All about Audio and Video
Home>Howto>Nintendo 3DS XL Review and Giveaway

Nintendo 3DS XL Review and Giveaway

By \n \'\'2013-04-09

Among all the big names in gaming consoles, Nintendo is definitely among the top favorites. As a ’90s kid, I associate much of my childhood with playing Nintendo games. I remember growing up with the Nintendo 64, the GameBoy Color, GameBoy Advance, and Nintendo DS. Through all the different iterations, the gameplay had improved drastically with new features and visual effects.

Nintendo is still going strong and has brought out their latest generation portable gaming console, the Nintendo 3DS. Today, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at the Nintendo 3DS XL as well as give one away to a lucky reader!

Check out the other giveaways we’ve organised this Gaming Month!

About the Nintendo 3DS

The Nintendo DS was a new revolution in portable console gaming because of the introduction of two screens on the device, with the bottom screen including touch capabilities. It allowed for plenty of new features and offered a different gameplay flow. Commonly, actual gameplay was displayed on the top, larger screen, while the bottom screen was used for game technicalities, such as settings, items, stats, and more. The Nintendo 3DS built off of the success of the Nintendo DS and added an exciting new dimension of gaming to the device — 3D capabilities. And I’m not just talking about 3D graphics as the Nintendo DS already had those, but I mean real life, theatre-like 3D effects. Plus, the Nintendo 3DS accomplishes this without the need for any special glasses.


The Nintendo 3DS comes in many different colors, as well as two different sizes. The regular size sells for $169.99, while the 3DS XL version (which we’re reviewing) goes for $199.99. There aren’t any differences between the two variations when it comes to features, but some obvious differences include the screen sizes as well as a different-sized battery. We discussed the details of the Nintendo 3DS XL before, and recommend that you check it out. Some close competitors include Android tablets, the iPad, and the PlayStation Vita.


nintendo 3ds xl review

The Nintendo 3DS XL was packaged very nicely. Once taken out of the box, you’ll immediately find device guides as well as some cards used for some built-in 3D functionality. Underneath it, you’ll find the actual device as well as the charger. The console doesn’t come with a game, so be sure to remember to buy one along with it. For the purposes of this giveaway, I’ll be providing “Super Mario 3D Land”, a 3D twist on the class Super Mario Brothers game that is an appropriate title for anyone (it also made it to our list of top 3 games that make a Nintendo 3DS worth owning).

nintendo 3ds xl review

First Impressions

When I first take a look at the Nintendo 3DS XL, I’m surprised at how beautiful the color finish looks. This is one of the few times where the picture actually does quite a bit of justice for the device, so looking at the photo should give you a good idea of what I’m talking about.

nintendo 3ds xl review

Generally I find everything to be where it should be — A, B, X, and Y buttons haven’t moved, the power button is in plain sight as well as the new 3D on/off slider, and the analog stick is placed where it can be comfortably used with the left thumb. All buttons feel responsive with the right amount of spring. Even the analog stick is solidly built and nicely springs right back to the center when you let go. In other words, it’s surprisingly nice to use as I’ve always preferred to use the D-Pad.

nintendo 3ds xl review

The device has two 0.3 MP rear-facing cameras in order to enable other 3D capabilities (the screen isn’t the only 3D item!), as well as a 0.3 MP front-facing camera. The form factor also seems appropriate. It feels a bit bulky, but then again it’s the XL variant instead of the regular one. As such, don’t expect this larger variant to fit in your pants pocket either. Despite its relative bulk, it doesn’t feel very heavy (only slightly). so It’s not any more difficult to hold with both of your hands while playing.


The specifications of the Nintendo 3DS XL are as follows:

  • 3.66? by 6.14? by 0.87?
  • 0.74 pounds
  • Diagonal screen sizes of 4.88? (top) and 4.18? (bottom)
  • Screen resolutions of 800 x 320 (top) and 400 x 240 (bottom)
  • Bottom screen is a resistive touchscreen
  • Glasses-free 3D capabilities
  • Includes 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi with WPA2 support
  • Typical DS buttons, including an analog stick and a power button rather than power slider
  • Uses cartridges for DS and 3DS
  • Expandable storage via SD/SDHC cards

Build Quality

The Nintendo 3DS XL feels very solidly built, considering it’s still mostly plastic. Nintendo knows that a plenty of children use their products, and as such they need to make them tougher so that they can withstand the abuse that children place on them. It’s the same build quality as any previous-generation portable console from Nintendo, so I’d expect it to last for many years to come with decent care.

nintendo 3ds xl review

Other build quality remarks come from the hinge design of the device and the weight distribution. The hinge has gotten a slight update as it now “snaps” in three different positions instead of just two — closed, halfway, and fully open. The halfway position is new in contrast to the Nintendo DS, and mimics the angle that most laptops are usually used at on a table. Weight distribution is also important because if it’s heavier on one side than the other, it’ll make it a lot harder to hold up for long periods of time. Everything seems to be evenly distributed, so Nintendo gets a thumbs up here.


