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Pros and Cons
on 2 October 2013
This review is meant for people who do not have a 3DS at all and are wondering which model to buy.
EDIT: Before reading this review, please be aware than in February 2015 a NEW model 3DS will be released, the "New 3DS" and "New 3DSXL" have many improvements, including faster processing speed, a minor graphics upgrade, extra controls (meaning you no longer need the circle pad pro attachment for games that required it) and a big improvement to the quality of the 3D (including motion tracking that means you don't have to hold it completely still to enjoy the 3D effect). If you want the best version of the 3DS I recommend waiting until mid February and buying the new one, but if you want a decent 3DS at a lower price I also recommend waiting, since the release of the new 3DS models will likely drive down the price of the old models significantly.
Anyway, back to the review:
I bought this as an upgrade to my old DS lite so that I'd be able to play 3DS games and play my old DS games on a larger screen.
Overall this is a very good system and I'm glad I bought this, I'm enjoying the games I bought for it and it's a fun and easy to use system, I REALLY LIKE THIS CONSOLE, but there are a few things that could be better and I recognise that other people considering buying may want different things from their console, so for people still not sure I have put together a pro vs. con review to help them decide. For comparisons between the standard 3DS and the XL I've been looking at my nephew's 3DS.
Let's get the cons out of the way first:
For the XL specifically:
- as many people have mentioned, the XL does not come with a charger, you will have to buy it separately, but it's only about £5 from Amazon so it's not that big a price difference, you can pay more than that just for having a different colour, this is just something to be aware of when buying: unless you have a compatible charger already, order one with your purchase.
- the larger size and weight of this console makes me feel a bit paranoid that I might drop it when playing, whereas the smaller DS I have is very easy to keep a good grip on and I feel comfortable letting my nephews use it without fear of them dropping it but I wouldn't let them use my 3DSXL, so for people with small hands or buying for their kids the standard 3DS might be better. Also, the back plate of the XL clicks a little when pressed in the middle, as it's a removable plate and made from slightly flexible plastic, whereas on previous smaller versions the back has a small plate in it that could be removed for replacing a damaged battery, etc so the standard 3DS has a more solid back.
- the larger size also makes the device less portable than its smaller counterpart, which is pretty much pocket-sized, so if you want to carry the console around with you a lot you might prefer the smaller 3DS, there are some neat carry-cases for the XL though.
- the SD card on the XL is a lot harder to remove (if you want to replace it or put music or videos on it) than on the standard 3DS, I found it quite fiddly and tricky to get to. (New 3DS will be even more fiddly because you have to remove the back plate to get to the SD card).
- Yes, the 3DSXL is expensive, and for some people not worth it. Currently the standard red and blue versions are the cheapest on Amazon, so if you don't want to pay out too much get those, but if price is your biggest concern then there's the ordinary 3DS (which is marginally cheaper and comes with an adapter) and the 2DS (which is much cheaper but with no 3D and is solid rather than hinged) to consider too, I do think the console is worth the price though for what you get.
For the 3DS family in general:
- the 3D effect can be hard to maintain on some games, as it goes blurry every time you move away from the "sweet spot" and can make the models appear more pixelated.
(note, "New 3DS" models have a face tracking addition that apparently makes the 3D more stable, something to consider if buying now)
- the games on the nintendo e-shop seem rather expensive compared to retail price, and that goes for the virtual console games too, you could buy physical copies second hand for about the same price as the downloads. I also think the full 3DS games would quickly fill up the provided SD card so I'd recommend buying the retail versions.
- the headphone jack is on the front, which means it can be a bit uncomfortable if resting the 3DSXL against your chest while playing, (all the DS and 3DS range have their headphone jack at the front, including the "New 3DS" models I'd expected the larger console to have it at the back as there's enough space for it but it is at the front too)
- the built in browser is kind of... bad, it doesn't play flash videos, (although there is now a youtube ap. available for free from the nintendo e-shop, so you can at least watch youtube videos, though not in great quality) and for most websites it uses the mobile phone version of the site -- but let's face it, you don't buy a games console to browse the internet, you'd have a smartphone for that or just use your computer.
Edit: the browser has been updated and is better than the old one, but still fairly slow. It's been said that the speed of the browser and other online functions will be greatly improved with the New 3DS models though.
However, there are a lot of good reasons to buy this system:
For the XL specifically:
- the 3D effect does look surprisingly good, as I said it can be a little tricky to keep in the sweet-spot but when you do the effect does add a lot of depth, especially on the larger screen.
