3DS XL review

You'll love

The larger screen(s)

Obviously this is going to be the biggest perk, what with the whole "XL" thing going on. The screens on the 3DS XL are 90% larger than those on the standard unit, and that makes a huge difference. Opening one up is awe-inspiring - the top screen is larger than the Vita's by a good amount, and once you turn it on, you'll be blown away by how incredible it looks. The 3D, too, is improved with the enlarged screen size, even if some claim to have a harder time finding the three-dimensional "sweet spot."

3DS games look absolutely wonderful on the enlarged screen, and though they're a little stretched out (the resolution hasn't been improved with the screen size increase), it's never distracting, nor does it take away from the wonderful, massive screen. The bottom screen, too, greatly benefits from this expansion, making it easier to use than ever. Oh, and the system's bottom screen doesn't leave smears on the top screen when it closes anymore - a small note, sure, but it's a nice touch, and a welcome change.

The nicer form factor

Some complained that the original 3DS was a little small, leading to cramped hands after long gameplay sessions. The 3DS, with its much larger form factor, doesn't fall victim to this folly - the massive handheld should quell any concerns for those with large hands. In general, this means that the system is much more comfortable to hold and use, thanks to increased spacing between circle pad and button positions.

The rounded edges of the system are also nicer, letting the system rest comfortably in the palms of your hands instead of digging in, as the original 3DS does. It doesn't make a huge difference for quick pick-up-and-play games, but if you're someone that wants to hunker down and carve through an RPG on this thing, then this ergonomic factor might be something to consider.

The (slightly) better battery

The original 3DS's battery has been lauded as one of the system's greatest shortcomings, lasting a paltry three to six hours. The upgraded 3DS XL, on the other hand, packs anywhere from three-and-a-half to six-and-a-half hours, giving you a solid 30 minutes more gameplay.

It's not much, but it'll do for now. We were worried, initially, that the larger screen might lead to a worse battery, so we were happy that, in our tests, it outperformed the original system, albeit slightly. Battery life will obviously vary depending on the game, the screen brightness, and a bunch of other factors, though, so you'll still drain the system's juice quickly if you're not careful.

You'll hate

That DS games look lower res and washed out

DS and retro games, in general, don't look great on the 3DS screen, and the 3DS XL does them no favors. We tested out some original DS games and noticed that they were slightly blurry, and looked a little washed out. It wasn't a deal-breaker, obviously, and it didn't stop us from playing an hour of Tetris because we totally lost track of time, but make no mistake: the 3DS still isn't the ideal system for playing DS games.

If you're looking for that, grab a DSi or the DSi XL, which not only makes DS games look wonderful, but it does it with a better battery life. Don't let this be too much of a deterrent, though - they still look fine.

It's not a real 3DS redesign

We know that plenty of people said they were holding off on buying the 3DS XL because they were waiting for the hardware upgrade. While this is, technically, a hardware upgrade, we don't think it's the one anyone expected. You were waiting for the 3DS Lite, right? Well, this isn't it.

Hardware-wise, these upgrades are minor. Besides the new size and a few modifications, it's the same 3DS that launched in 2011. We're feeling sure there will also be a full-fledged upgrade down the line, and we figure you might be as upset as we are that this wasn't it.

It's a little heavy

Though it's definitely a more comfortable system to hold, and the more ergonomically-friendly design makes it better for longer play sessions, we did notice that the system felt heavier in our hands the longer we played. If we leaned it on our knees or a table, it was less of an issue, but holding it up for a long period of time made our hands tired.

It's a trade-off, sort of, since you're not going to get hand-cramps like you did with the original 3DS, but the added weight has the negative boon you'd expect: it makes it heavier. 

Should you buy it?

If you already have a 3DS, we'd say hold off, no matter how painful that might be. Sure, your games would work, but you'd need to buy new accessories (your case and Circle Pad won't fit), adding extra cost. The bigger screen and the enhanced 3D will definitely make your games look better, but let's be honest - there's going to be another 3DS upgrade, and it's going to be about more than size.

If you don't have a 3DS, this is as good of an excuse as any to pull the trigger. Sure, there's likely going to be another, better, newer 3DS within a year or two, but this should hold you over until then, and it's unarguably the better version of the handheld. And besides, it's not as if your friends and relatives haven't "inherited" your old Nintendo hardware before, right?


  • Ravenbom - August 3, 2012 11:07 a.m.

    Hey HoCo, there's a slight mistake in the article text: " The 3D screen located on the top of the unit has been increased from 3.58" to 4.88" (4.88cm by 12.4cm)" The centimeter conversion on the aspect ratio is screwed up.
  • ObliqueZombie - August 3, 2012 12:45 a.m.

