the 3D slider on the regular-sized model. So XL gains a click, but loses an LED. C'est la vie.
9. The d-pad can be annoying for other people when using the XL somewhere peaceful
Clickety-clickety-click. The XL's d-pad is noisy. Clickety-clickety-click. There's been more than one occasion I've been playing somewhere lovely and quiet and become very conscious the clickety-clickety-click is annoying other people.
Above: Too much d-pad clickety-clicking can lead to a severe fisting in the bedroom
The switches in the d-pad feel the same, so I'm guessing the XL's cheap plastic casing has something to do with why its so much noisier than the comparatively silent d-pad on the original 3DS. It's not a massive issue, but if - for example - you frequently play in bed of an evening while your partner enjoys a book, be warned that with all the clickety-clickety-click your partner might tell you to shut the f*** up or get out. For example.
10. You probably won't be able to decide whether the 3D is better or worse or exactly the same
It's a tough call. Opinion is split in the office. Some people think the 3D effect is worse - that the 'sweet spot' is a narrower margin and even smaller movements are enough to scupper the stereoscopic magic. Other people think the 3D is improved - that it doesn't seem as intensely 3D and consequently easier on the eyes.
Above: In this picture I am attempting to ascertain how good or bad XL's 3D is
It looks pretty much the same to me, but then I have disabled eyes so what do I know. And I hardly ever use the 3D anyway, so whatever. I'm fine thanks.
11. The XL's protective sheath that comes in the box is the perfect size for making a hand-puppet
It's true. I made one. I made a puppet using my XL sheath. Here is the sheath functioning as a practical but pretty boring sheath:
Above: A practical but pretty boring sheath
And here is the sheath transformed into a hand-puppet:
Above: He was telling me something funny although I can't remember what it was now
He's good isn't he? The sheath hand-puppet I mean. I've called him Sheath McQueen.
And that's probably a good place as any to end this particular feature. Otherwise it's just going to get silly. And we wouldn't want that to happen.
If you're hungry for more Nintendo 3DS XL, head in the direction of our exclusive Nintendo 3DS XL Photo Gallery: Swimsuit Edition. You almost definitely won't be disappointed. You might also like to read an article I wrote when I first got my original 3DS. It's called 'Why I love my 3DS even though I don't have any actual games for it yet'. It's interesting in a looking back sort if way. And, of course, if you've got anything to say about Nintendo's 3DS XL or Sheath McQueen or anything really, steer your typing finger towards our democratic comments sections...