New Nintendo 3DS XL review: The New Nintendo 3DS XL almost nails it

The Good The 3D screens are improved by new face-tracking, and the larger size offers a less cramped viewing experience. Internal tweaks and updates add a behind-the-scenes boost.

The Bad The poor battery life hasn't improved. Having to remove the back of the console to change the SD card is a poor design choice and the legacy data transfer process is infuriating. Also, there's no AC charger in the box -- you have to buy one separately.

The Bottom Line The 3DS XL's improved 3D head-tracking is a big step up and its performance boost more makes a noticeable difference. A few head-scratching design choices prevent us from falling for the New 3DS XL, but this is still the best Nintendo portable to get.

8.0 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Ecosystem 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 8
  • Value 8

We don't claim to understand the mysterious ways in which Nintendo operates, we just marvel at the madness and give you a practical take on how it all shakes out.

And right on cue, the latest 3DS hardware refresh has us scratching our heads once again. We love the new screen and think the head-tracking feature is a game-changer for the platform, but the decision to go to microSD and the data transfer process have caused us to simultaneously slap our foreheads in befuddlement. Oh right, and the new 3DS XL doesn't come with a charger.

That was not a typo. You read it correctly. There is no way to charge the new 3DS XL out of the box. You either have to buy one from Nintendo or get a bootleg version on Amazon. What's worse is an official charger is around $10, which is probably what every charger in the world costs, so the reason to just not pack it inside the box escapes us.

Nintendo's justification for not including it in the box is that it's entirely likely you might have an existing charger that works with the new 3DS XL already in your possession. To be fair, the connection type is a legacy adapter that's worked with previous 3DS models. It sounds counter-intuitive to deny 3DS newcomers a charger, but that's Nintendo's thinking.

Editors' Note, February 13, 2015: CNET Australia originally reviewed the New 3DS XL back in November 2014, but we've updated this review and its score to reflect some new findings we've uncovered after a few months with the system.

Now playing: Watch this: The weird world of Nintendo's New 3DS XL

How the New 3DS XL got here

Bringing 3D to the masses has been fraught with issues. The biggest of these -- amidst horrible one-size-fits-all glasses and the premium pricing slapped onto 3D products -- is the headaches it can induce: move your head slightly off-axis while viewing a 3D TV or a 3D smartphone and your eyes strain to keep up with the shifting images in front of them.

The 3DS, released in 2010, was no exception; I personally never played the thing with the 3D switched on and, anecdotally, no one I have spoken to about it did, either. At best, I'd push the slider up every now and again to see what the 3D on a particular game looked like, before pushing it back down so I could play without causing my eyes to feel like they were peering into the furnaces of the underworld.

Using the same head-tracking technology as the New 3DS, the New 3DS XL follows the direction, distance and angle of your head to keep the 3D smooth and stable. This means that as you make subtle movements while playing your eyes don't have to constantly readjust to the shifting 3D. It moves when you move.

Dave Cheng/CNET

Obviously this has its limitations; if you tilt the screen beyond a certain angle, the 3D misaligns; but the field of view is more than adequate in all directions.

How this translates is quite wonderful. For someone who found the 3DS's 3D unbearable, I have been able to play almost all the way through The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds with the 3D on the New 3DS XL at its highest level for the entire duration of the game, and it looks utterly superb. It's so smooth and comfortable I forget at times that it's not how I usually play. And, of course, the larger screen of the XL makes for top visibility, particularly on games that have a lot of action happening in a small space.

For the first time, 3D is actually desirable, rather than a poorly implemented add-on designed to cash in on a craze that never quite managed to catch on -- and it gives the 3DS, with its lower-level graphics quality, a hardware hook in the handheld market.

Who's got the button?

Physically, the device had a bit of an overhaul too. Some of the changes are actually quite subtle, but they all have a largely positive impact on the user experience.

The New 3DS XL doesn't feel too different from the first XL in the hand. It has the same size 4.88-inch and 4.1-inch dual screens as the original, but it is slightly larger, with dimensions of 160x93.5x21.5mm and tipping the scales at 329 grams.

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