Tech Up! | New Nintendo 3DS XL (Hardware Review)

By Neil Flynn 11.12.2014 13

The Nintendo 3DS has been through an annual hardware revision since its initial release in 2011. However, neither the 3DS XL (released 2012) nor the 2DS (released 2013) had such a wide set of sweeping changes to the machine. Right off the bat it should be said that the New Nintendo 3DS (n3DS) and New Nintendo 3DS XL (n3DS XL) supersede their predecessors in almost every way.

Image for Tech Up! | New Nintendo 3DS XL (Hardware Review)
The n3DS and n3DS XL were announced back at the end of August 2014 in a Japanese-only Nintendo Direct and then in September 2014 in Australia/New Zealand's first ever exclusive Nintendo Direct. Unfortunately, Europeans and American's alike will have to wait a little longer as there has been no announcement made for the release of the system in those territories so far. The devices boast a variety of new features such as:

  • Clearer and flexible range of 3D viewing;
    [li]Faster downloading speeds in the Nintendo eShop;
    [li]Quicker loading times for the Internet Browser, Miiverse and within games themselves;
    [li]Changes to the aesthetics of the console, such as coloured buttons and additional ones, such as the ZL and ZR, as well as a C-stick nub;
    [li]Near Field Communications functionality, which currently allows for the registering of an amiibo, plus allows for the deletion of data from the amiibo, although at the moment no 3DS game works with these figurines.
A few other minor changes have been made, some for the better but also some for the worse, as will addressed later in this review.

The box contains six AR cards, a 4GB microSD card and an instruction manual. This information is displayed on the back of the n3DS XL, exactly the same as the original XL model.

Image for Tech Up! | New Nintendo 3DS XL (Hardware Review)

New Memory

The back cover plate requires a mini screwdriver (not included) to get into the back of. Unlike the older models, the n3DS uses a microSD instead of a standard SD card. The system already has the 4GB card inserted, so first time users can actually get started straight away. However, those who want to do the System Transfer option from a previous 3DS may want to remove their microSD and connect it up directly to a PC as the wireless transfer option will take up to 30 minutes per Gigabyte. Be wary that once data has been transferred from the old 3DS or 2DS it cannot be swapped back to an older model of the system.

New Cosmetic Changes

The biggest addition to the system is the additional analogue stick, otherwise known as the C-stick. This is a little rubbery nub that doesn't really have much movement at all and resembles the consistency of an eraser at the top of a pencil. While this doesn't give as much freedom as the Circle Pad, it is pleasantly surprising how it handles as secondary function. While not perfect, games like Metal Solid Snake Eater 3D and Resident Evil Revelations are now a lot more playable thanks to addition of the C-stick nub, although it remains to be seen if it will be given many other types of role, other than moving a camera around. Saying that, the C-stick is usable in [ul=]Super Smash Bros. for 3DS to perform quick strikes and charge Smash attacks, yet trying to use it feels like a chore, something forced - an intentional manoeuvre rather than a natural one. Maybe it will take some time to get used to giving a quick flick here and there, but from early testing it is nowhere near as intuitive as on the GameCube controller. Games such as the port of Xenoblade Chronicles and Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate will also utilise the new C-stick and most likely there are many more games coming that will also use this feature.

The buttons and lights have also changed position on the New Nintendo 3DS models and resemble the 2DS set up with Start/Select moving away from the bottom of the Touch Screen bar and over to the right-hand side where they now have a more GBA-esque button feel. The Home key has been revised to look like the 2DS version, too. The volume bar has been shifted from the top-left of the bottom screen up to the bottom left of the top screen, and is now a sliding bar, similar to the 3D slider, which itself remains in the same position as always.

Image for Tech Up! | New Nintendo 3DS XL (Hardware Review)

The bottom ridge is where Nintendo has practically moved everything else. The power button, along with the wireless, power, and charge lights are all on the bottom right-hand side of the unit. This is now more beneficial than before as there is no longer a large glaring blue or red light standing out when playing in the dark. The headphone jack has been put in the centre of the unit and now lays flush with the home button. The game card slot has been neatly tucked into the bottom left-hand corner with a little indentation (which is far more prominent on the XL model) to avoid accidentally popping out the cartridge. In all honesty, there was no real problem with the original placement but Nintendo had to make room for extra buttons along the top ridge…

The ZL and ZR buttons, which first showed up on the on the Circle Pad Pro accessory, now feature as bumper buttons next to the L and R. They are no longer triggers but instead quite small firm buttons with the L and R having actually shrunk in size on the n3DS XL compared to its predecessor, almost by half! The n3DS and n3DS XL both have the same sized L, ZL, R and ZR buttons, which is a shame for XL users because users will find their index fingers needing a little more nimbleness than what could have been allowed for.

