PROS / The Nintendo 3DS XL has two large screens, glasses-free 3D and some of the best video games available on a mobile console.
CONS / The battery does not last very long when you play in 3D, and if you already own a 3DS, you'll lose all eShop purchases when upgrading to the 3DS XL.
VERDICT / The Nintendo 3DS XL is the best of the 3DS family and has the best games available on a handheld console.
Nintendo bets that gamers want to play games in 3D without wearing polarized glasses, and the Nintendo 3DS XL improves the glasses-free 3D display of the 3DS family with a larger screen and a more durable build. Thanks to its backwards compatibility with DS games and its huge selection of classic and new games in the Nintendo eShop, the 3DS XL is the best handheld game console available.
The system is easy to use, and if you do not like the glasses-free 3D, you can easily adjust the level of 3D or turn the 3D off with its slider. If you already own a 3DS, upgrading to the XL forces you to re-purchase all of your digital games and apps. Still, the 3DS family has the best games on a mobile category, and the Nintendo 3DS XL is the best handheld console available and winner of the Top Ten Reviews Gold Award.
The Nintendo 3DS XL is not as powerful as other handheld consoles, but it offers massive improvements over the original 3DS. Also, the Nintendo 3DS family is still the best place to play mobile games. Between first- and third-party games, the 3DS has something for everyone.
The 3DS family is compatible with DS games, and the ever-growing library of 3DS games includes action, adventure, RPG and more genres of games. On top of that, Nintendo started creating 3D updates of classic games, including "The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D" and "3D Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master." However, if you previously owned a Nintendo 3DS and purchased digital games on the Nintendo eShop, you will have to repurchase all of those games. Nintendo ties digital purchases to the system, rather than the user.
You can play multiplayer games through the Wi-Fi or through near field communication. However, even if you don't want to play with someone, anytime you pass someone else with a 3DS, you collect a Street Pass, your online tag that offers other players a chance to play mini-games with your avatar. Based on its excellent capabilities, the Nintendo 3DS XL proves a mobile console doesn't need the best tech to be the best place to play.
Weighing in at 12 ounces, the 3DS XL is not the lightest handheld game console available. If you are familiar with the 3DS, you know that it is a continuation of the Nintendo DS's idea of two screens, offering a widescreen, glasses-free 3D LCD screen on top and a 2D touchscreen on the bottom. When the 3D is turned on, the upper screen has a resolution of 800 x 240 pixels, or 400 pixels per eye. The 4.88-inch upper screen improves the 3D graphics and offers better immersion than the original 3DS.
The lower touchscreen has a 4.18-inch screen with a 240 x 240 resolution. The 3DS XL comes with a stylus for precise controls on the touchpad. If you're concerned about using the face buttons and a stylus at the same time, we found that few games require the player to use both simultaneously. It's easy to balance the stylus between your middle finger and the console, giving you quick access to the stylus whenever the game requires touch inputs.
The game system utilizes cartridges and digital download games. It reads both 3DS and DS cartridges, giving it a massive library of physical games. There are several smaller downloadable and retro games and apps in the eShop, although the pricing for each game seems high when compared to other digital platforms.
Finally, the 3DS XL has the best battery life of all of the 3DS family, but it still only offers 3.5 hours of full 3D gaming. If you take the device on a long road trip, you'll need to bring a travel charger. Fortunately, it is also one of the best-built handheld consoles, and it feels sturdy in the hands.
The weakest aspect of the Nintendo 3DS XL is its multimedia capabilities. On the one hand, you can take and edit 3D images with the dual rear-facing cameras, and you can download and play music on an SD card. You can download many multimedia apps, including Netflix, Hulu Plus and YouTube, but it lacks a video chat service. Without Skype or some type of video chat system, the front-facing camera and built-in microphone mostly go to waste.
Help & Support
If you ever run into trouble, Nintendo offers excellent help resources. You can call or email customer support, and the contact information is easy to find online. You can browse the FAQs and troubleshooting pages. Finally, you can ask questions in the user forum to get more information or see if other users have dealt with similar issues.
The Nintendo 3DS XL is the best handheld game console, thanks to its sturdy build, improved screen and variety of gaming experiences. Its battery only lasts 3.5 hours when playing in 3D, and it lacks the variety of multimedia apps that we look for. However, with its huge library of games, there is something for everyone, making the 3DS XL the best device for playing mobile games.