The question is what does the 3DS XL bring to the table over the significantly smaller 3DS? The two major improvements that Nintendo is touting for the Rubenesque system is a much larger screen and dramatically better battery life.
First, as Nintendo proudly and somewhat nauseatingly keeps saying, the screen is 90% bigger. The screen for the 3DS XL is 90% bigger than the 3DS’ screen. Readers, that is not a mistake, it is on the box of the system! The 3DS XL features a 4.88-inch top screen, where the game displays, while the bottom touch screen measures at 4.18 inches. The 3DS only had a 3.53 inch top screen and a 3.02-inch touch screen.
To put the size of these screen in perspective, Sony’s PS Vita handheld features a 5-inch screen and Nintendo’s last deluxe model, the DSi XL, had two 4.2-inch screens. Thus, the 3DS XL’s screens are not quite as large as the PS Vita, but dramatically bigger than the 3DS and slightly larger than the DSi XL.
The 3DS XL also makes improves battery life in a major way. The 3DS’ battery only managed about 3 and a half hours to 6 and half when playing 3DS games, but with the 3DS XL’s larger size; Nintendo has souped the system’s battery up. The new version will feature about 6 to 10 hours when playing 3DS games, which is incredible. For everything that its size may take away from everyday on-the-go use, the 3DS XL’s battery makes up for it when using the system during long road trips or flights (or trains for the steam-punk user). Unfortunately, for European and Japanese gamers interested in the newer, beefier system, they will have to purchase the AC adapter separately. Luckily, though, when the system launches in North America, the AC adapter will come bundled with the system.
Another feature of the 3DS XL that is different from the 3DS is that instead of a 2GB SDHC card, the new system will come packaged with a 4GB SDHC card. This is a nice bonus and means that gamers using the 3DS XL will be able to download more demos, games and take more pictures.
A problem that the system does not address is the addition of a second analog stick. Nintendo has stated that the system is not big enough to accommodate one and that to put one in would sacrifice battery life. It seems like a cop out but, much like the 3DS, a version of the Circle Pad Pro will be available for the bigger system.
While Europe systems will come in red, blue or silver with black trim and the Japanese systems come in solid white, red or silver with black trim, American systems will only be available in red or blue with black trim. However, the debut of the 3DS came in flame red, aqua blue and cosmo black and there is likely to be new or limited editions introduced at a later date.
What is interesting about the strategy Nintendo has taken with its more recent generation of handhelds in going with larger models is a direct reversal of their previous philosophy. When the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS came out, the designs were less than pleasing aesthetically or ergonomically. Thus, the redesigns for each system, the Game Boy Advance SP and DS Lite respectively, were smaller and more attractive. The GBA SP was much more successful than the original GBA making up the larger share of Nintendo’s overall sales with that system. As well, the DS Lite makes up the majority of all DS hardware sales. Comparatively, the DSi XL has only sold half as much as the smaller DSi model.
Ultimately, even with some interesting improvements to the system, is there really a demand for a larger 3DS? It will be revealed whether the 3DS XL has legs this holiday season once it has been out in Europe, Japan and North America for a few months. For North American gamers, the system will be available August 19 and retail for $199.99.