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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Got my 3DS XL!

Sunday, August 19, 2012: The North American release date for the 3DS XL. Can be bought at major electronics retailers. Since I pre-ordered ONLY to get a $20.00 e-coupon, I have to wait.

Monday, August 20, 2012 10:11am: Canada Post delivers my red 3DS XL! Yay!

In a nutshell: it's a bigger 3DS. 'Nuff said!

But going more in depth, there;s obviously more to the system than that.

What's bizarre is that the 3DS XL box is smaller than the 3DS box. It is packed really tight. 

I was a bit... apprehensive when I noticed the box had been a bit scrunched. Luckily it was on the side that has only the manuals & paperwork. But that's another reason why I would rather be able to buy my system from a store, rather than be at the mercy of Canada Post.

The design is more simple than the 3DS, it feels more like a throwback to the DS Lite. It reminds me a lot of my red & black DS Lite that came in a Brain Age 2 bundle. There are only 2 tones to it, the outside is a flat red with a slight metallic sheen to it, it actually looks quite nice. But even though it's flat, it still picks up fingerprints & oil pretty badly. Only after a short time of owning it, it's gotten prints on it. Also it is a lot more slippery than it looks-- in fact even though the old 3DS has a more glossy body, the 3DS XL outer panels are MORE slippery than the 3DS!


The inside is a black matte that really reminds me a lot of my DS Lite. It seems more fingerprint resistant than the outside, and the gloss surface of the old 3DS. It also has a very minimalistic look.

The hinge is very reminiscent of  the DS Lite.. so much so, that I'm a bit worried about the hinge crack issue that plagued that model... hope not....

I may be in the minority here, but I really liked the look of the original 3DS, sandwich tones and all. The original 3DS managed to straddle the line between the sophisticated look of a quality electronic gadget for adults and the toy-like colours of a fun game console for kids. While some could choose the black to give it a more adult look, I loved that contrast with the blue. But overall, the 3DS XL skews more towards the cheaper, toy-like feel that Nintendo consoles have traditionally had.

But the  rounded underside makes for a more ergonomic feel than perhaps any previous Nintendo handheld.Unfortunately the bubbly feel of the bottom shell also sorta feels hollowish... like you could put a dent in it if you pressed down hard enough. And the outer red plates aren't seamless, some areas on my 3DS XL they have a very slight gap where it meets the black part, marring the overall build quality and adding to the cheap, toy-like feel of the XL. it doesn't have as solid a feel as the original 3DS.

Where it does improve, are the bottom corners....  they used to jab into my palms on the original 3DS and now they.... jab less on the 3DS XL. Yes, they still do jab into my palms but the corners are so large that it's not as bad. I will have to really put in a lot more gametime to see for sure. I can't feel the holes in the bottom corners for the straps when I hold the XL, even though they look huge in all the closeup pictures, in reality they are not that big.

The analogue nub feels more or less the same, though mine seems to have some excess plastic flashing along the bottom edge, which screams cheap build quality, though it doesn't affect gameplay in any way.

The shoulder buttons, D-pad & face buttons feel exactly the same to me as my DS Lite. I'm HATING how all the reviews and first impressions are saying they are stiffer than the original 3DS..... gee, a new console right out of the box has STIFFER buttons than your 18-month-old console that has gone through hours and hours of gaming sessions... REALLY? DO TELL.Wow, I never would have thought that! Sheesh, what dumbasses.... the only way to properly compare that would take at least a few weeks of using the 3DS XL a lot, if not like 3 months of heavy use.

The SELECT, HOME, START buttons are better.... but not what people might expect. Even though they look like regular physical "push straight down" buttons, I think they are hinged at the top, sorta like piano keys. They work great if you press them at the bottom edge of the button, but if you press in the center or top, they don't work as well. I am really growing to hate the membrane buttons on the original 3DS, so I'm fairly happy with the new ones.

Audio quality definitely took a hit with the 3DS XL. The speaker output is less than the 3DS, and sound is tinnier. The 3DS wasn't exactly known for having loud audio in the first place, and the XL is slightly worse. 

