Nintendo 3DS XL Review: Does Bigger Make for Better 3D?

November 5, 2012 by Jen Edwards Reads (49,269)


The 3DS isn’t a productivity powerhouse; its primary purpose is to play games. For that reason there isn’t very much information about the exact specifications on the processor speed, screen resolution, etc. In all respects the 3DS XL performs exactly like the original 3DS — I didn’t notice anything loading any faster on the new version, for example, and neither device has ever suffered a crash while I’ve been using them.


The 3DS XL has two forms of wireless communication. Short distance device-to-device wireless is used for StreetPass (in which you “meet” other 3DS users while you are out and about and exchange avatars, virtual puzzle pieces, and more), and for download play, which allows you to play certain games in a local multiplayer mode.

It also has WiFi, which is used to download system updates or games purchased from the Nintendo eShop, videos, and the like, as well as web browsing with the included browser. There are no email or social networking apps, though the included SwapNote app does allow you to send handwritten notes to your (Nintendo, not Facebook) friends.

Nintendo 3DS XL AngleProductivity

3DS XL is designed for fun, not function, though there are a few productivity apps available in the Nintendo eShop, such as a calendar, clock, and calculator, all themed with Nintendo characters. There is also a simple journal/diary app and even an instrument tuner. One particularly interesting app of note is Petit Computer ($7.99) which allows you to create your own simple programs, games, images, and music with a modified version of BASIC–even if you have no programming experience at all.


This is why you’re considering the 3DS XL, of course, so let’s get straight to the fun. Aside from the obvious fact that you can plug in 3DS and regular Nintendo DS game cards, the device comes with several apps that may not be too productive, but are definitely fun. One of the best is Find Mii, which is a roleplaying game in which your Mii avatar is imprisoned and it’s up to the players you hire (or meet in real life via StreetPass) to defeat a variety of foes and save the day. You can also collect virtual puzzle pieces in Puzzle Swap, eventually ending up with some very cool scenes featuring your favorite Nintendo characters.

Other bundled apps include AR Games you play with the bundled AR cards that come with the system, Face Raiders, another AR game where you can “shoot” your friends and rack up a high score, and the Mii Maker, where you create your own personal avatar for use in select games and in StreetPass.

Nintendo Video is where you can watch the latest music videos, anime shorts, sports action films, and the like. The available selection rotates constantly, and new videos are automatically downloaded to your system with this free service. There’s also a really fun Nintendo 3DS Sound app that allows you to record sounds from your local environment and manipulate them however you wish. It may not keep you entertained for hours and hours, but it is definitely worth checking out.

Finally we have the web browser, which is relatively bare bones but certainly adequate in a pinch. There is no long-range wireless option available for the 3DS XL, so you’re limited to WiFi.

Nintendo 3DS XL OutsideCamera

The 3DS XL comes with a camera capable of capturing 3D images. It’s fun to play around with, and take quick snapshots to show off to your friends, but it won’t replace a serious standalone or even a smartphone camera, for that matter. Images are saved on the SD card, so if you want to share any of them beyond simply showing them on your 3DS XL, you can remove the card and plug it into your computer.

You’re much more likely to use the camera with the included augmented reality games such as Face Raiders. When playing an AR game, the camera is used to take video of your actual physical environment, so that when you look at the screen on the device it looks as though virtual game elements and characters have come to life in the real world. It’s a fun diversion, and though the result isn’t HD quality because the cameras aren’t terribly high resolution, the AR games are still a lot of fun.

Battery Life

One of the main selling points for the 3DS XL is the improved battery life, and after testing it in the real world, I can definitely say that Nintendo delivered. The old 3DS would last barely a day, assuming that both wireless and 3D were on and you played games for no more than three or four hours. If you were taking it on a road trip, you know that you had to bring along a power grip or some other charging accessory, or perhaps a book to read when the battery died.

With the 3DS XL, those problems are in the past. You can now get three or four days of “social” use with the unit mainly on standby and actively used only to use the tagged characters you’ve collected in Find Mii or exchanging new panel pieces in Puzzle Swap. If you’re playing games, expect several hours of use, enough for two to three days, depending on how much you play at one time.

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