Friday, 10 August 2012

Hardware: Nintendo 3DS XL

Right out of the gate, Nintendo's 3DS XL addresses my two main issues with the "regular" version of the 3DS: the screen is much larger and the stylus is stored on the right side rather than the back of the unit.

Everything else remains the same, aside from the obvious look of the unit (and the headphone jack shifted to the left), which is reminiscent of the DS before it officially launched way back in 2004. It's the rounded corners and edges that do it.

The most obvious benefit outside of the stylus storage location, is the screen size. When the original and XL are put side-by-side, it's a stark contrast of how small the screen on the original actually is. The XL blows up the viewing area, which is important to keep in mind.

Think of the screens like they were balloons.

The original 3DS is a balloon with potential. That is, not inflated. Donkey Kong arrives and inflates the balloon with a single breath. It's the same piece of latex, but it's stretched and there's a little bit of deep color missing. I rotated in a number of different games -- Street Fighter IV, Metal Gear Solid Snake Eater 3D, Super Mario Bros. 3D, Kid Icarus, Ocarina of Time, Nintendogs +cats -- to make comparisons and on the larger screen of the XL the graphics look slightly thinner and pulled out, maybe a little more difficult to maintain the 3D effect (when I had it on). That said, I prefer the large screen for the simple fact that it's bigger and much easier to see. And not just the games. Netflix was easier to watch. (That 3DS stand that came with Kid Icarus still comes in handy!)

Side-by-side, the 3DS XL is considerably bigger than the original 3DS.
The only other big change from the original is that the "home row" at the bottom of the touch screen is made of actual buttons now rather than the single touch strip.

Though I haven't done thorough comparison, the battery life certainly feels like it lasts longer, especially in sleep mode. I never experienced a problem with original unit, but I know that some of the more hardcore and retentive gamers felt the battery life wasn't long enough between charges.

The original original 2003 Nintendo DS.
The unit has only been in my hands a little over a week, so long term durability or heavy use issues have yet to appear, but so far, it has avoided the problem of the dust/sticky line problem of the original. (Because the lower screen is smaller than the upper and there's a raised bevel around the screen there's been an ongoing issue with debris lines running vertically across the top screen where the bottom screen meets it when the unit is folded.) Also, the top screen is almost flush with the top lid, which makes it easy to clean.

The 3DS XL comes with a $199.99US price tag, which is a little more than the regular 3DS at $169.99US, but the screen size makes it a better purchase. It's not a radical redesign by any means -- Nintendo just had Donkey Kong blow it up -- but it's welcome.

- Aaron Simmer