    I really, really dislike the design on this. I know the matte textures allow for little-to-no fingerprints, which is awesome, but it looks sun-faded and bland. I mean, have you SEEN the new purple 3DS? It looks like one of the best portable gaming platforms ever. Such a rich, deep color with a non-tacky gloss finish. Beautiful. But... with my big man hands, this may be the better option. Alas, I don't think I'd play it for elongated periods of time (read as: more than four hours straight), but it would be mighty comfortable in comparison. Thanks for the review, guys, but I'll think I'll stick with the original sleek design.
  • gopher1369 - August 8, 2012 4:38 a.m.

    "But... with my big man hands, this may be the better option" Certainly for me. I'm 6 foot tall with man-hands. I was getting regular hand cramps holding the 3DS, even after as little as 30 mins play. The XL is much more comfortable for me.
  • ObliqueZombie - August 8, 2012 3 p.m.

    No, that's what I meant, haha. That the 3DS XL would be the better option. I should have clarified that, so I apologize. But still, I just loveloveLOVE the look of that purple 3DS. I might just cave in to that one, instead.
  • gopher1369 - August 16, 2012 5:05 a.m.

    That was me not being clear. I totally understood what you meant and was agreeing with you. Had my XL for a couple of weeks now. Wouldn't go back. Even if you ignore the screens, it's just far more comfortable and the battery lasts way longer. Just the battery alone would have been enough for me to upgrade. Also playing DS games is a much better experience. Hold down the select button as you load a DS game up and it loads in the original DS resolution (1:1 pixel mode). Way too small on the 3DS but really enjoyable on the XL. Currently playing Professor Layton and Infinite Space DS games on my 3DS XL and it's such a joy that last week I sold my DS Lite on Ebay as the XL made the trusty old DS Lite redundant
  • ObliqueZombie - August 18, 2012 8:03 a.m.

    Oh wow... well then, I might have to reconsider. I mean, as much as I love the purple finish on the original 3DS, I'd rather have my games, both DS and 3DS, played at a comfortable resolution. Though I have to say, Pokemon Diamond looked and played just fine on the fiance's. Are other DS games not as optimized as that one, giving a less-than-fantastic game experience?
  • ultimatepunchrod - August 2, 2012 9:46 p.m.

    I think I'd rather have the more portable (and cheaper) version of the PORTABLE gaming device. But that's just me.
  • zombi3grim - August 2, 2012 9:31 p.m.

    I dont have a 3DS yet, but I do want one more then the Vita. I MIGHT pick this up during Christmas time for my little boy and "borrow" it occasionaly for myself, muahahaha!
  • talleyXIV - August 2, 2012 3:25 p.m.

    I wish I hadn't gotten the original last year.
  • ThatGamerDude - August 2, 2012 3:21 p.m.

    I still need to get my 3DS therefore I'm going to wait it out until this comes out. Oh and you can play DS games in their original resolution by holding START or SELECT when the game launches, of course you'll have the black lines across the screen though when you do.
  • J-Fid - August 2, 2012 1:58 p.m.

    In my 6 years of visiting this website, this might be the first full-fledged review for a console I've ever seen. But it was informative, so good job.
  • sweetchiliheat - August 2, 2012 1:06 p.m.

    Actually, I believe the vita has a bigger screen. Handheld comparisons aside, I think the $30 difference between the 3DS & XL is probably the most convincing point for someone without a 3DS.
  • gopher1369 - August 6, 2012 8:56 a.m.

    "Actually, I believe the vita has a bigger screen." Depends, the 3DS XL has a 5 inch top screen and a 4 inch bottom screen (rounding off) so you could argue that the Vita has a 5 inch screen and the 3DS XL has a 9 inch screen. Or it has 9 inches of screen available to it, might be a more accurate way to phrase it.
  • Fuzunga - August 2, 2012 12:16 p.m.

    You know you can play DS games in native resolution, right? Or does it not make a difference?
  • Darkhawk - August 2, 2012 11:43 a.m.

    You'll Hate: NO FRIKKIN CIRCLE PAD. Everyone: wait. Seriously, just back away from the package, and wait for the inevitable 3DSiXL 2.0
  • talleyXIV - August 2, 2012 3:26 p.m.

    There is a circle pad. 0_0
  • ray-carter - August 2, 2012 4:08 p.m.

    Dont you mean 3DS XL Pro?(Circle Pad Pro) or 3DS XL Duo (Dual Circle Pads) 3DS XL2 (2 Circle Pads)
  • Cyberninja - August 2, 2012 6:28 p.m.

    I think you confused a 3DS XL for a DSIXL common mistake really because all 3DSs have a circle pad.

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