Nintendo's newest portable game console, the 3DS XL, recently hit the stores, and we bought one to try it out. The 3DS XL—a super-sized version of the Nintendo 3DS, which can show 3D effects in games without the need for glasses—is selling for $200, $30 more than the 3DS. But the larger screen and improved design more than justify the higher price. Here's what we found.
The big screen: Both screens on the 3DS XL are 3.6 x 6.2 inches, about 90 percent larger than those on the original 3DS. While this provides a huge improvement in visibility, the screens' resolutions aren't any higher, which means they display a blown-up version of the original game graphics. Luckily, this hasn't made the games appear blurry, which can happen with lower resolutions on bigger screens.
Where the larger screen makes a difference, though, is with the 3D feature: Using the 3DS XL, I could more easily find and maintain the best angle and distance to view games in 3D. And as on the original 3DS, if you don't like the 3D feature, you can just turn it off.
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Look and feel: The 3DS XL feels sturdier than the 3DS. Although it's bulkier than the original, the 3DS XL's curved edges actually make it a bit sleeker. It also has a matte finish, which helps reduce smudging and fingerprints.
Nintendo used the bigger design to fit a larger battery, so the battery life is somewhat improved: The 3DS XL has a maximum claimed battery life of 6.5 hours while you're playing games, and the 3DS claims 5 hours. Bear in mind that a brighter screen can shorten the battery life.
On the left is the new 3DS XL; at right is the original 3DS.
One of the few drawbacks of the 3DS XL is that it still has only one circle pad (which is Nintendo's version of an analog input device); a second circle pad is helpful for some in-game actions, such as controlling the camera. Not including it was a strange choice, since the larger device has plenty of room for one. You can now get a second-circle-pad attachment for the original 3DS; an attachment for the 3DS XL will be available later this year, but it will add significant bulk to an already-large device.
Bottom line: Nintendo continues to lead the way in hand-held gaming devices. And the 3DS XL offers an improvement over the 3DS, which still retails at about $170; for just $30 more, the 3DS XL offers significant value.