Feature: Nintendo 3DS vs Nintendo 3DS XL – A Detailed Comparison

If you think the Nintendo 3DS XL is just a 3DS with bigger screens, think again. The 3DS’s first reiteration offers a plethora of small tweaks and improvements over the original model which you may not have noticed; allow us to take you through the finer details of Nintendo’s new handheld in comparison with the original Nintendo 3DS.


In a word: perfect. Granted, in some of the 3DS’s visually weaker titles the jagged edges are emphasised, but games that looked stunning on the 3DS look even better, even more immersive than ever before. And with the 3D effect’s added depth thanks to the gargantuan screen sizes, there has never been a better time to go back and rediscover your 3DS games.


The Nintendo 3DS XL’s stylus is marginally shorter than a fully-extended Nintendo 3DS stylus. It’s also non-telescopic, and made from plastic – much like with the DS’s line of styluses. Whether it’s an improvement depends on personal taste, although the placement of its holster means removing and reinserting it during games with occasional touchscreen sections is much more convenient.


Whereas the four LEDs on the original 3DS model were square, the XL’s are now rectangle, meaning the Power, Charging and Wireless lights are now visible both from the front/side of the system, as well as when you’re looking down at it whilst playing.

SD Card 

90% larger screens; 100% larger SD card capacity. In your new Nintendo 3DS XL you’ll find a Lexar-branded 4GB SDHC card, whereas early adopters’ memory cards are 2GB from Toshiba. The XL’s card slot has also switched sides, as it now resides beneath the Wireless switch rather than the Volume slider.

3D Depth Slider

The original’s 3D depth slider was plastic, but with a metallic appearance to match its shiny interior. The XL’s, however, is clearly plastic, and feels softer to the touch. Aesthetics aside, the slider has a lot more play in it than before, offering more choice when it comes to finding a comfortable level of 3D for your eyes. It also clicks when switching from minimum 3D to 2D meaning you can’t accidentally turn the effect on or off. On a related note, the ‘3D’ indicator no longer lights up when 3D content is viewable on the top-screen, as it is now engraved next to the depth slider, above the word ‘Off’.

Speakers and Headphone Jack

Seemingly identical to the 3DS’s speakers, the 3DS XL’s offer the same sound quality and volume. Nothing groundbreaking then, but if you want a truly immersive experience, headphones have always been the way to go. Speaking of which, the jack is no longer in the middle of the handheld, but below the D-Pad. Whereas on a smaller handheld it could’ve got in the way of your left hand (like it does your right on the DS Lite), the problem’s non-existent on the larger 3DS XL.


The face buttons seem to be identical in terms of ‘clickiness’, although they are slightly larger. The D-Pad is also somewhat larger, although whether it’s harder is difficult to say due to our launch model’s being used a lot more than the one on the brand-new 3DS XL. The shoulder buttons, whilst having a bigger surface area, have less play in them, and are much more responsive to push. The power button is now round rather than square, and flat to the surface of the system, rather than protruding a couple of millimetres. And finally, the Select, Home and Start buttons are no longer on a single, clicky panel, as each one is now its own, soft-to-push button.

Circle Pad

The new Circle Pad offers the exact same level of control, so there’s no need to worry about how your games will control on a 3DS XL, but the material it’s made from feels softer than the rubbery 3DS Circle Pad. There’s also a thinner rim around the edge of the area, although you’ll quickly – if not immediately – adjust.


Out of all of the 3DS XL’s enhancements, one of the few aspects to remain the same is its cameras – with one facing inwards, and two on the outer shell to capture 3D images and videos. These are identical in resolution as before, and offer no improvement over those seen on the original Nintendo 3DS.

Backwards Compatibility

Thanks to the 3DS XL’s larger pixels, DS and Virtual Console games, when played on the latest handheld in 1:1 mode, appear exactly how they were made to look – no blurring, and no tiny screen size to contend with.

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