Nintendo 3DS XL (2012) review

Nintendo's plus-sized 3DS is now a great budget handheld

Nintendo 3DS XL review
Will you up upgrading to this 3D handheld with bigger screens?

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Although the 3DS XL screens are bigger, the pixel density hasn't increased: the top screen appears to be 800 x 240 (400 x 240 per eye) - the same resolution as the 90 per cent smaller original 3DS.

Other than the lack of dual Circle Pads, that's our biggest problem with the 3DS XL; just like the larger DSi XL imperfections such as low resolution textures and polygon 'jaggies' are far more apparent on the larger XL screens.

Just like the DSi XL you can occasionally make out the individual pixels on the 3DS XL's top screen, which means that smaller 3D objects can look a little less detailed. The lower, 4.18 screen features the same imperfections as the top, although due to most games utilising it for 2D menus it doesn't suffer anywhere near as much as its higher brother.

Nintendo 3DS XL review mario kart 7

A welcome, slightly redeeming side effect of the stretched screens is a noticeably improved effect from the glasses-free 3D display.

Although 3D has become far less of a selling point for Nintendo (the company admits the "3D boom" is very much on the wan compared to last year) it's difficult to deny its increased effectiveness here; the 'sweet spot' in which you have to angle the is much easier to find on the XL, and games like Kid Icarus Uprising and Super Mario 3D Land look great.

The intensity of the 3D effect - which is again more 'window' 3D than 'pop out' 3D - is more forgiving than on the smaller model and at its lowest setting it's so subtle there's almost no reason for turning it off.

Nintendo 3DS XL review game cartridge

It's not quite forgiving enough to prevent bumpy train rides from distorting the illusion however, and those who had a problem with it on previous models won't likely find it magically fixed on the new one, but it's a marked improvement none-the-less.

The battery life we found to last around five hours when playing 3DS games at maximum brightness, which is a worthy upgrade on the original. But whereas the improved power consumption's mainly been brought in to power those bigger screens, it really shines for us when the portable's in its closed Street Pass mode.

When asleep the 3DS XL seems to hold its charge forever, and you'll nearly always open it up a day later to find new Mii visitors and network messages on your handheld, rather than a disappointing dead screen.

Elsewhere playing original DS games on the 3DS XL is a more pleasant experience thanks to the new 1:1 pixel mode, activated by holding the Start or Select buttons as you boot up the game. In this mode older DS titles look razor sharp rather than stretched to suit the 3DS's 16:9 screen, perfect for those looking forward to the upcoming Pokémon Black & White sequels which will only release on the original DS later this year.