Nintendo 3DS XL (Hands-On) (Nintendo 3DS) Preview

By Adam Riley 14.07.2012

Review for Nintendo 3DS XL (Hands-On) on Nintendo 3DS

Nintendo released its 3DS across the world in the first quarter of 2011, specifically 25th March in the case of Europe. Now, just over a year later, the company is bringing its Nintendo 3DS XL out in each major territory despite denying the existence of the larger model earlier this year. Recently Cubed3 had chance to take the unit for a trial run to see what the differences are.

The first noticeable aspect of the Nintendo 3DS XL is not so much its considerable size increase, but the actual redesign to make its buttons and edges rounder and smoother for more of an overall improved feel. This is far more important than the screen enlargement because for anyone with bigger hands, the diminutive original 3DS model proved awkward to hold for lengthy periods on certain games, and there were far too many areas of discomfort thanks to its build. Now Nintendo has crafted something that is akin to a cross between the very first Nintendo DS model and the Nintendo DSi XL, coming along with a matte finish that is significantly less prone to picking up dirty finger print marks than the standard 3DS (as can clearly be seen in the recent comparison images news story with Cubed3’s well-used, rather grotty-looking 3DS unit!).

Screenshot for Nintendo 3DS XL (Hands-On) on Nintendo 3DS

Pleasingly, due to the modification of its casing, there is no longer that annoying sweat line that appears on the top screen of the 3DS. Every time the 3DS is used and the lid closed, upon opening once more there was what some described as a ‘scratch’ on the auto-stereoscopic screen, but was in fact simply sweat that had built up in one of the lower part’s ridges and transferred because of poor design leading to the top screen pressing too close to the lower half of the unit. Many people will be pleased to hear that this problem has now been eradicated. Even the added weight is not noticeable, since whilst the 3DS made hands cramped and tired after longer play sessions, the 3DS XL distributes its heftiness across the grander form factor, giving the false impression of it seemingly being just as heavy, if not even a smidgen lighter. The curved design also helps it to sit snugly and comfortably in the hands of gamers.

The stylus has been changed to a more regular plastic one, rather than the retractable metallic contraption, and its resting position has been moved from atop the system to the right-hand side, along with the newly placed SD slot (complete with complimentary 4GB card for every unit purchased), whilst the headphone port is tucked away on the bottom-left edge and the ‘Select,’ ‘Home,’ and ‘Start’ keys have been changed to much easier-to-press buttons. Nintendo really has pieced together a smooth-looking piece of kit, and even the sound sounds as if it has been moderately tweaked.

Screenshot for Nintendo 3DS XL (Hands-On) on Nintendo 3DS

The good news for anyone reading reports of pixelation causing problems is that sites talking about that are over-reacting. Unless you specifically scrutinise each game played in the upscaled format, then nothing will seem different other than the clearer, larger output image. When playing something that was already blocky, then obviously the effect will be more pronounced, but the majority of 3DS games look superb, just as DS games did when enlarged on a DSi XL. In fact, DS games are now played at the correct ratio, filling the entire lower screen and stretching across to the top screen with the right proportionality.

There are positive alterations in the volume control, wireless activation button, and, especially, the 3D slider. Before, knowing when 3D was fully turned off was clear to most, but after plenty of usage, the slider had a habit of becoming a little loose, confusing matters slightly. On this 3DS XL model, however, there is a ‘click point’ where sliding it down far enough locks the system into regular 2D, and anything above that is in the scalable level of 3D depth. Speaking of which, the frustrating point of losing that ideal viewing angle that gives the best 3D clarity has been somewhat alleviated. Whether the screen technology has been adjusted is unknown, but the increased size alone appears to have reduced some of the agony of blurriness when slightly moving your head during play.

