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3DS

North America

New Nintendo 3DS XL Review

by Aaron Kaluszka - February 4, 2015, 4:18 pm PST
Total comments: 19

8

Incrementally seeing is incrementally believing?

Like the Nintendo DSi before it, the New Nintendo 3DS XL is a stop-gap system that offers some improvements, while not making a generational leap. I’ve had the chance to spend some time with the system in games both new and old.

The head-tracking “Super-Stable 3D” is indeed an improvement over the original’s limited viewing angle, and it does work somewhat spectacularly. The system opens up with a demo where you can move your head around laterally and the 3D adapts quickly. However, it’s important to note that it doesn’t offer infinite viewing angles, and it does not adapt instantaneously. But since it does partially adapt, it actually can cause more of a headache – literally. Basically, the fact that you can move around more while playing encourages you to do so. But the small lag time in adapting causes some subtle eye-crossing. I eventually got used to it, but did feel some eye strain.

Overall, the screens were somewhat disappointing. The resolution hasn’t been increased, so the pixels are gigantic, in a world where other devices have made them nearly indiscriminable. I also found the adaptive brightness feature to be far inferior to similar functionality on smartphones. While playing, the screens would often dim for no apparent reason to a level that was a little bit low for comfortable viewing. Additionally, light bleeding (from bright graphics on dark backgrounds) is still very present. The 3D viewing range on the New 3DS XL is similar to the regular 3DS XL, but if you’re used to the original 3DS, you may need to crank the 3D settings down a bit. A maxed 3D slider on the original 3DS is closer to a middle position on the New 3DS XL.

The C-stick nub acts like the ThinkPad laptop nubs. You don’t actually tilt the thing, but gently press in the direction you want to input. While this might not work out so well when you want the analog input of a control stick, it works out perfectly for camera control where gently rolling your finger around causes the camera to spin around. I’ve tried it out in several new games, as well as ones supporting the Circle Pad Pro, and it’s a welcome addition. The extra trigger buttons are less so, due to their awkward positions medial to the shoulder buttons, but they’re still a better option than using the D-pad as extra buttons.

Transferring data from my old 3DS was pretty easy. I was a bit surprised that my New 3DS shipped with an old firmware, version 9.0.0. Given that and the box’s 2014 date, it seems like Nintendo’s been getting ready for a North America launch for a while. What this all meant is that I had to do a system update before proceeding with the transfer. Beyond transferring the main system data, you’re given one of three options – if you already have a Micro SD card in your 3DS, you can just move it to the new system. Otherwise, you can transfer all game data wirelessly, or you can copy from SD to Micro SD on a computer. I chose the latter -- after formatting to FAT32, I was able to move my data to a 64GB card (my original 3DS’s 32GB card was nearly full).

I know there’s consternation over NOA not making the regular New 3DS (and its cover-plates) available. I personally don’t mind – but it’s still hard to get over how large the XL is with all of its plastic. And with each new iteration, Nintendo’s moved elements around, so the stylus and certain other elements are in unfamiliar locations. And long-gone is the telescoping stylus of the original. However, holding the New 3DS XL, with its rounded edges was a big improvement over the original 3DS, and all of the buttons are easy to access and don’t cramp my hands. The buttons are a bit clickier than the original 3DS, but not as bad as the original Nintendo DS. I prefer non-clicking buttons, but I don’t mind these. I do miss my extended battery though -- it's too bad they didn't fit a higher-capacity battery in the large shell.

Easily the system’s biggest improvement is in loading time. While in-game processing is generally no different, initial load time is reduced dramatically, especially for larger games like Super Smash Bros., approaching the “channel-changing” characteristic that Nintendo originally desired for the Wii. System applications like the web browser and Miiverse go from interesting curiosities, to reasonably useful. The main menu interface is still stuck in the dark ages, but overall, dealing with non-game aspects of the system is much improved, and the system is worth getting just for that.

Right now, only Xenoblade Chronicles 3D has been announced as requiring the new system, but it will be interesting to see if any other games use the new processing power. And as for Amiibo functionality, the system scans them very quickly, but I haven’t had the chance to make much use of it as of yet.

