Feature Article

New 3DS XL Review

Now you're playing with power.

Nintendo's always given people choices when it comes to handhelds, so it comes as no surprise to see new 3DS models on the horizon. Yet, the introduction of Nintendo's New 3DS and New 3DS XL feels different, probably because it's more than just a new form factor, or a stripped down value version. The new models have an improved processor, more buttons, and an extra camera that enhances the glasses-free 3D experience. They're practically the same size as the original 3DS and 3DS XL, but they're technically superior in every way. Where do New 3DS systems leave the old models? The answer: in their dust.

With so many improvements, the New 3DS is probably the best candidate for future 3DS customers, but what about people that have had a 3DS for years? Should they upgrade to a New 3DS and ride the portable wave with Nintendo, or, is it smarter to just accept that sometime down the road, there's a chance you'll potentially miss out on some really exciting games? The answer is easier than you think.

Super Stable 3D

Super Stable 3D made possible by the new camera above the screen.
Super Stable 3D made possible by the new camera above the screen.

For the first time since I started using a 3DS four years ago, I feel not just comfortable, but excited when using the stereoscopic 3D feature, and it's all thanks to one seemingly simple addition that makes a big difference. By installing a second camera above the New 3DS' top screen, the system detects your relative position and adjusts the 3D effect accordingly. Older 3DSs all had a fixed sweet spot, and if you weren't positioned correctly, the 3D effect would go out of focus all too easily, and more than likely, your finger would quickly put the 3D slider into the "off" position. Nintendo's camera-based solution works so well that you need to move the New 3DS into a nonsensical position to lose sight of the 3D effect. It's such a drastic improvement over previous models that once you see it in action, it's impossible to go back to the 3D of old. If you tended to turn off the 3D effect in the past because it was inconsistent and frustrating, you'll be amazed by how well the New 3DS handles the effect and how good games can look with 3D on full blast.

The New Inputs

All of the inputs from the Circle Pad Pro are built into New 3DS XL
All of the inputs from the Circle Pad Pro are built into New 3DS XL

Nintendo heard the cries years ago when it revealed the system with only a single analog stick, and made up for it in due time with the release of the Circle Pad Pro for 3DS and 3DS XL. These chunky, battery powered augmentations provided players with a second analog stick and two more shoulder buttons. It was a solution, but not a very elegant one. Thankfully, no such add-ons are needed for the New 3DS systems. There now sits two new buttons, ZL and ZR, between the standard L and R shoulder buttons, and Nintendo's crammed a small, stiff analog nub between the face buttons and the bottom screen. Though it looks uncomfortable and less flexible than the standard 3DS C-stick, it's surprisingly responsive. This addition will open the door for developers who need better camera controls in games, and give users a chance to experience what only Circle Pad Pro owners could before.

Improved Hardware

There's one reason that some future games will be exclusive to New 3DS: the improved CPU. The extra power within will allow developers to push the graphics hardware a little further without fear of bottlenecking performance. Having played Xenoblade Chronicles on New 3DS, it's not surprising that the game needs the extra oomph to run as well as it does, but realistically, it's also a modest bump in graphics compared to a game with a similar presentation, such as Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate. You're more likely to appreciate the effect it has on the 3DS at a system level. The operating system is snappier than before and games both download and load faster. The OS no longer feels sluggish or too demanding for the hardware. Now, it's just right.

ComponentNew 3DS XL3DS XL
CPUARM11 MPCore 4x @ 268MHzARM11 MPCore 2x @ 268MHz
Co-processor4x VFPv22x VFPv2
RAM256MB FCRAM128MB FCRAM
VRAM10MB6MB
GPUPICA200 GPU @ 268MHzPICA200 GPU @ 268MHz

The operating system is snappier than before and games both download and load faster. The OS no longer feels sluggish or too demanding for the hardware. Now, it's just right.

Storage and Battery Life

Nintendo ushered in a lot of smart design decisions for New 3DS and New 3DS XL, but it's also changed a few things that aren't necessarily for the better. Up until now, 3DS stored data on SD cards, but New 3DS systems require Micro SD cards, which are much, much smaller. As a result, existing 3DS owners need to purchase a new card or settle for the included 4GB Micro SD card, which is enough to get you started but too small for long-term memory needs.

No Caption Provided

It's also much more difficult than before to access your memory card, at least for the XL model. In the past, the SD slot was readily available, but now you need to unscrew and dismantle the underside of New 3DS XLs to access the Micro SD slot. Granted, this isn't something you need to do maybe more than once or twice during the lifespan of your system, but when you do, you'll encounter stubborn screws and a panel that practically refuses to detach. It's inconvenient to say the least, but this setup allows for a great new feature: the ability to easily replace the system's internal battery. Charging, depleting, and recharging batteries can result in gradual degradation, so this will no doubt come in handy for some New 3DS owners down the road. Though New 3DS XL has only slightly better battery life than 3DS XL, roughly 30 minutes more per charge, this should also help curb the number of times you need to recharge your battery over time.

