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*Got a question about the Nintendo 3DS XL? Then check out our Frequently Asked Questions section which can be found beneath this review

The standard Nintendo 3DS is quite a dainty little thing, and the size difference between that model and the new XL one is quite startling at first. This isn’t the first time that Nintendo has released an XL version of one of its handheld consoles – the DSi XL launched just over two years ago – but that leap wasn’t anywhere near as significant as this one. Both screens on the 3DS XL are around 90% bigger than the pair found on the original 3DS, and it’s almost twice as heavy, which gifts the unit with the same kind of pleasing heft that Microsoft’s wired Xbox 360 pads have always had.

In terms of resolution and visual clarity, the two screens on the 3DS XL are technically identical to the ones on the 3DS, but it really doesn’t matter; there was always a sense that the screens on the first console were a mite too small anyway. The experience of playing Kid Icarus: Uprising on the new machine – particularly during some of the spectacular flying sequences that take place in the opening half-hour – is as thoroughly impressive as ever, and none of that visual panache has lost any of its awe-inspiring sheen.

Aesthetically, some people are inevitably going to prefer the original machine – what with its glossy finish and hard right angles – but there’s no denying it: for most people, the XL is going to be an essential upgrade. If you’ve got big hands, the curved edges and the bigger screens make good software so much easier to get completely lost in. This makes it a breeze to happily binge like never before on things like Super Mario 3D Land and Kid Icarus, but much more importantly, it makes long sessions on the epic likes of Heroes of Ruin or Ocarina of Time very palatable too.

The positioning of the stylus slot on the original 3DS was a bit mystifying, but on the XL it’s located on the bottom right-hand side of the unit, which means that you can seamlessly grab and then re-stash it whenever you need to. The new stylus is longer, chubbier and much easier to hold (and harder to misplace) and the battery life is hugely improved. If you’re someone who likes to take advantage of the system’s moreish StreetPass functionality, it’ll be a relief to hear that we got almost four whole day’s worth of StreetPass goodness off the back of a single charge; conversely the original 3DS didn’t tend to last much longer than two.

If you’re planning on upgrading from a 3DS to a 3DS XL, the process couldn’t be smoother. A very simple data transfer procedure – which can be activated via Settings > Other Settings > System Transfer – will move everything across in less than ten minutes, including the free games that you’ll have received if you’re a member of Nintendo’s 3DS Ambassador program. If you’re planning on making the XL model your first 3DS though, be aware that power adaptors are currently only being sold separately.

The XL’s 4GB memory is going to come in very handy when Nintendo start distributing their first-party titles digitally – a process that’s beginning with New Super Mario Bros. 2 in August – and the 3D effects are much more consistent on the larger main screen; it’s the biggest screen ever seen on a Nintendo handheld. If you’re someone who tends to move around excitedly when playing Mario Kart 7 online – and who isn’t, frankly – the 3D is now far less likely to snap out of its front-on “sweet spot” when you do. It may not be as stylish and sleek as its predecessor, but in all, the 3DS XL is the 3DS to own… chances are it just won’t fit in your pocket. But who does that?

Nintendo 3DS XL – FAQ

When’s it out?

July 28th.

How big is it? 

The screens on the 3DS XL are around 90% larger than they were on the original console. Top screen: 4.88 inches. Bottom screen: 4.18 inches. The console itself is around 46% larger.

What’s the difference in battery life? 

Nintendo estimate that the battery life on the 3DS XL lasts for around 86% longer.

Is a charger included?

No. Chargers are currently only being sold separately.

What colours is it going to be available in?

At launch, the 3DS XL will be available in Red and Black, Blue and Black and Silver and Black.

Is there more memory?

Yes. The 3DS XL comes with a 4GB SD card as standard, as opposed to the 2GB card that came with the original 3DS.

Is it still compatible with original DS and DSi games?


Are there any major design changes?

The headphone jack is now on the left hand side of the unit, and the stylus is now kept on the right. The power button is round and more pronounced, and the shell has round edges.

Is it easy to transfer data from an old 3DS to a new one?

Very. Switch both consoles on, and then follow the instructions after going to Settings > Other Settings > System Transfer.

The Nintendo 3DS XL console is currently due for release on Saturday, July 28th 2012. 

Watch the official trailer for the Nintendo 3DS XL below: 


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Team Zavvi


A collection of thoughts, opinions and news from the staff at Zavvi.