Nintendo’s new portable console launched last week, the 3DS XL, and I thought I’d share my quick impressions. The XL plays the same software as the original 3DS, so are the changes enough to spend an extra $30 on this model?
The obvious difference between models is the size. The XL includes a screen that is 90% larger than the original model, which when unfolded becomes about the dimensions of a small tablet like a Nook or Kindle, although more square. I found the larger size fit more naturally in my hand than the original. I was concerned the larger screen would mean larger pixels, and indeed the pixels are larger when I compared the two machines beside each other. When I stopped comparing, and simply played a game on the XL, I quickly forgot about the pixel sizes, and enjoyed the larger field of vision. I find it easier to keep the 3D viewing angle in the sweet spot in the XL, and it would be hard for me to go back to the smaller screen.
The next difference that stood out to me was form. The original 3DS has an unfinished, industrial look to it, almost as if it was the prototype model given to developers. It is square on some surfaces, beveled on others, and the top screen overbites the lower significantly. In contrast, the XL is perfectly symmetrical, thin, and has rounded, smooth edges. This may not seem like a big deal, but it affects the next area of contrast.
So which portable console fit better in my pocket? The answer might surprise you. The XL is clearly larger than the original 3DS because of its larger screens, but it was considerably thinner. The uneven edges of the original 3DS coupled with the Nyko extended battery made the original 3DS create a much larger bulge in my pants than its sleek newer cousin. Some would say that this is not a fair comparison because of the added bulk of the battery, but I would argue the extended battery is necessary to use the 3DS as a portable system. I was getting about 3 hours of playtime per charge before I added the extended battery, which often meant I missed gaming opportunities if I hadn’t charged the night before. With the extended battery, I got about the same amount of play time per charge as I do with the new XL, about 5-6 hours.
So which system would I buy now, assuming I had neither, and knowing what I know now? Without hesitation, I would pick the 3DS XL over its smaller, undercharged cousin. Better form factor, better graphical presentation, and better battery life make this the system Nintendo should have launched. The larger screen really does make enough of a difference to make me go back and play some DS and 3DS games I never finished. Once again, as with the original DS versus the DS lite or the Game Boy Advance versus the Game Boy Advance SP, it benefits the consumer to wait for the second version of Nintendo’s handheld console.