Nintendo goes XL with its 3D portable gaming console.
By TAN KIT HOONG
Until I actually saw the 3DS XL, I was a bit blah about the whole thing. Having a bigger screen would benefit gaming but I was worried that the larger size will make the device less portable.
However, within five minutes of holding it, I realised that while the 3DS XL's screen is its main feature, it has a lot more going for it than you'd think.
Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself here, so let's take this step by step.
The first thing I noticed about the 3DS is that it has a really nice finish - the body isn't glossy like the 3DS (yay to less fingerprints!) and the top and bottom covers are metal or finished in a matte metallic finish that looks really good.
There are two colours to choose from - red or blue - and both look nice in their own way.
The 3DS XL also feels nice and weighty in the hands, and when closed, it's actually a lot thinner than its smaller sibling.
A couple of things have been relocated - the stylus silo is now on the right side (instead of the back on the 3DS) and the 3.5mm stereo earphone port has been moved further to the left.
Open it up and you'll see just how big the screen is. Looking at the 3DS screen after playing around with the 3DS XL is a bit like going from a nice picture window to looking through a keyhole.
Yes, the screen is still the same resolution, and as such if you look closely, the pixels are larger and a bit more visible than on the 3DS.
However, it's not obvious when you're playing games, especially with the 3D turned on.
The bottom screen, while not as large as the top screen, is still huge compared to the 3DS since its also scaled up by the same factor as the top screen of the 3DS XL.
Some people have said that the 3D "sweet spot" is wider on the 3DS XL but I personally didn't find this the case - I still had to keep the screen pretty much square to my eyes to see the 3D properly.
There is an advantage in using a large screen for 3D, as I could see a lot more particle effects in Super Mario Bros 2 than I could see with the smaller screen of the 3DS.
One thing that the 3DS XL definitely has a lot less of are reflections. The screen is still glossy but Nintendo has added an anti-reflective coating that makes it a lot less prone to reflections than the 3DS.
Couple that with an overall matte finish on the plastic surfaces inside and you have a device that not only has less reflections but also does not attract oily fingerprints like the glossy 3DS.
However, the anti-reflective treatment is not present in the lower screen, so it's noticeably more reflective than the top screen.
The screen size advantage can't be overstated - playing Super Mario Bros 2 on the 3DS XL is way more enjoyable than on the 3DS, thanks to the larger screen.
In fact I handed it to a few 3DS owners and every single one went "ooh" and "aaah" the moment they started playing a game on it.
There are games that look a little better on the smaller 3DS screen though. For example, Resident Evil: Revelations looks fantastic on the 3DS but some lower quality textures are very obvious on the larger 3DS XL screen.
Nevertheless, as they say, once you go big, you never go back - just using the 3DS XL for a couple of hours and I just could not go back to the tiny screen of the 3DS.
The extra space in the 3DS XL also means that Nintendo is able to fit in a larger battery, thus bringing the 3DS XL much closer to what we'd want with battery life than the rather meager three to four hours on the 3DS.
Using it at full brightness, we got about five to six of play on it, which is good enough for most long trips.
In some markets, the 3DS XL is not bundled together with a charger. Weird, I know, but thankfully our local edition of the 3DS XL is bundled with an AC adaptor.
You still don't get the nice cradle that comes with the smaller 3DS though, which is a bit of a bummer since the cradle is very convenient.
There is a 3DS XL compatible cradle available but it is an optional extra.
This brings me to the issue of upgrading to the 3DS XL from a 3DS - other than the cradle, many accessories like the Circle Pad Pro and most casings made for the smaller 3DS will not fit the 3DS XL, which means you will have a lot of peripherals to repurchase again.
I didn't think I'd say this, but the 3DS XL has a lot more going for it than merely a larger screen.
The larger body fits more comfortably in the hand, battery life is a lot better and the build quality feels a lot more solid than the original 3DS.
In fact, after playing with the 3DS XL overnight, I'm never going back to the 3DS - I'm just going to sell my 3DS and buy a 3DS XL.
Pros: Larger screen makes portable gaming way more comfortable than on the original 3DS; nice design and build quality
Cons: Most 3DS casings and accessories will not fit the 3DS XL.
PROCESSOR: ARM processor
MEMORY: 4GB flash memory, 128MB FCRAM memory
DISPLAY: 4.85in auto stereoscopic screen (400 x 240-pixels per eye), 4.15in touchscreen (320 x 240-pixels)
CAMERA: 3D stereoscopic camera and standard camera (both 0.3-megapixels)
CONNECTIVITY: WiFi, infrared
EXPANSION SLOT: SDHC
OTHER FEATURES: Stylus, 3D camera, messaging service, AR Games, Mii Maker, StreetPass Mii Plaza, Nintendo eShop, web browser
DIMENSIONS (W x D x H): 156 x 93 x 22mm