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By Ryan Noik 29 August 2012

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When we first got some brief hands-on time with the 3DS XL a few months back, it was a bit of love at first touch.
 
Having played with it considerably more since then though, the first love has become a full blown love affair. The reason, in part, however, has remained the same: namely because of how it feels in one’s hands.
 
The smooth rounded corners and the reassuringly solid build quality (which by the way, is outstanding) is just part of the 3DS XL’s appeal.
 
In a smart move, Nintendo has done away with the shiny, fingerprint attracting surface which characterised its smaller brother, the 3DS, in favour of a matte finish. This makes the 3DS XL look and feel less like a shiny new toy and more like a substantial, lovingly crafted piece of technology.
 
One subtle area in which this is evident is in the hinges of the device. The second screen locks quite firmly in place, at either a thirty degree angle, or fully back, and hardly wavers, even when subject to a bit of vigorous gaming.   
 
Side by side, the screen differences between the 3DS (left) and the 3DS XL (right)
are significant.
 
Big and beautiful
 
Build quality, however, is not the only thing the 3DS XL has going for it. For starters, the 3DS XL is significantly larger than its predecessor, which is actually a plus when it comes to playing games.
 
While the 3DS has a 3.5” top screen and 3” bottom screen, the 3DS XL boasts a 4.8” top screen (marginally smaller than the PS Vita’s 5”) and 4.18” bottom screen. The difference between the two when side by side, however, is night and day.
 
More importantly, the larger screen sizes (90% bigger when compared to that offered by the 3DS) is one factor that is responsible for the 3DS XL offering a significantly different (read: better) playing experience than what we experienced on the 3DS.
 
Best of both worlds
 
Admittedly, on the size of its screens alone, the 3DS felt a bit like a step backward from the DSi XL, something which the 3DS XL largely remedies. Enjoying the games on offer by the newer system, with the large screen sizes that DSI XL spoilt us with, quite literally feels like the best of both worlds. Indeed, revisiting some of the stand-out games on the system, such as Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, was a treat.
 
Along with the larger screen size, the wider dimensions of the device also made using the controls feel more spacious and considerably less cramped. 
 
Yet another improvement that we appreciated in the 3DS XL was the better battery life. While the 3DS was able to pull off three to five hours hours on 3D and a bit longer with 3D disabled, the 3DS XL fares quite a bit better. We were able to play a for a little more than eight hours on its before we needed to recharge it, while playing 3DS titles with 3D on cuts that playing time almost in half.
 
However, it must be noted that, depending on one’s playing style (how much one uses 3D, and whether one instead plays non-3D DS games) the device can last a little more, or less, on either side of the range. Even so, we certainly did not feel like the need to recharge the device was overly frequent or disruptive to longer playing sessions.
 
However, new buyers do need to bear in mind that the 3DS XL does not ship with a power adapter in the box. Instead, it uses power adapters from previous DS consoles, or has to be purchased separately.
 
In one's hand though, the entire 3DS XL experience feels more spacious 
and ergonomic, thanks to smoothly rounded corners.
 
To 3D or not to 3D, that is the question....
 
While we still aren’t fans of 3D, whether using glasses or not, the 3DS XL’s use of the technology was not quite as headache-inducing as we found on the 3DS.
 
However, we have been told that apparently those who suffer from short sightedness or long sightedness, or, as in our case, a combination of both, are more prone to 3D viewing rendering them feeling disorientated, nauseous or cross-eyed than those with 20/20 vision.
 
That being said, what we appreciated on the 3DS XL is that the 3D slider can be disabled with a satisfying click, rather than being accidentally activated.
 
Small changes and one big omission
 
Another feature worth mentioning is the device’s onboard sound. While playing with headphones via the included 3.5 mm jack was certainly possible, the quality, and volume of the audio provided by the onboard stereo speakers was also very good.    
 
Other small, but notable upgrades include a repositioning of the stylus, which is now non-telescopic and slots neatly on the device’s right hand side, and the inclusion of a 4 GB SD memory card in the box.
 
Other than that, however, the software functionality is largely the same. StreetPass, which enables players to send and receive data between their 3DS XL’s is onboard as it was on the 3DS. However, the larger size of the device may make some reluctant to carry it around with them wherever they go as they may have done with the smaller version.
 
The glaring omission though, is the lack of a second analog stick. Indeed, much has been written about it, but even with that lack, we still thoroughly enjoyed playing games on the device nonetheless. Additionally, apparently a Circle Pad Pro peripheral for the 3DS XL, which adds the second analog stick, is in the works.
 
Alas, still no second analog stick makes an appearance, despite there being
ample space on the right hand side. 
   
It’s all about the games
 
While the 3DS was plagued by a dearth of decent titles at launch, no such concern haunts the 3DS XL. Indeed, the console now has a very good library of new 3DS titles and DSi titles, as doing a search for top ten games on the 3DS will quickly attest.
 
Some of our current, recently released personal favourites which play very well on the 3DS XL include New Super Mario Bros 2, Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance and the spooky Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir.
 
This, however, is the tip of the iceberg, as games like the very good Mario 3D Land, Mario Kart 7, Kid Icarus: Uprising, Resident Evil: Revelations and superlative Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time are just a few slightly older games that similarly could beg for a new 3DS XL owner’s attention and justify the purchase.
 
To the point
 
However, if you already own a 3DS, the question that undoubtedly will come up may well be: is it really that different? If you shied away from that console, the other question could be: does it justify your consideration – and cash - now? On both counts, if you love portable gaming, the answer is a resounding yes.
 
At a recommended retail price of R2350 (although we have seen it for as low as R2249), about R500 more than the 3DS, the 3DS XL certainly delivers bang for one’s buck. The console is also available in either black and red, black and blue, or our personal favourite, a classy black and silver.
 
Pros
 
Larger screen makes for greater immersiveness
Excellent build quality
Increased battery life
Reasonable price
 
Cons
 
Power cable not included
Still no integrated second analog stick 
PROS
Larger screen makes for greater immersiveness, Excellent build quality, Increased battery life, Reasonable price
CONS
Power cable not included, Still no integrated second analog stick
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