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New Nintendo 3DS XL Review

by Bryan Vore on Feb 11, 2015 at 12:30 PM

Nearly four years after the launch of the original 3DS in North America, the system’s 3D imagery finally works as intended. Most players gave the original 3D effect a try, experienced blurred visuals as soon as they unintentionally twisted the screen out of the narrow viewing sweet spot, got a headache, and turned it off forever. The so-called “New Nintendo 3DS XL” adds an infrared LED sensor that tracks your face, which enables the sweet spot to follow your eyes as you twist and turn the device in most reasonable angles. I tried several games and found the 3D to work well for long spans of time without fatigue, adding a fun twist to new and classic titles alike.

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Launch Models
• New Black - $199.99 
• The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask Edition - $199.99
• New Red - $199.99
• Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate bundle (includes game) - $229.99

If you’re staunchly anti-3D no matter what, there’s still plenty to enjoy. A more powerful CPU means that navigating apps feels snappier and games load faster (Super Smash Bros. loads in 14 seconds compared to 32 seconds on the normal XL). Even downloads pick up the pace, with the YouTube app taking 38 seconds to receive on our office wi-fi versus 74 seconds. Outside of loads, no current games take advantage of the new power, but Xenoblade Chronicles 3D will be the first to do so in April. It’s strange that Nintendo is releasing the system without this exclusive game so we have no way to see its true potential.

A new c-stick adds long-needed right stick control to the 3DS alongside extra shoulder buttons (both previously only available as a bulky add-on). The small nub handles camera controls and aiming in a handful of supported legacy games and unleashes smash attacks in Smash Bros. It does the job for camera movement, but for fine aiming I had to lower the sensitivity. Future supported games should offer highly customizable control schemes so you’re not stuck using the tiny new z triggers for aiming and shooting like in Resident Evil: Revelations.

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• Height: 93.5mm  (Original 3DS XL: 93mm)
• Width: 160mm (Original:156mm)
• Depth: 21.5mm (Original: 22mm)
• Weight: 329 grams (Original: 336 grams)
• Upper screen size (diagonal): 4.88" (Unchanged)
• Lower screen size (diagonal): 4.18" (Unchanged)
• Battery Life: 3.5 to 7 hours when using Nintendo 3DS software (Original range:3.5 to 6.5 hours)
• Stylus: 3 3/8" long, approx. 1/4" thick (Original: 3 7/8" long, approx. 3/16" thick)

Added NFC tech means Nintendo’s hit Amiibos are finally supported on 3DS. Super Smash Bros. is the only game to use it out of the gate with the same features as the Wii U edition. Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. joins on March 13 supporting several Fire Emblem characters. While Amiibos aren’t taking over 3DS just yet, there’s no doubt they’re becoming a bigger part of Nintendo’s strategy going forward.

Resolution Ratings
The New 3DS XL’s pixel density remains unchanged from previous models. See how it compares to other common devices at similar screen sizes.

It’s not all good news, however. Surprisingly, the New 3DS doesn’t include an AC adapter. Also, storage has changed from SD on previous models to microSD, so customers needing more than 4 GB of storage will have to buy a new card. You’ll also need a tiny screwdriver (#0) to access the card locked under the back panel instead of an easily accessible side slot. These minor annoyances can be overcome, but the unimproved, painfully poor screen resolution can’t. The imagery looks completely outdated compared to what you’re used to seeing every day on phones, tablets, and monitors with at least triple the pixel density. While this is the best 3DS yet, these flaws hold it back from being a must-buy reinvention.