Ports, Lights, and Buttons

Apart from the additions I mentioned before, the primary 3DS controls have remained unchanged, but like the memory card slot, Nintendo remixed the layout of things such as lights, ports, and switches. Start and select are now discrete, circular buttons that live beneath the A, B, X, and Y buttons. Underneath the bottom screen, the home button sits alone. On the front of 3DS XL you'll find the game card slot, the headphone port, the stylus, and the power button, which have all been repositioned in some way. These changes are effectively harmless and inconsequential, but something's missing; the wireless radio switch that let you enable and disable Wi-Fi and Street Pass functionality without opening your 3DS. This was handy in cases where you wanted to save battery, or to make sure that you didn't miss Street Passes from other 3DS owners on your way to work or school. With New 3DSs, you need to press the home button and access the quick settings menu to turn the wireless radios on or off. It's a minor inconvenience.

Amiibo and NFC

There's a lot of buzz in the Nintendo world about Amiibo at the moment. Nintendo's NFC enabled figures are not just cute, but also functional, allowing you to carry your personal game data from one device to another. Wii U has NFC built into the GamePad, but New 3DS is the first portable from Nintendo with NFC built-in. Though Amiibo support in 3DS games is non-existent for the moment, expect that to change quickly. Nintendo's promised an external Amiibo reading add-on for existing 3DS hardware, but New 3DS owners will be ready for Amiibo right out of the box.

No Caption Provided

There's much to love about New 3DS XL's hardware, but Nintendo's made one decision that will prove to be an inconvenience for new 3DS owners: it decided not to include a charger in the box. This may have been done to cut costs, but it's going to burn uneducated customers that are picking up a 3DS for the first time if they miss the small note about the lack of an AC adapter on the box.

Like the oddly difficult back panel, the lack of an AC adapter isn't damning and shouldn't deter you from considering a New 3DS XL. With the extra controls, improved 3D, and a faster CPU, it's the most impressive 3DS to date. If you've been playing on a 3DS for years, the overall difference when you pick up a New 3DS XL is immediately apparent. After a week with the new system, I can't imagine going back.

Anyone who's picking up a 3DS for the first time should skip the other options and go right for a New 3DS or New 3DS XL, depending on what's available in their region. Picking up any other version is essentially setting yourself up for disappointment down the road when exclusive games start rolling out. If you care about Amiibo support, the choice is even easier. Existing 3DS owners should also consider an upgrade, if not now, perhaps when they're motivated by a certain game down the road. That said, if you spend a lot of time with your 3DS, but want a better experience overall, you won't be disappointed if you rush out on Feb. 13 to pick up the best handheld Nintendo's ever made.

Please use a html5 video capable browser to watch videos.
This video has an invalid file format.
00:00:00
Sorry, but you can't access this content!
Please enter your date of birth to view this video

By clicking 'enter', you agree to GameSpot's
Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

Now Playing: New 3DS XL Review

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

doc-brown

Peter Brown

Peter is Managing Editor at GameSpot, and when he's not covering the latest games, he's desperately trying to recapture his youth by playing the classics that made him happy as a kid.

Back To Top
440 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

Avatar image for capacity
Capacity

6

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Edited By Capacity

I'm going to buy one what games should I get

Upvote • 
Avatar image for chehzus55
chehzus55

6

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Ugh, It really is unfair. Why does Japan get literally 5 times the amount of 3ds options then we do. Really, do to the website, there is a lot more !

Upvote • 
Avatar image for nd95
nd95

25

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 5

User Lists: 0

As someone who was skeptical of the 'new' 3DS XL, I picked it up when I could. The features aren't a must have at the moment but I do not regret my purchase one bit. I can definitely understand people's disapproval for it. My bottom line is get it if you don't own a 3ds at all. As of right now, you're not missing out on anything with the older model. Just my 2 cents :)

Upvote • 
Avatar image for nameless_99
nameless_99

25

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

nice review, and I agree with most of it, however Iam facing a big problem with my new 3ds XL and it was recognized by others on some Nintendo forums, the problem is with the so called (super stable 3d), its not working well, Iam seeing flickering images of objects in games, and the same behavior just in the calibration menu in which the head tracking keeps saying (super stable 3d is not functioning well). so have you noticed such behavior when u reviewed it ?? thnx

Upvote • 
Avatar image for captainbish
CaptainBish

23

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

This New 3ds looking very interesting! I think i might invest in one. And tbh, I've never owned a Nintendo Handheld Console before. Can any 3ds owner suggest/recommend, any games a 3ds noob should play?

Upvote • 
Avatar image for ToxikPulse
ToxikPulse

26

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 20

User Lists: 0

<< LINK REMOVED >> Just to name a few...

Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire & X/Y, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, Xenoblade Chronicles, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time & Link Between Two Worlds , Story of Seasons, Star Fox 64, Shovel Knight, and Fire Emblem Awakening.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for nazgoroth
Nazgoroth

155

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 5

Sony people in a nutshell: graphics are not imporant... because gameplay over graphic but... wait what it can't run 1080p? what a useless device! The devs should be executed alongside their families!!! because 1080p but graphics are not imporant...

