New Nintendo 3DS XL review: 3D done right
The New Nintendo 3DS consoles are refinements of the four-year-old 3DS hardware.
The Nintendo 3DS family of handhelds already has plenty of members. There's the original, pocket-sized 3DS, the big brother 3DS XL, and younger sibling 2DS.
Now Nintendo has introduced the New Nintendo 3DS and New Nintendo 3DS XL, systems that - rather than revolutionising the form factor or adding new gimmicks - refine and update the systems in several subtle ways.
Turning on the New XL, the most noticeable upgrade is to the technology used to produce the glasses-free 3D effect.
The New 3DS XL features a second stick about the face buttons, a hint of colour and a refined layout.
While previously any movement of your head or the system would cause uncomfortable blurring or a complete loss of the effect, the new tech uses facial recognition to constantly adjust the alignment of the images to follow your eyes.
The result is a much more comfortable 3D effect that works effortlessly, provided you're not playing in total darkness and don't have anything that looks like a face behind you.
There have also been some aesthetic changes, with the New XL ditching the old matte finish for an understated glossy shell and some fancy texture showing through if you catch the light just right.
The finish is simple, but more sophisticated than a lot of Nintendo hardware.
It's a nice touch and gives the device much more of a smartphone-like look and feel than its toy-like siblings, but it is an incredible attractor of fingerprints.
Inside the clamshell, the grippy, matte surface has thankfully been retained, but there is one new feature of note. Sitting above the face buttons, the rubbery little 'C stick' functions as a secondary circle pad.
While it doesn't actually move or slide (in fact it's drawn comparisons to the small trackpad stub on the keyboards of old laptops), it's certainly sufficient to control the camera in Monster Hunter or pull off a smash attack in Super Smash Bros,and I found it plenty sensitive and quite comfy after some getting used to.
Buttons and features have been moved around to more closely resemble the Wii U gamepad (most notably the home, start and select buttons are proper buttons now instead of the weird toggles found on the original 3DS XL) and a pair of secondary triggers have been added to the shoulders, but the more significant hardware changes are below the surface.
The new machine packs a faster processor and a bit more RAM. While this might seem useless given it has to run software that the slower old 3DS can also run, the extra grunt makes a hugely noticeable difference when it comes to loading games, closing games, accessing the store, downloading new software and jumping between games and apps like the browser or Miiverse.
Whereas it takes my XL around 30 seconds to boot Super Smash Bros, it takes the New XL less than 10. Going forward there will be games that can only run on the New 3DS machines, the first of which will be Xenoblade Chronicles next year.
The new machine is also equipped with an NFC chip underneath the lower screen, which will eventually make it compatible with Nintendo's Amiibo interactive figures.
All the small improvements stack up to a significantly improved play experience. It feels like a 3DS XL, but nicer.
The finish is better on your hands, the 3D never hurts your face, automatic brightness adjustment saves you battery life, jumping between apps and games is snappy, and you don't spend half an hour waiting for a relatively small download to complete.
It's worth noting that unless you, like me, feel very strongly about having the extra screen size provided by the XL models, the smaller New 3DS is a tempting alternative.
All the improved features of the New XL - better 3D, the C stick, extra buttons, NFC, faster processor - are in the smaller model too, the only difference is size and style.
The XL has bigger screens (4.88 inches for the top screen versus 3.88 inches) but it's also heavier and bulkier (329 grams versus 253).
Meanwhile, the smaller version has attractive Super-Nintendo-inspired buttons and swappable face plates to customise the look of the machine, but it lacks the 'premium' smartphone-like finish of the XL and has a slightly shorter battery life.
If you already have a 3DS or 3DS XL the subtle refinements here might not be enough to tempt you to upgrade right away. However, as software becomes more resource-intensive and takes advantage of the extra buttons and processing power, the 'New' line will become essential.
These are the machines the original 3DS and the 3DS XL really wanted to be, and in the eyes of many (literally), the improvement to the 3D effect may be worth the cost of upgrading alone.
New Nintendo 3DS XL key specs 93.5mm x 160mm x 21.5mm (when closed) 329 grams 4.88-inch top screen capable of 3D images 4.18-inch secondary screen 4GB Micro SD included, expandable to 32GB Available in black and blue RRP $249.95