The New 3DS XL feels like what the original 3DS should have been – had the technology been there. After all, head-tracking parallax screens were only invented recently. That feature isn’t enough to recommend a new purchase, but the increased speed is. While you’re not currently missing much by not upgrading to the latest iteration, it’s been a more enjoyable experience for me. And if you’ve put off ever getting a 3DS, now’s a great time; a grand library awaits.

Summary

Pros
  • Head-tracking 3D
  • Much-improved loading times
  • Respectable C-stick
Cons
  • Poor screen performance
  • Super-Stable 3D can still induce eye strain
  • System navigation is still cumbersome

Review unit provided by Nintendo.

Talkback

leahsdadFebruary 04, 2015

Quote:

I chose the latter -- after formatting to FAT32, I was able to move my data to a 64GB card (my original 3DS’s 32GB card was nearly full).

Quote:

Whoa whoa whoa--Aaron, am I to believe that you can use a 64GB sdhc card?  Everything else out there says that the new 3DS XL only supports up to 32. 

I too am pretty darn close to my current card's limit (I think I have about 2 gig's worth of blocks left on my 32GB sd card), and would love to upgrade to a bigger card when I pick up the New 3DSXL.

I hate to ask stupid questions, but are you sure that it's really supported?  I don't doubt that you really put a 64GB card in there, but did the New 3DSXL really recognize the entire card and create empty blocks for it?  Or is it only making 32GB's worth of "blocks" available for use? 

It works. Even larger ones should work. You just have to format as FAT32, which means getting a utility to do it since Windows won't let you normally.

leahsdadFebruary 05, 2015

Nice!  I wonder why Nintendo put 32GB as the upper limit in all the manuals/literature/etc.?

FYI:  I did some searching and I did pull up some odd posts on Gamefaqs, of all places, where people posted things like "I know a guy who put a 128GB card in their 3DS." 

And even curious-er, how come you are the first person outside of a random forum post to mention that you can put more the 32GB in there?  This is important knowledge, it should be spread.  And you will have to pry those E3 2012 demo videos off my 3DS when I am dead and buried.

roykoopa64February 05, 2015

What size memory card is included with the system? I'm assuming it's pretty small.

Cards larger than 32GB ship with exFAT (which requires a Microsoft license). Maybe Nintendo didn't want to deal with that. However, FAT32 can actually go up to 16TB.
The New 3DS ships with a 4GB card.

fred13February 05, 2015

The reason Nintendo says the max is 32GB is that that is the max...unless you're knowledgeable enough to jump through 1 or 2 hoops to make the others work, and they don't want the average clueless mom to buy a 64GB card and then get mad when it doesn't work. I've read on this site and several others comments from people that have successfully done it. I'd do it, but I prefer cartridges on my 3DS (even though I'm all digital on my Wii U) because I have 4 people in my family (myself, my wife and 2 kids) that play 3DS and I don't want to have to buy multiple copies of each game and I certainly don't want to loan my kids my New 3DS XL (that will be the rule next friday when I get one) so that they can play a game that I have on mine that they don't have on theirs.

leahsdadFebruary 05, 2015

Okay, thanks for all the info Aaron.  And a very good review, btw.

Also thought I would share that if you need a power cable, they sell them for $1.50 each at Daiso, if you live here in CA or WA.  They straight USB cables (USB on one end, 3DS power connector on the other) so you can plug it in to any old USB port or a USB wall adapter (which they also sell at Daiso for like a buck).

Bman87301February 05, 2015

With all due respect, parts of this review are definitely flawed.

Granted, unlike Aaron, I haven't spent any extended time with the new hardware... In fact, I've only spend less than 10 minutes with a floor model at Best Buy, but that was still enough time to tell that his over-sized pixel complaint has absolutely no validity whatsoever.

Sure, it IS true that you can see the individual pixels (if you look for them), however it's inconsequential since there's no blockiness or loss of visual quality. In fact, from what I can tell, it seems identical to the regular 3DS XL (as it logically should be since they have the same graphical specifications). Aaron seems to be basing his assessment by unfairly comparing the screen to those of the same size on today's smartphones... Of course, those devices' graphical specifications are far beyond that of the 3DS, and should be since without the subsidization that goes along with their monthly phone service plans, their hardware runs around the $800 range. So, expecting a dedicated gaming device with a mere $200 price tag to have comparable screen resolution isn't rational.

