Nintendo goes big with the 3DS XL

Steve Tilley, QMI Agency
Nintendo 3DS XL. (HO)

Nintendo 3DS XL. (HO)

Companies that create electronic gear generally brag about making their devices smaller with each successive generation. Lighter smartphones, svelter laptops, thinner HDTVs - when it comes to tech, bigger is rarely better.

Not so with Nintendo. The Japanese gaming giant is once again introducing a larger version of a handheld gaming machine, in the hopes super-sizing the experience will make fans pry open their wallets.

Arriving in Canadian stores Aug. 19, the Nintendo 3DS XL ($199.99) is a new incarnation of last year's Nintendo 3DS ($169.99), the dual-screen gaming handheld that does glasses-free 3-D. Largely identical on the inside to its predecessor, the hefty 3DS XL isn't meant to replace its little brother, but to live alongside it.

I've had a couple weeks to put a Nintendo 3DS XL through its paces, and here are some of the things potential up-sizers should look forward to - and be wary of.


Screen size

The screens on the 3DS XL are 90% larger than those on the 3DS, and this added real estate makes games feel more immersive and expansive.

Exterior shell

The slightly matte finish and gently curved lines of the 3DS XL are sexier than the glossy, boxy 3DS. Despite the added weight, it actually feels more comfortable in the hands.

Build quality

From the top display's three different locking angles to the improved select/home/start buttons, the 3DS XL feels better engineered, and the battery life has been improved.

Stylus placement

The 3DS XL stylus slides out of the right side of the device - a much better spot for it, although the new plastic stylus isn't nearly as cool as the retractable chrome 3DS version.


Size and weight

The bigger screens are great, but the obvious tradeoff is the 3DS XL is larger and about 50% heavier than its predecessor. Wedging this thing into a pocket could be tricky.

No charging cradle

We love the convenience of the drop-and-go charging cradle that comes with the original 3DS. The 3DS XL simply has a basic AC adaptor.

3-D is still finicky

We'd hoped the larger top screen would create a wider 3-D sweet spot on the 3DS XL, but not so. If anything, we found it slightly more difficult to keep the 3-D effect from ghosting.

No second thumbpad

We didn't really expect Nintendo to add a second Circle Pad to the 3DS XL, but it would have been nice, especially since there's plenty of room for it. Bummer.

If you already have a 3DS, do you need a 3DS XL? No. But if larger screens, a svelter feel and slightly improved battery life appeal to you, you might want to upgrade anyway. Just remember that to transfer downloaded content stored on a 3DS to the 3DS XL, you need to have both systems in hand at the same time. So don't put the little guy on Kijiji until you have the big boy in your possession.

If you've held off buying a 3DS but are thinking of taking the plunge now, the 3DS XL is probably worth the added 30 bucks, unless portability is more valuable to you than screen size. So while our phones, laptops and TVs get skinnier, our gaming gear gets bigger. And, weirdly, that's OK.