The headphones jack is moved to the bottom left corner. I thought I would like this, because it's more like the PSP, but I kinda wish it was a bit more like the Vita where it is to the side, but not too close to the corner.

The screen: If there ever was a reason to upgrade to the 3DS XL, it would be the larger screen(s). We all know about the lower pixel density, but the image quality is not bad, it is more or less the same 3DS on a larger screen. The 3-D is also more or less the same.... BUT... there are some issues. People have been complaining of a smaller sweet spot, and also black banding lines. I have encountered the banding lines, to me they are more like vertical shadows of pillars  across the screen, they don't obscure the image but kinda darken it in places.

This is a simulated photo of what they kinda look like:

 They are more like shadows across the screen or refractions of some sort.

I notice them more when I'm not wearing my glasses or contact lenses, but they are definitely more prominent when comparing the 3DS XL to the 3DS side by side. Maybe Nintendo was considering this screen size for the original 3DS but because of the "instability" of the image quality, perhaps that's why they went with such a small screen on the original? If this was what it was like on the original, the first mainstream exposure to glasses-free 3-D, I think I would have chocked it up to the new technology and still been grateful for having a dynamic experience with my first 3D gaming console. But seeing this after the original 3DS screen quality, it is disappointing, and again smacks of cheapness.

So basically, what I'm trying to say is that it isn't yet a dealbreaker for me, I'm going to keep playing my XL for awhile to see if my eyes adjust or if it becomes more tolerable. I almost always play my old 3DS with 3D on full all the time.

But the 3D itself does look really good, it is basically the same as the original 3DS only bigger. I'm playing Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D on it and I am amazed how much easier and smoother it is to play on a larger screen. I can pull off more precisely aimed shots than I can do on my original 3DS. It looks SO GOOD on the bigger screen.

Screen scratch issue-- is there (a new) one? I breathed a sigh of relief when I opened my 3DS XL and found the screens to be scratch-free. Also, when closed, I shone a flashlight through the center to see of there was a visable gap between the panels... yes, it appears so. I have heard of screen scratches-- odd little circle marks-- appearing on the top screen after owning a 3DS XL for awhile, but I can't figure out what would cause that. So only time will tell for sure... I hope it doesn't happen to me.

Unlike the original 3DS which was packed with a foam sheet to protect the screens, the XL didn't come with any sheet or anything protecting the screens, only the foam bag holding the system itself. Nintendo is either supremely confident they have the screen scratch problem fixed or they are super cheap...

There is another click setting for the screen angle, about 100 degrees, making the 3DS XL look like a laptop. At first I thought it might be really handy for watching Nintendo Video, but because of the black lines issue, if you are off the sweet spot they are very visible, and I personally see them when my XL screen is propped at that angle. I think this "feature" is more of an attract mode for stores and advertising to display the 3DS XL in a sexy way. Not very practical in real-world use.

On the bottom screen there is a strange gritty feel to it... I don't like it, but I think that it might be a coating to protect the touchscreen? I think it will wear off over time.


It's really  nice to see my 3DS XL is about "equal" to my PS Vita... at least in physical size. but with both devices turned on, the Vita screen does put the 3DS XL to shame a little bit. But the Vita doesn't do 3D...

All the reviews basically say the same; the 3DS XL is nice, but not an essential replacement for the 3DS. And while I am liking it so far, if I had to stick with my 3DS, I'd be ok with that. The 3DS is not perfect, but it is still a nice portable system that has a quality build, although not as ergonomic as the 3DS XL. At this point, I haven't done a System Transfer of my data to my new XL... I will wait at least a week to check for any major problems. But I'm not sure what I will do with my 3DS if I switch to my XL. the old 3DS is nice and compact, the screen is sharper, and it is lighter.

I'm surprised how much of a difference it makes in game play. It feels easier to pull off moves in Resident Evil: The Mercenaries-- in fact, at first it felt like I was almost cheating(!) ... and Super Mario 3D Land looks and plays better on the larger screen too. Despite the more plasticy toy-like look to the 3DS XL, I think it is more of a focused-on-gaming machine.


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