I can't comment on Aaron's other complaints, but I did notice an improvement he failed to mention-- the volume control is now on the top screen where your hand can't easily bump it like on previous models.

pokepal148Spencer Johnson, Contributing WriterFebruary 05, 2015

Quote from: Bman87301

Of course, those devices' graphical specifications are far beyond that of the 3DS, and should be since without the subsidization that goes along with their monthly phone service plans, their hardware runs around the $800 range. So, expecting a dedicated gaming device with a mere $200 price tag to have comparable screen resolution isn't rational.

The PS Vita says hi.

Quote from: Bman87301

I can't comment on Aaron's other complaints, but I did notice an improvement he failed to mention-- the volume control is now on the top screen where your hand can't easily bump it like on previous models.

I didn't know this before, and it makes me so happy. That's an issue for me all the time on my old XL.

Bman87301February 05, 2015

Quote from: pokepal148

The PS Vita says hi.

The PS Vita's data plan subsidization says hi back.

Quote from: Bman87301

Quote from: pokepal148

The PS Vita says hi.

The PS Vita's data plan subsidization says hi back.

There's no data plan subsidation. I'm not even sure they still sell the 3G model, which wasn't subsidized, and most of the ones ever sold had no cellular data ability.

UncleBobRichard Cook, Guest ContributorFebruary 05, 2015

Quote from: fred13

The reason Nintendo says the max is 32GB is that that is the max...unless you're knowledgeable enough to jump through 1 or 2 hoops to make the others work, and they don't want the average clueless mom to buy a 64GB card and then get mad when it doesn't work. I've read on this site and several others comments from people that have successfully done it.

Dear Nintendo:
Create a 3DS app that reformats a 64+GB SD/microSD card to 32FAT.  Get around the Microsoft license, keep people happy... it's a win, win.

That'd make a lot of sense. A Wii U can automatically format a hard drive when you plug one in, why not this?

UncleBobRichard Cook, Guest ContributorFebruary 05, 2015

Quote from: NWR_insanolord

That'd make a lot of sense.

Damnit, man, you just ruined it.  No way Nintendo will do it now.

marvel_moviefan_2012February 06, 2015

Quote from: NWR_insanolord

That'd make a lot of sense. A Wii U can automatically format a hard drive when you plug one in, why not this?

I am curious now, if you can load an SD card into Wii U and format it properly what happens if you load that formatted card into a 3DS does it stay formatted?

Bman87301February 06, 2015

Quote from: NWR_insanolord

There's no data plan subsidation. I'm not even sure they still sell the 3G model, which wasn't subsidized, and most of the ones ever sold had no cellular data ability.

If that's true, then my bad. But at the very least, Sony subsidizes the hardware cost itself and in order to make the money back on game licensing. Of course, Nintendo doesn't do that and we all know it.

Anyways, my initial point is still valid, because when I first read the review, his complaint made me reconsider buying one since he made sound like the graphics would be pixelated and distorted. Upon seeing it in person, there's no such issue and his complaint was merely nitpicking over something mundane that most readers would never have an issue with.

pokepal148Spencer Johnson, Contributing WriterFebruary 06, 2015

Quote from: Bman87301

Quote from: NWR_insanolord

There's no data plan subsidation. I'm not even sure they still sell the 3G model, which wasn't subsidized, and most of the ones ever sold had no cellular data ability.

If that's true, then my bad. But at the very least, Sony subsidizes the hardware cost itself and in order to make the money back on game licensing. Of course, Nintendo doesn't do that and we all know it.

Anyways, my initial point is still valid, because when I first read the review, his complaint made me reconsider buying one since he made sound like the graphics would be pixelated and distorted. Upon seeing it in person, there's no such issue and his complaint was merely nitpicking over something mundane that most readers would never have an issue with.

The PS Vita is 3 years old now, I have a feeling they managed to break even by now.

With the insane markup on the memory cards I doubt they were ever losing money on it.

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Worldwide Releases

na: New Nintendo 3DS XL
Release Feb 13, 2015
PublisherNintendo
jpn: New Nintendo 3DS LL
Release Oct 11, 2014
PublisherNintendo
eu: New Nintendo 3DS XL
Release Feb 13, 2015
PublisherNintendo
aus: New Nintendo 3DS XL
Release Nov 21, 2014
PublisherNintendo

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