samedi 4 août 2012

[Tricks] Technical differences between 3DS and 3DS XL

[EDIT] : Version française ici.

First word, forgive my bad english, i'm french ^_^.

Having three 3DS XL at home, I decided to compare it with the original one.

I've already written my first impressions about the 3DS XL, after trying it at Japan Expo.
So, I wont repeat it, especially because there are already many papers comparing the XL to its elder.

Today, I'll rather talk about small technical details that haven't often been discussed elsewhere, or just in a very quick way (screens, sound, assembly ...) And I'll tell you about the pro and cons of the 3DS XL.



Everyone knows that the screens are what makes the new 3DS XL special : Nintendo claims they are 90% larger.

Beyond these advertising words, the 3D screen is 4.8" (3.5" on the 3DS). The touch screen enlarges from 3" to 4.1".

Besides the size, the touch screen doesn't change much. On the contrary, the 3D screen has significantly evolved since the first 3DS.

As Satoru Iwata said in his last "Iwata Ask", beyond the screen size and the better 3D effect, the upper screen uses anti-glare technology to ensure the 3D perception is less degraded by reflections.

 The upper screen on the 3DS XL is darker because of its low reflectivity.

 Image reflection is significantly weaker on the 3DS XL.

This anti-glare is very efficient. But it does have a drawback : the screen shows a slight yellowish hue. So, we get a different color rendition between the two screens, the touch screen being obviously colder (blue-ish).

The upper screen of the 3DS XL shows a yellow tint.

On 3DS games, this color difference is not much of a problem. Unfortunately, it may be annoying for some DS games that sometimes uses both screens to display the same scene. Nevertheless, I'd rather use the 3DS XL anyway, because the anti-glare is so efficient!

We can also notice that contrast is a lot better on the 3DS XL. Blacks are deeper and whites doesn't seems overexposed anymore.

Colors seems washed out on the 3DS.

Contrast is better on the 3DS XL.

Unfortunately, those new screens are not transflective anymore. You won't be able to use the direct sunlight reflection to play outside.

Another point has been discussed a lot by many journalists, the visibility of pixels. It is true that pixels were very big and visible on DSi XL. But those so-called "journalists" seems to have forgotten that the 3DS is definitively not a DSi.

Close up of the 3DS screen.

 Close up of the 3DS XL screen.

DS screens were 256x192 pixels. This very low definition was a real problem, stretched from 3" to 4.2" on the DSi XL.

Fortunately, the definition of the 3DS is clearly higher at 400x240 (or even 800x240 without 3D effect). Some misinformed sources said that a filter was used to reduce the aliasing and the overall pixels visibility. This is untrue. The relative smoothness of the screen is simply caused by the higher definition of the 3DS compared to the DS. It just fits a lot better the new screen size.

Close up of the 3DS screen.

Close up of the 3DS XL screen.

Obviously, pixels are bigger on the 3DS XL than on the 3DS, and hence, more visible. But this is barely noticeable and won't change much your gaming experience.

Last but not least advantage of the 3DS  XL screens, their relatively huge size offers a deeper immersion. Games with very rich and detailed graphics, like Heroes of Ruin, Tales of the Abyss or the new Kingdom Heart Dream Drop Distance, shows a hugely improved immersion and visibility when played on the new XL.

 Very detailed games shows an improved visibility on the 3DS XL.

 Tales of the Abyss is one of the games that are clearly better on the 3DS XL.


As said in the last "Iwata Ask", there was less room for the speakers on the 3DS XL, so they have ben replaced by smaller models.

We somewhat feared that the excellent sound quality of the original 3DS would have been lost in the exchange. Indeed, the sound of the 3DS was the best ever to be found on a mobile game console.

On the contrary, we were surprised to hear that the low frequencies are  better rendered  by the new speakers and that the 3D sound effect is still very impressive.

Shape and size of the speakers holes have increased on the 3DS XL.

However, maybe because of their smaller size, the maximum volume have been reduced. Allowing a relatively high volume would probably have caused more distortion. Anyway, be aware that sometimes, some distortion is still noticeable at maximum volume, so you may have to reduce it a bit.

We would say that, despite a significant work from Nintendo, the sound of the 3DS XL is not quite as good as it was on the original 3DS, even if it's still extremely good for a mobile game console.