Screenshot for Nintendo 3DS XL (Hands-On) on Nintendo 3DS

Finally, the battery is marginally improved -- but only by around an extra hour when played at full brightness with both DS and 3DS games; the sound output appears to be moderately louder, yet still requires good headphones or external speakers to get the best results; and there is no added Circle Pad. Yes, we all know that the separate analogue nub will be available later this year as an individual purchase, but should it have been included as standard? The simple answer is ‘no’ and there are two key reasons for this: 1.) As Iwata-san pointed out, sacrifices would have had to be made to add it into this particular upgrade, either upping the price or increasing the size of the model too much, 2.) There would be a split in the userbase, with original 3DS owners feeling too aggrieved by the fact their systems would not play new games that did not have an option for single-Circle Pad play. Nobody has seen what the add-on will look like yet, anyway, so judgement in regard to its omission here should be reserved for now.

Screenshot for Nintendo 3DS XL (Hands-On) on Nintendo 3DS

Final Thoughts

The Nintendo 3DS XL has come at the perfect time; the system has been struggling in Western territories due to a lack of clarity in what the 3D system was all about at launch, its initial high price-point and lacklustre line-up during the first six or so months. For Nintendo it will be rolling with the punches in Japan where success has already been achieved, but here it will almost be a re-launch for the flagging portable successor to the Nintendo DS. Everything Nintendo could reasonably do with a mere upscaled version has been done, and anyone that was in two minds about buying should definitely have a rethink come 28th July in Europe and 19th August in the US.

Also known as

Nintendo 3DS LL









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  n/a

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10 (3 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


Ive tried the system myself and honestly its pretty great. I recommend it to anyone who games at home more than on the go. A unmentioned benefit is on the 3ds there's a way to change the scaling of normal DS games to be played at 1:1 pixel ratio which is smaller than the screen, but the 3DSXL pixels are larger and don't make this feature redicuosly tiny like the regular 3ds does. dont care about no 2nd analog stick, there are like 3 games that use it.

"The Nintendo 3DS XL has come at the perfect time; the system has been struggling in Western territories due to a lack of clarity in what the 3D system was all about at launch, its initial high price-point and lacklustre line-up during the first six or so months."

The 3ds has been number 1 in the world since last june

The 3ds has outpaced the DS in the western territories up to this point

And its doing pretty damn well considering the economy

tanto (guest) 15.07.2012#3

"the system has been struggling in Western territories due to a lack of clarity in what the 3D system was all about at launch, its initial high price-point and lacklustre line-up during the first six or so months.'

That isnt true. Its been the top selling system worldwide for the last full year. No system is doing better

Wendel. (guest) 15.07.2012#4

Well in Japan i's been the top system, not positive about North America and Europe. Even if it is, it's not that impressive considering it's mainly competing with 6 year old consoles. Nintendo has admitted that sales outside of Japan have been slow. Not that they've been terribly bad.

Can't wait for the 3DSXL!

Popandfat (guest) 15.07.2012#5

I wish they would just release a more comfortable (normal) size of 3DS. This looks too big I just want some nice hand grips. MK7 canes my palms after just 10 minutes of playing. OWCH

RT (guest) 15.07.2012#6

Actualy the 3DS didn't meet Nintendo's sales expectations in the first three months at last. It has been better once Nintendo dropped the price. Why else would they drop the price? Poor sales initially. It did struggle initially and the week by week sales figures do prove this, no?

Jake (guest) 15.07.2012#7

Didn't Iwata just admit it's not meeting expectations in the US and Europe? You only have to look at the UK chart, for example, to see 3DS sales are poor. The DS only picked up there thanks to nintendogs and then the DS Lite. Maybe this time it'll be NSMB2 and the 3DS XL.

Had a go on a demo unit at my local GAME, was quite an adjustment to the bloody huge screens seeing as how I never had a DSi XL. Can't wait for mine now, the D-Pad felt great, buttons were nice and clicky, and it really wasn't all that much bigger in width than the regular 3DS sitting right next to it either. Smilie


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