New Nintendo 3DS XL Hardware Review

Here we go again. Nearly four years after the Nintendo 3DS’s launch, two and a half years after the 3DS XL’s release and a year and a half after the 2DS’s inception, we have yet another handheld invading stores and attacking our wallets. This time, it’s the New Nintendo 3DS, and with it comes the promise of an all-around better handheld experience.

There’s nothing new there, but does the New Nintendo system prove itself worthy of its the $200 price tag? If you don’t own a 3DS and are in the market for one, the answer can be a difficult one to come to. Never fear, though, because we’re here to help new purchasers and current handheld owners alike decide whether or not newer is better.

There are a lot of positives to look forward to, whether you’ve owned previous Nintendo handhelds or not. Firstly, the unit has a slightly longer battery life than the 3DS XL, as it comes in at three and half to seven hours compared to the three and half to six and a half. It might not be much of a change, but at least it’s one we can be happy about.

Some fresh designs for the new handheld. North America only has access to the New Nintendo 3DS XL, for now.

Amiibo play on the New 3DS is nice, too, as your little figures can be taken and used anywhere. All it takes is touching the figurine’s base to the lower screen and, voila, you’re training your brand new Toon Link amiibo. This process is quick and painless.

The New 3DS XL’s cartridge slot, power button and audio jack are all located on the front of the system, which is tremendously convenient as almost everything from turning the system on and playing games, to turning it off and switching them, are located in the same place.

Speaking of audio, after a small test it seems the volume goes a bit louder on the New Nintendo 3DS; again, a small perk, but one that won’t go unnoticed by previous 3DS owners. Another change that previous owners will quickly pick up on is the improved 3D viewing. What was once a battle to keep the handheld as steady as possible is now the relaxing visual experience that 3D was meant to be. Viewing angles have been greatly enhanced, and players can now look at games from the right, left, above or below and the illusion of three dimensions won’t suddenly disappear. This is a huge step up for people who frequent their 3D slider and makes a huge difference for games like Super Mario 3D Land that stress depth and field of view.

A few other smart placement changes include both the start and select buttons, as they’re now to the right of the lower screen rather than cluttering the bottom of it. The home button remains on the lower portion of the second screen but has been made into a smaller, circular button instead of the larger, rectangle piece it once was.

However, even though the stylus holder has been moved from the right side of the device to the front side, seemingly for added convenience, the position actually seems like a poor choice as taking the stylus in and out was quicker and seemed more natural when it was to the right. It’s not a huge deal, but a small change that seems less than intuitive.

Another nitpicky complaint is the volume slider’s movement. Instead of having it on the bottom-left side of the system, it’s now located on the top screen’s left edge, so players have to take their hand off of the natural resting position in order to make adjustments. I can understand that in previous models, players would sometimes remove the stylus or change the volume by accident, but at least it helped create seamless adjustments when in the middle of a game.

Arguably one of the biggest changes that has come to the system is the inclusion of a faster processor. Small differences in load times can be noticed when placed side-by-side with previous models, but, for the most part, the differences aren’t overtly apparent. Games like Super Smash Bros. and Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate are affected, and having the New 3DS will allow you to jump into the fray faster – but only by about 3-7 seconds in the few tests I ran.

Another significant change is the introduction of a second analog stick, or analog nub in this situation. Although it looks like it was taken right off of the keyboard of a ’90s laptop, the nub does make for quick and easy camera control; games such as Resident Evil: Revelations and Monster Hunter will greatly benefit from the change.

Um, excuse me. But did my 3DS just grow a nipple?

The New Nintendo 3DS’s visuals seem to pop a bit more than its predecessor’s; colors seem more vibrant on the New 3DS and make older handhelds’ colors appear rather ‘dry’ in comparison. This is actually my favorite change, as I’ve always thought the colors on previous models could do with a slight touch-up. Not a huge change – but then again, that seems to be the theme with this handheld.

The last difference between this handheld and older iterations is the lure of exclusivity, in the form of a port of the Wii title, Xenoblade Chronicles. The games releases April 2 in Europe and and Asia and will be available in North America on April 10. Although the game doesn’t look quite as polished on the New 3DS as on home consoles, I have to admit that Nintendo has made a commendable effort in bringing it to the system. As of right now, only Xenoblade Chronicles has been announced as a New 3DS exclusive, with the possibility of other titles following suit.

Now, all of this good news doesn’t mean there isn’t anything worth complaining about. An unfortunate feature of the New 3DS that comes turned on by default is the auto-darkening function. This helps conserve battery life, but does so at the cost of extreme annoyance. The transition from dark to bright will be quite jarring no matter if you’re in a dark cave or bright beach, and will have you quickly looking for a way to turn it off. Luckily, turning off the feature only takes about 30 seconds, an amount of time you’ll gladly be willing to put in after dealing with the auto-darkening for about five seconds. It was a neat idea on paper, but executed poorly, as the extremes of both dark screen and bright screen play make for uncomfortable viewing.

Does it look better? Maybe not. But at least we can play Xenoblade Chronicles in the car now!

From uncomfortable viewing to uncomfortable writing, the New 3DS’s stylus seems to be a step down from previous models, with a shorter design and an awkward backside. As a result, you will soon find the pen quickly slipping out of your hands when you’re either flicking, swiping or tapping – mainstay motions for the console, especially in rhythm games such as Theathrhythm Final Fantasy.

Quite possibly the most frustrating annoyance of the handheld is the fact that it doesn’t come packaged with a charger. This means Nintendo fans who do choose to upgrade by trading in their older systems will have to buy a charger separately if they don’t have an extra. It’s not a huge deal, as Nintendo 3DS chargers can be purchased on Amazon for less than $10, but it just seems lazy on Nintendo’s part.

Another minor complaint is the New 3DS’s finish or exterior; it leaves a ton of fingerprints! So if you’re one of those gamers who has to have a clean handheld, a microfiber cloth is a must.

Overall, I have to say that the New 3DS does prove that newer is better, but only by a small margin. Compared to the jump from the Nintendo 3DS to the Nintendo 3DS XL (which I would argue was an absolute must), this is a microscopic upgrade, only noticeable by way of crisper colors and one announced exclusive to date. Sure, there are a few other nice perks, but as a whole it’s pretty much the same. If you don’t own a Nintendo handheld and are in the market for a 3DS, get the newest and best – which is the New Nintendo 3DS. If, however, you own an XL and are content with what you have and are not looking forward to Xenoblade Chronicles, save your money and stick with what you have.

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