Battery Life

As everyone knows, the biggest weakness of the 3DS is the battery life. Especially when you consider the tradition of Nintendo's consoles, offering generally a quite comfortable play time. With less than 6 hours at minimal settings without wireless the battery life was short.

Nintendo seems to have listened to the critics. They have worked to make the battery life of the 3DS XL better and more in the line of the previous systems. But the main battery drain is precisely what makes the 3DS so special : the 3D screen.

Unfortunately, to display a 3D picture, you need  a stronger backlight. And that means a stronger power consumption.

To compensate for the higher battery drain, Nintendo have used two methods. 

The first method was to increase the battery capacity from 1300 mAh on the 3DS to 1750 mAh on the 3DS XL.

The 3DS XL battery is now 1750 mAh.

The second trick was precisely to reduce the brightness. If you compare side by side the five levels of the backlight, you will notice that the XL's brightness is constantly one step behind the original 3DS , excepted for the fifth and highest level that seems to match quite closely.

 3DS XL and 3DS at level 1.

 3DS XL and 3DS at level 2.

 3DS XL and 3DS at level 3.

3DS XL and 3DS at level 4.

3DS XL and 3DS at level 5.

As a summary, we can consider that the levels 2 to 4 on the XL seems to match approximatively the levels 1 to 3 on the original 3DS. Level 5 is almost the same on both versions.

Moreover, besides  increasing the battery life, this revised and milder backlight is easier on the eyes especially if you play in a dark room.

In a dark room, the lower minimal backlight of the 3DS XL is easier on the eyes.

The drawback of this overall lower backlight is that playing in full sunlight is now difficult, especially because the screen is not transflective anymore.

But after all, those tricks offers approximatively one more hour of battery life. After some proper battery charge cycles, we were able to get more than 6:15 hours of average use (brightness at 3 and wireless ON). The battery life is now much more satisfying than on the original 3DS.


As you probably knows, Nintendo was forced to cut down the production cost of the 3DS. Cheaper plastics and simpler assembly have been used. Now, the classy looking shiny enclosure belongs to the past.

But even if the matte plastics looks more basic, it's not prone to collect fingerprints. The  new and simpler assembly, without the three colors layers, feels sturdier and doesn't creaks anymore in the hand.

Those who already have a 3DS XL may have noticed that the lower shell seems to be easy to remove. This is not a problem. The design is hardly faulty. This shell is just a cover for the battery. When you remove the 2 screws, you can only access the battery. The innards of the system are still protected by a second and well adjusted shell.

 The external shell of the 3DS XL.

You only get access to the battery.

I have seen some 3DS with faulty buttons or triggers. Those of the XL version seems more reliable.

You may remember that the lower screen frame tended to mark the 3D screen when the original 3DS was closed. Thanks to the new design with bumpers above the upper screen, this is not likely to happen anymore.

 Notice the bumpers above the upper screen.

The console is not tightly closed anymore.

Indeed, the 3DS XL doesn't looks like a premium device anymore. But a closer look shows that, thanks to a simplified design, the assembly is sturdier and better that the original 3DS.

Last words

The new 3DS XL is not perfect, in comparison with its elder. The screens are no more transflective, the upper screen shows a yellow tint, the maximum volume is lower and it doesn't look premium anymore.

But the XL have some significant advantages too, like bigger screens, anti-glare, more contrast, a better and more comfortable 3D. It fits better in the hands and have an improved battery life.

All those improvements may convince you, like me, that it is not possible to use the original 3DS anymore, once you have tested the new model.

For the end, here is a short gallery of comparative pics :

3DS XL versus DSi XL

The 3DS XL has nothing to envy to the DS XL.

The current mobile consoles.

 A little chronology ^^

With time, screens tend to get bigger.

2 commentaires:

  1. That was a very good and descriptive comparison; the pics are great, and this is the first place where I have seen ones that show the actual game visualization for both consoles
    thank you very much! :)

  2. I have both consoles and I agree pretty much, but the speakers in 3DS XL are worse than you said. Not only the highest volume is low but the definition of the sound is extremely poor. Also, the 3DS XL makes a crunch sound when you press buttons. And the paint on the bottom case easily chips off. The texture of the plastic is more comfortable and soft, though.