The Nintendo 3DS comes with a number of different ports to enable as much functionality on the device as possible. Starting on the bottom, you’ll find the headphone jack as well as the power and charging indicators. You’ll notice that, unlike the Nintendo DS, the Nintendo 3DS no longer accepts GameBoy Advance cartridges.

nintendo 3ds xl review

On the left side, you’ll find the volume slider — that should be self-explanatory. The top side contains a proprietary port for charging and other connectivity, along a place to insert the game cartridge, and an IR receiver.

nintendo 3ds xl review

Finally, on the right side, you’ll find the storage expansion slot, the stylus storage slot, and a spring-loaded slider to enable/disable the wireless functionality of the device.

nintendo 3ds xl review

Screens and 3D

The screens on the Nintendo 3DS XL are definitely bigger — Nintendo says that they are 90% bigger than the normal variant. The screens without 3D effects aren’t too impressive, however, as the resolution is decent at best. However, the lower resolution can enable more energy-efficient graphics processors which drain the battery less. The real magic appears when you move the 3D slider at the lower right corner of the top screen.

nintendo 3ds xl review

From here, you can enjoy 3D effects as you see them in the movies, without the need for special glasses. You can control the intensity of the 3D effect with the 3D slider. This setting will differ from person to person based on what is comfortable for their eyes. My own preferred setting for while I’m holding the device is to turn the 3D effects on, but to keep them at a the lowest setting before the slider “snaps” into 2D mode. If I have it placed on a table, it’s easier to turn up the 3D effect.

Built-In Features

There are plenty of built-in features of the Nintendo 3DS XL, a noticeable upgrade over the Nintendo DS. You can now, among other things, shop at the Nintendo eStore, get system software updates, play AR Card games (you’ll have to play it yourself to find out what it is!), play the inserted cartridge, listen to music, and take pictures. The two cameras on the back side allow you to take 3D pictures and videos. They aren’t high-quality, but the 3D option and the fact that this is a portable gaming console makes up for that. The 3D effect won’t be any good, however, if you don’t have any other 3D devices to display it on.

Playing 3DS Games

The concept of playing games hasn’t changed much from the Nintendo DS, unlike the jump from the GameBoy Advance to the DS. The 3D effects definitely make playing the games more entertaining, but you’ll still have your two screens that will be used the same way as the developers used them on the Nintendo DS. Besides the brand new 3D effects and (for this variant) larger size, the Nintendo 3DS is mainly an update to the original DS. It provides more built-in functionality, including the ability to use Wi-Fi at 802.11g speeds as well as WPA2 encryption. The Nintendo DS would only allow 802.11b speeds with WEP encryption at best. Please note that any features found in the 3DS but not in the DS will only be usable with 3DS games. Therefore, as an example, you won’t be able to connect to a WPA2-encrypted Wi-Fi network if you’re playing a DS game on your 3DS. Instead, you’ll need to play a 3DS game on the device in order to use that new functionality.

Battery Life

The larger size of the Nintendo 3DS XL also offers more room to pack in a bigger battery. As a result, the expected battery life is at about 4 and a half hours. This is comparable to the battery life of the Nintendo DS Lite. The normal variant of the 3DS is expected to get half an hour less than that. Sadly, because of all the new features, I don’t think we’ll ever be able to go back to the 36 hour battery life of the GameBoy Color, 30 hours on the GameBoy Advance, or even the 8 hours on the GameBoy Advance SP. At least, unlike the GameBoy Color and GameBoy Advance, the battery packs which are included are rechargeable rather than needing constant replacement.

nintendo 3ds xl review


So in the end, is it really worth getting the Nintendo 3DS XL? If you can afford the higher price, I’d definitely recommend choosing the XL variant over the regular one. However, whether you should even upgrade to the 3DS line depends on several factors. If you’re still using a GameBoy Advance (SP) or older console, then I would recommend buying a 3DS device. If you’re already a Nintendo DS user, it’ll only be more worthwhile if you are an avid Nintendo gamer and want all the latest features and games. That means, if you are a big fan of the Pokemon games, you’ll probably want to upgrade to a 3DS device so that you’ll be able to play the 6th generation games.

MakeUseOf Recommends: Buy, if you have an old console or are an avid gamer.

How do I win the Nintendo 3DS XL?

Step 1: Fill in the giveaway form

Please fill in the form with your real name and email address so that we can get in touch if you are chosen as a winner. MakeUseOf giveaways are open to readers worldwide.

Fill out my online form.

Step 2: Share!

You’re almost done. Now, all that’s left to do is to share the post!

Like it

Tweet it

Share on Google+

(Note: no points will be awarded.)

Alternative entry method: Use your points!

Exchange your MakeUseOf points for an entry into the competition. First, create a MakeUseOf account, earn points and exchange your points for an entry! Learn more about our Game system and Rewards program.

giveaway rules.

This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, April 19th. The winner will be selected at random and informed via email.

Spread the word to your friends and have fun!

Send your products to be reviewed. Contact Jackson Chung for further details.