The infrared beam and charge port are now more central along the top ridge. Anyone wanting to add a strap to the system will now find the 'loop' also at the top. Any left-handers who still use the 10-year-old thumb strap from the original DS may have a lot less slack on the strap, though, due to the new position of the loop hole.  The wireless switch has been inconveniently removed completely and has actually now been moved into the "Home Menu" settings.

The stylus has not only moved to the bottom of the unit but has now also changed in size. It feels like 'Goldilocks' when playing with the three stylus' from the different models. The n3DS XL has a shorter and thicker approach but the length and thickness of the original XL's is still preferable. Also, the head of the new stylus can also be used to pry open the cover plates as illustrated in the Nintendo Direct.

The inner buttons on the n3DS XL have coloured A/B/X/Y lettering but the buttons remain black, which is a huge shame when comparing it against the n3DS' fully coloured button range.

The buttons are ever so slightly larger and more distanced apart, which hasn't really helped or hindered any game experience as of yet. The D-pad and the Circle Pad remain unchanged.

The outer casing is different than the current XL, and not for the better. The system will fast become coated in fingerprints once touched. The n3DS on the other hand seems to be devoid of fingerprint marks.

The cameras have also had a little cosmetic makeover. The outer camera lens on the XL is now smaller in size and less obtuse, and the light that alerted people to the fact that the camera was active has now been removed, which will allow for taking photos surreptitiously.

New 3D Viewing Experience

Once turning on the system, it prompts a new setup process, mainly detailing the Super Stable 3D feature. The 3D calibration tool teaches how to use the 3D depth slider and check the viewing range for 3D images. It shows on-screen how the tracking system keeps the owner in sight by tracking their eyes. Thanks to this new process of head/eye tracking the 3D is now vastly improved enabling the system to be moved more freely without breaking the all-important sweet spot. Sudden and fast movements will cause the 3D to still break, though, but it will only take a millisecond to catch up with where the new head position is. Gamers would really have to be intentionally doing this to break the 3D effect properly, and casual movement, such as on a train or even gyro controls, will keep the 3D in focus and on the action. Trialling this specifically with Star Fox 64 3D and The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time 3D's shooting gallery, both of which feature gyro controls. While the Super 3D stabiliser works with keeping the 3D image constant, the new oomph from the upgraded innards of the machine doesn't help with the frame-rate in past games. Perhaps it was a bit too much to ask as this power wasn't available during the initial development of past games, but knowing that the machine has a little extra juice means that there is a little voice at the back of gamers' minds that will be hoping that this would help with games like Pokémon X/Y, which had a few frame-rate issues when the 3D was turned up.
Image for Tech Up! | New Nintendo 3DS XL (Hardware Review)

Not So New Screens

Unfortunately, the n3DS XL screens still have the 'clicky' nature when opened, and whilst this isn't such a problem for those who are careful with their system, it likely means that the hinge is still as weak as it has been on previous iterations.

The uncertainty continues when speaking about the screens themselves as the n3DS XL ships with a thin poly-foam sheet between them, something that the n3DS doesn't do. This leads to a feeling that the imprints on the screens issue (ridges from the bottom screen would imprint on the top screen after people had been carrying their 3DS around with them in pockets/bags where pressure may have been applied to the system resulting in an imprinted screen) that was prevalent with the previous version will still be a problem with the new edition. One solution is to put a thick microfibre cloth in-between the screens when transporting the system outside of the house - a trend that is recommended for all if choosing the XL model over the standard n3DS.

Image for Tech Up! | New Nintendo 3DS XL (Hardware Review)

New Screen Brightness

'Auto Brightness' is a new option that has been added to the "Home Menu Settings." This feature uses the inner-facing camera to detect the brightness of the current environment and will change the brightness of the screen accordingly, which is something that has been available on most smartphones for quite some time now.

New Operating System

The new Operating System (9.0) released in October 2014 is already pre-installed, so no need for a System Update if an early adopter. There is a stark difference when comparing this to the original OS released back in 2011, which shows the vast improvements that Nintendo has made in the last three-to-four years with the system. Those unfamiliar with the new OS should know that the theme of the 3DS can now be customised by purchasing backgrounds from various legendary Nintendo franchises, which will then decorate the background of the Home screen. In addition to this, the Home menu can be navigated using the C-stick and ZR and ZL buttons, if so desired.

Jumping in and out of games is also a tad faster than before and feels a lot slicker, too, especially when playing a game like Super Smash Bros. for 3DS. The extra processing speed is also utilised by jumping into applications such a Miiverse (Nintendo's social network and forum) and the eShop a marginally faster. Miiverse now loads quicker than it did before, which may encourage more users to get jumping back into the network to post about their latest adventures, whereas download speeds in the eShop have also been moderately improved.

The restrictions that came with the Japanese Internet Browser are non-existent on the Australian model of the n3DS XL, so perusing the World Wide Web at leisure without having to pay for the browser is possible. Furthermore, the new and improved Internet Browser also now allows users to watch 3D videos from YouTube and any other website that supports HTML5, which is a handy bonus.

