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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While the stretched screens on the Nintendo 3DS XL can in fact look less detailed than the original's, improved comfort and battery life mean these imperfections wouldn't put us off choosing the 3DS XL model over the last.

We liked

The larger screens mean finding the 3D 'sweet spot' is a far more forgiving experience, and the effect seems improved overall for most users. The stylus has been sensibly moved to a place we can actually reach, the portable's matte finish means fingerprints are no longer a problem.

3DS XL's rounded edges and larger frame mean it's more comfortable to hold over extended periods, and the battery life is significantly improved so mammoth game sessions on the train are no longer a risky bet.

This also means the 3DS XL holds its charge for days at a time when asleep - a welcome improvement for Street Pass stalwarts like us - and thanks to the welcome addition of a 1:1 pixel mode older DS games run much better on the newer model.

We disliked

The fact that identical resolution to the 90% smaller original means 3D games sometimes look full of imperfections on the XL's larger screens - and you can even make out individual pixels.

The lack of a second Circle Pad is also a bit disappointing, as titles like Kid Icarus Uprising and Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D benefit greatly from the added control. A new version of the Circle Pad Pro is promised for the XL, though we shudder to imagine how bulky this will make the already large model. The 3DS XL is also, in our opinion, cheaper looking than the original 3DS.


If you spend most of your day staring at the new iPad's gorgeous Retina Display - or even the rival PS Vita's glorious OLED screen - the 3DS XL's often stretched-looking screens may put you off a purchase.

For existing 3DS owners looking for an upgrade there are plenty of reasons to trade in for the XL; it's more comfortable over long periods and increased battery life means it lasts for hours or even days in Street Pass sleep mode. Couple in a stylus you can actually reach and there are plenty of reasons - screens aside - to call the XL the definitive 3DS model.