Seriously folks... go shag a sock and disappear.

Only reason i bought the 3ds is to play remakes of n64 games (nostalgia) and those if i recall correctly looked horrid, but were the most fun i had gaming in my life.

2 • 
Avatar image for xXl_z3r0_lXx
xXl_z3r0_lXx

306

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

<< LINK REMOVED >> I feel like you console war kids just pick the first random article you see at least once a day just to spew whatever bs pops into your heads in the morning.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for xantufrog
xantufrog

12391

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 2

User Lists: 5

xantufrog  Moderator  Online

<< LINK REMOVED >> who are you yelling at? I don't see "sony people" ragging on this not being 1080p anywhere (one joke about it below)

2 • 
Avatar image for GunEye
GunEye

1627

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 5

User Lists: 0

Not including an AC charger... seriously... this is ridiculous. Other than that it looks nice. I never owned an handheld console like a DS or PSP so I dunno if I will try.

5 • 
Avatar image for deactivated-5d14bade6a0c4
deactivated-5d14bade6a0c4

720

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 11

User Lists: 0

The improvement of the 3d feature is amazing. I actually play the games in 3d now.

4 • 
Avatar image for dbr5000
dbr5000

25

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

<< LINK REMOVED >> Does it still send your eyes funny or give you a headache if you use it for more than five minutes?

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Angry_Mushroom
Angry_Mushroom

708

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >>


Eye strain remains for me. Though the neck strain is gone now that I don't need to keep it in one place on pain of no 3D.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for zinten
zinten

491

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 50

User Lists: 0

After a few days with it, one thing I really like about the new 3ds xl is the new placement of the sound volume slider on the side of the screen, with the old 3ds the volume never stayed where it was because my left hand holding the 3ds was touching it while playing so I often had to readjust the sound volume.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for CosmicD
CosmicD

48

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 5

User Lists: 0

I wondered: would I see any outrage about this in the comment seciton ?But lucky there's a few comments about how silly it is that you have to replace your old DS with a slightly better one. It's almost a bit like the iphone.

Gamespot talks smack about how evolve offers DLC and you're somehow forced to buy ALL DLC, they really want to get that idea across that because there's $139 worth of DLC that you have to buy it to have the complete experience, which is ofcourse not true. People have free will, people can choose, also to NOT buy DLC.

But at the same time it's not at all such a drama for hardware. They are generally positive about you having to buy new $200 hardware for some minor extra convenience.

Bizarre. My theory is being more proven every day I read sites. The software market isn't allowed to make profits because people dont see value in it, but hardware, woooo, the slightest upgrade is met by so much positiviety!

I'm sorry, I'm happy with my golden DS, and with my pc monster race edition of evolve :P

2 • 
Avatar image for snessnes
snessnes

36

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 5

so graphic improvement means we, who had old 3ds gonna play with bad graphics. and people need to ask that why did i payed for a console which had 3 years of life?


this is not ethical and this is disrespect to costumers. shame...

Upvote • 
Avatar image for snessnes
snessnes

36

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 5

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> monster hunter videos dont say same thing..

Upvote • 
Avatar image for toffifee
toffifee

907

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 4

User Lists: 0

To me this feels like the Wii motion plus again. They release a slightly better version of something and expect us to buy it. People seem to love it, but I think it's almost a scam. Luckily I can just skip it.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for darwin356
darwin356

81

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 7

User Lists: 0

<< LINK REMOVED >> "Luckily I can skip it".


There you go, yay for freewill! :D

Upvote • 
Avatar image for bigrod69
bigrod69

259

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 6

User Lists: 5

BUT WILL IT DO 1080P!?!?!


1080P...


I own a PS4 and it's all I have going for me...

Upvote • 
Avatar image for SilentAssassin
SilentAssassin

157

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 123

User Lists: 0

The only thing that pisses me off is that some games can only be played on the new 3DS. Well, I just bought my 3DS last year and I don't plan on upgrading again.. sucks.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for boodleout
boodleout

418

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 0

how funny... the part where he discussed that you don't receive an AC adapter to charge your new system was so 'by the by', that it would have been easy to miss yet it's the most fundamental thing to consider when purchasing this over another console.


Nintendo are greedy bast&%$@

3 • 
Avatar image for bigrod69
bigrod69

259

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 6

User Lists: 5

<< LINK REMOVED >> Agreed. Considering it would cost them about $0.48 to mass produce, it's very annoying. I have an old DS somewhere and I can reuse that power supply, but its still a pain in the rear to not include it.

2 • 
Avatar image for andmcq
andmcq

259

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 2

User Lists: 0

<< LINK REMOVED >> Oh no, a $10 purchase on top of a $200 purchase. How will I survive!? I'll be financially ruined! Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

2 • 
Avatar image for lazarius12
lazarius12

52

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

<< LINK REMOVED >> Except that's how it's been done in Japan, literally for years. I was cheering when they announced that as it's been a long time coming.

Upvote •