Image for Tech Up! | New Nintendo 3DS XL (Hardware Review)

New Games

Nintendo has been careful to announce game system exclusivity for the n3ds and 3DS XL, but there is already one game revealed - Xenoblade Chronicles. The remake of the Wii RPG will need all the processing power it can get and surely Nintendo won't stop there. The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask remake, while not exclusive to the 'New' system, will also benefit from the newly gained power, although Nintendo has stopped short of announcing what that actually is. Time will tell if Nintendo starts to make more and more exclusive content for this hardware upgrade, yet it must acknowledge that there is a strong userbase already that it must be careful to not ostracise.

However, the system is fully compatible with Nintendo DS, DSi and 3DS games, although the box art states that Nintendo DS games from other regions may not function - yet trying EU, AU, JPN, USA and Korean region Nintendo DS games, all of them work fine.

[score=9]The New Nintendo 3DS XL feels like how the system should have been done from launch. A 3D function that works, speakers that actually make some real noise, a second analogue stick and a faster, friendlier user-interface. Finally, games are now being seen as the developers intended them to be seen thanks to the Super Stable 3D function, so much so that it will encourage gamers to go back to back through their library of games to see the improved effect. The added C-stick has now made games such as Metal Gear Solid Snake Eater 3D and Resident Evil Revelations more user-friendly by not having to attach a huge Circle Pad Pro accessory. The look and feel of the systems is fantastic, fitting comfortably in big hands and not resulting in any hand cramping during play.

Unfortunately, some sacrifices were made with the stylus and shoulder buttons, yet these are minor issues and, realistically, the stylus is not used as a primary control for many of the games most people play anymore.

Overall, the systems feel well polished, and if there is some spare cash lying around and a 3DS has never been owned before, now is the time to jump on-board. For current 3DS owners it is well worth the upgrade, especially if still using the original model.


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European release date TBA   North America release date TBA   Japan release date TBA   Australian release date TBA   

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i have a hunch that the western launch will be region free.

Insanoflex said:
i have a hunch that the western launch will be region free.
Like hell it will. Aussies will be going bonkers.

I dunno...
nintendo has been talking about going region free for a while.
could happen.

I think they would have done it with all models in Japan and Aus too. Think this one will stay locked until the next new home and handheld consoles from Nintendo now. Really hope they do it for the next ones anyway.

Pity New 3DS is locked though. I know a hell of a lot of people won't jump in with 3DS/Nintendo at all because of region locking. People would have welcomed it if they released the New 3DS unlocked.

Nintendo can surprise us.  Who would have guessed they would save Devils third and bayonetta 2 as well as port the first game and give it away?

expect the unexpected.

Haha, well, I admire your hopefulness on this one. I'll buy you a UK game for your US New 3DS if they do Smilie

I wouldn't say that I'm hopeful.
im just saying I wouldn't be surprised if they do make them region free.

Yes sir got my pre order money ready.........This system is going to be amazing........This works out great for a person like me that still uses the OG 3ds...I feel this is a true Upgrade of the system and  not just internet like the dsi or larger screen like the 3DS XL........Makes me think with the new interface ,Memory, c stick and 3D the games Made for it will probale be amazing.......2015 gonna be a great year for Nintendo and 3DS lovers like myself..........(pluse possibe region free is icing on the cake !)   

I wouldn't be happy if they removed the region lock now! Az is right Id go bonkers! Although at the same time a system update could probably cure that anyway.

Az is there any way to say that this is my review? It's currently listed under Doesn't Matter"

Flynnie said:
I wouldn't be happy if they removed the region lock now! Az is right Id go bonkers! Although at the same time a system update could probably cure that anyway.

Az is there any way to say that this is my review? It's currently listed under Doesn't Matter"

That's because that's the name you've entered in your Full Name field in your profile. Edit that part to your real name - either full name or just your first - or just repeat your username there if you want. Might take an hour to refresh on the review, but will show up eventually.

Can I be really annoying and just confirm - are the speakers louder than the 3DS XL? If so it is an insta buy for me. I went from 3DS to XL and the speaker volume was definitely less. I don't always wanna use headphones. Thanks in advance!

heathenmagic said:
Can I be really annoying and just confirm - are the speakers louder than the 3DS XL? If so it is an insta buy for me. I went from 3DS to XL and the speaker volume was definitely less. I don't always wanna use headphones. Thanks in advance!

Its not annoying at all!

The speakers are definitely a lot louder, one thing i have noticed though is that some videos on the internet browser can be quiet, even with headphones i can sometimes find myself finding it hard to hear, but the games themselves are loud enough with the speakers.

Hope that helps!

Thanks man, that was really helpful! It was just the volume and someone said it had a yellow tint, but that was probably a prototype model as it was ages ago I read that. I better get saving then haha. 

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