- the larger screens really do look good, when comparing my old DS lite to the 3DS XL the difference in the size and clarity of the screens is very clear, the 3DS XL provides a much better gaming experience just in how much better the games look when played on it. I'd recommend screen-protectors though, as the screens will scratch, especially the bottom one when you use the stylus, and also the default brightness setting is quite glaring, so turn that down to three or four.
- the 3DSXL comes with a decent sized 4GB SD card, twice the size of the standard 3DS, on which you can save game data, audio, pictures and video etc. and transfer them to your computer by removing the card and putting it into an SD card slot or getting a USB adapter that will do the same, you can also transfer mp3 music onto the SD card to play them on the 3DS and there are programs you can find online to convert video into a format and size that you can play on the 3DS too. As I said the only trouble is that it can be a bit fiddly getting the card in and out.
- the hinge clicks into place nicely, the build is sturdy (and feels much more substantial than the old DS lite I have) and there are a lot of small features that are improved over the standard 3DS like the position of the stylus and the finger-print-resistant surface.
- the rounded edges make this much more comfortable to hold than the smaller 3DS, which my nephews have, and if you have larger hands you will find it easier to use the controls on the XL than the smaller version, also the analogue pad is actually pretty good, though I still prefer to use the D-pad for most games.
(note: the "New 3DS" will have the same rounded edges and matt finish in both the small and XL models, so this is only an advantage over the old 3DS)
For the 3DS family in general:
- the home page and the various aps you get with the console and can purchase for it are very nicely laid out and easy to use, and the 3DS comes with a number of built in applications that are rather neat such as the letter box (update: which *used to* let you send notes to friends but alas due to a few irresponsible users sending inappropriate messages and pictures the sending of notes has now been disabled) and a few built in games like the mii plaza games (although some of these require streetpasses) and "face raiders" that are quite fun, so you can use this console straight away even if you haven't bought any games for it yet.
- both the 3DS and 3DSXL have three built-in cameras, one on the inside to take pictures of your face for some games and applications, and two on the outside which allow you to take 2D and 3D photos and also videos, which can be played back on the 3DS or transferred to a computer using the SD card.
- parental security controls, if you want to buy one for your kids then on all the 3DS platforms there are parental controls you can use to disable internet access and some other features if you don't want your kids using them, you can read more about it on the nintendo webiste.
- the streetpass and friends list features are very handy and let you link up with friends online for multiplayer easily, and both the 3DS and 3DSXL support WEP and WPA security for wifi, whereas the DS only supported WEP. There's also some neat things you can do with the mii plaza games by collecting street passes, as I mentioned above.
- although I mentioned that the retail games on the e-shop are a tad expensive, there are a great variety of games available on it, and some reasonably priced download-exclusives, plus although I think the virtual console games are a little over-priced this does let you play some great old titles on this portable platform, which is a neat feature.
- as for retail games, well there is a great variety, and they generally use both the touch screen and the 3D effect well, but I go into more detail about that below.
The most important thing to consider when buying the console is whether it will cater to your gaming tastes. For me the main reason for buying this console is the games, there is a good variety of genres that cater for a range of ages, including games for children, games for teens and adults (including some you might not expect like Metal Gear Solid and Tekken), and games that everyone will enjoy, but most of all the games I bought this console for were the exclusive titles like Mario, Pokémon, Professor Layton, etc.
It's also great that as well as 3DS games you can play old DS and DSi games on this system, which means you'll have a lot of games available to you between those platforms, so if you don't have a DS at all but want to play the games then this is the handheld for you since it will play them all. You can't play Gameboy Advance games on the 3DS like on the old DS, but the gameboy advance is pretty cheap second hand these days if you really wanted one, or if you're upgrading from the old DS with a GBA slot, just keep the old one, as you won't get all that much in trade value, then you can still play your old GBA games and also do self-trading in games like pokémon.
I hope my review has been helpful, I've tried to cover every consideration so sorry if I seem to waffle on a bit.
Overall this is the best handheld console Nintendo have produced to this day*, so really it boils down to exactly what you want from a gaming device. Take a good look at the games available, if they don't spark your interest then you're better off with a smartphone, but if nostalgia grabs you when you see Mario 3D Land, Luigi's Mansion, Star Fox 3D or Pokémon X and Y then go for it. As for other DS models, well if you're buying for young kids and want something sturdy and less expensive there's the 2DS, if you want something more portable or you want a console for smaller hands that will still have 3D then get the standard 3DS, but for the best visuals and ease of use I'd say the 3DS XL is the best in the range, just don't forget to buy the power adapter with it.
*Again, until the "New 3DS" range come out.