The Nintendo 3DS XL: Bigger screens, less glare, still no second circle pad

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For gamers, sometimes it pays to be patient. Case in point, the Nintendo 3DS. This handheld initially launched in North America in March 2011 for $250. It didn't have a very robust launch library and it didn't sell very well. Just a few months later (in August 2011) Nintendo slashed the price to $170. The price cut did wonders for the popularity of the device and as install base grew so too did the 3DS library of games.

But some of us still held out for more, and now we're getting it. The 3DS XL is set to launch in the western world this summer. It's a bit more expensive ($200) but looks to be a better system in several ways.

In addition to the 3D screen being bigger (4.8" vs 3.5" for the original), reports are that it also has a 'deeper' 3D effect, and that it's easier to keep your viewpoint in the 'sweet spot' to get the full impact of the 3D feature. Nintendo has also improved the anti-glare coating on the new screens. According to a report on Siliconera the old 3DS has a 12% glare rating and the XL cuts that down to just 3%.

A few weeks ago Engadget reviewed an import unit and noted that it came with a 4GB SD card rather than a 2 GB. I'm assuming that will hold true for the Western launch as well. Overall Engadget felt like the XL was a step up over the original. It has better ergonomics, the improvements to the screen and a larger battery that under certain conditions can get you substantially more playing time out of a charge.

The most glaring disappointment is that Nintendo opted not to add a second "circle pad" to the XL, claiming it would've made the device too big. There will apparently be a "Circle Pad Pro" add-on for the XL, though. Sounds more like Nintendo wanted their profit margins to be a bit bigger to me. Also it's important to remember that while the 3D screen is larger, the resolution is the same, so you may see jaggy edges in some titles.

I'm guessing the XL is as good as the 3DS platform is going to get for a while. I can't imagine Nintendo releasing another revision any time soon. I also don't think they're going to be dropping the price of the basic 3DS in the near future; the platform seems to be doing pretty well at the current price. That means there's very little wiggle room to adjust the 3DS XL's price, so I'm predicting it'll hold at $199 MSRP for a while.

So I think this is the time to buy. The European launch is July 28th, here in North America we have to wait until August 20th. Is anyone reading this planning to take the plunge?

Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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