Saturday, 13 April 2013

Hardware Review: 3DS XL

A couple of weeks ago I obtained the Pikachu edition of the 3DS XL, because I was getting a 3DS and why not, it's cute and I like Pokémon (in fact, the reason I got a 3DS now is because of the Pokémon X/Y announcement). The guy in the store told me they only had one, and in fact they had only ever had one, because apparently it's quite rare and only one was sent to each store (at least in Canada, don't know about the US). 

Anyway, my first impression was that the 3DS is basically the coolest thing ever, so I thought I'd give it a little more time before writing a post, because maybe it's not quite the coolest thing ever and I just hadn't noticed yet. 

Turns out it's not the coolest thing ever, but it is pretty damn cool.

First thing I noticed taking the XL out of the box is the size. I mean, I know the whole point of the XL is that it's bigger than the regular 3DS, but holy crap. The thing is gigantic and heavy compared to the DS Lite. In fact, here's a photo for comparison: 

The size of the system is both good and bad. I had gotten used to just throwing my DS Lite in a pocket and heading out. The 3DS XL is kind of too big for that. If I'm going out and I'm not taking a bag, the 3DS stays at home.

On the other hand, look at the size of those screens! The resolution isn't great, but it's not really that noticeable in-game. It's not for reading emails, so you don't need super sharp high-res graphics. In motion, sure some games have some jagged edges, but whatever, I don't care.

The other size problem comes up any time you need to use the touchscreen extensively. Some people thought holding a DS Lite in one hand was awkward and irritating... and the 3DS XL is much bigger and heavier. I haven't played a game yet that requires extensive touchscreen use (just Ocarina of Time 3D so far, review pending), but I can definitely foresee some potential irritation there.

So how about that 3D? Holy crap so awesome.

You know when you go to a 3D movie and by the end you've forgotten it's even in 3D because it didn't add anything to the experience? The 3DS is not like that. Because of the way the glasses-free 3D works, it adds depth, with nothing coming "out of the screen" like in a bad 3D movie. The result is almost like a window that lets you see into the game world. Again, I've only played Ocarina of Time so far, and maybe not all games handle it as well, but the 3D in OoT is very cool.

It's really too bad that I can't show you with photos how awesome the 3D is. The photo above has 3D turned on but all you get is some image doubling because cameras aren't eyes. Oh, and speaking of 3D being "turned on"... you can adjust the level of 3D (or eliminate it entirely) with a hardware switch by the upper screen.

And speaking of hardware switches... I hear the regular 3DS had touch buttons for Select/Home/Start. Hardware buttons are better. And there's even a hardware switch for wi-fi, which wasn't present on the DS Lite and is a welcome addition.

The system has a lot of little applications but most are novelties and not really useful. The 3D camera is kind of neat, but it's low quality and only displays in 3D on the system itself. The most useful things are a note-taking app which you can access while playing a game, and an activity log and step counter. 

The only other flaw I've noticed with the 3DS XL is battery life. I haven't made an effort to clock it but it's not very long, especially compared to the DS Lite. Yeah, the screens are bigger and the guts are better, but it's really annoying to replace an old handheld and have the new one perform worse.

So basically the 3DS is pretty awesome. It has a few things that aren't great, but the 3D is pretty fantastic. I'll have to look into finding some more games that interest me.

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