Nintendo New 3DS review: ​New Nintendo 3DS: Not entirely new, but certainly improved

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The Good The New 3DS' facial tracking makes for a hugely improved 3D gaming experience. Its new analog stick is appreciated and the clip-on covers add a lot of style.

The Bad The new C Stick has poor feel though, and I can't help wishing for a more significant boost to battery life.

The Bottom Line Nintendo's New 3DS isn't much improved overall, but that new display alone almost makes the purchase worthwhile -- or will do, once it's available outside of Japan.

8.0 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8

The Nintendo 3DS was unveiled in 2010, riding the wave of 3D hysteria that was supposed to see us all scrambling to buy new 3D TVs, fancy 3D smartphones and even 3D cameras. Of course, that trend never quite took off like the display manufacturers of the world had hoped. Indeed, the 3D smartphone thing fell flat on its face right out of the gate. With the release of the 2DS , and by not supporting 3D output on the Wii U , it seemed as though even Nintendo was shying away from the notion.

Not so. Meet the New 3DS. Yes, that's it's formal name. The unimaginative moniker and equally familiar styling is a good indication that little has changed here. But, crucially, enough has changed for this release to capture the eye of serious Nintendo gamers -- those of you who are left.

(Editor's note: This review used a New 3DS bought in Japan. It's not yet available in the US, UK or Australia -- see below for details.)

Sarah Tew/CNET

New 3D effect

Plenty of people said "neat" when they first got a chance to try the 3DS, but prolonged use caused a number of concerns. Most notable was disappointing performance from that glasses-free 3D screen any time that you couldn't hold the system perfectly still, like on a bus or a turbulent flight. While it only takes a moment for most peoples' eyes to adjust to the 3DS screen, any movement at all ruins the effect. Your eyes need to re-adjust every time, which can lead to strain and ultimately headaches.

This was always my biggest problem with the 3DS, and the reason why I typically left the depth slider all the way at the bottom, disabled. This all changes with the New 3DS. Thanks to some fancy face-tracking technology, the system is able to calibrate the screen for you. Where before your eyes had to adjust to make the display work, with the New 3DS the system does the heavy lifting.

It's a massive difference. The device takes a moment to find you and, once locked in, visuals seem to pop right out of the display. Move your face or tilt the system and the effect remains solid -- at least, until you've tilted the display well past 45 degrees, at which point it tends to lose its lock and everything falls apart. Not really a problem for most gaming situations.

The face tracking isn't perfect, and indeed it occasionally got confused when I was sitting in front of a busy background. But, those situations were very rare, and the experience overall is a night-and-day improvement over before. It makes the 3D effect here not only usable, but comfortable and enjoyable for longer.

Sarah Tew/CNET

What else is new? Not much, honestly, with the next-biggest addition being a secondary analog stick on the right. No, this isn't another slider like on the clumsy 3DS Circle Pad Pro accessory. Instead it's a firm, unyielding stick, much like a TrackPoint on a Lenovo laptop. Instead of moving, it simply reads how much pressure your finger is applying and in what direction.