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New 3DS review - Nintendo's best handheld yet

Katharine Byrne
28 Jan 2016
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
150
inc VAT

With better 3D, a faster CPU, more controls and a gorgeous new design, the New 3DS is everything its predecessor should have been and more

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Specifications

CPU: 532MHz dual-core ARM 11, GPU: 266MHz DMP PICA200, Dimensions (WxDxH): 142x80.6x21.6mm, Analogue sticks: 2, D-pads: 1, Networking: 802.11b/g, NFC

From the burst of 56 simultaneous colours on the Game Boy Color to the Game Boy Advance's illuminating backlight, the days when Nintendo only released one version of its portable gaming console are long gone. Admittedly, we didn't think it would take Nintendo three years to update the 3DS, but here we are with the New 3DS and its newly updated big brother, the New Nintendo 3DS XL.

Despite having been out for almost a year, the New 3DS hasn't come down in price yet. You can pick one up the white model reviewed here for £140 from Amazon, but otherwise you're looking at £150 or more depending on whether you opt for one of Nintendo's game bundles, of which there are plenty to get stuck in with.

Alternatively, if you're not sure what kind of games you like, Nintendo's made it even easier for you to try different titles, as it's just added over 100 demos to its online eShop store for free, which highlights including Super Smash Bros and Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. There are also dozens of free-to-start games to try, too, including the excellent puzzle game Fullblox. This doesn't cost anything to download, but will require additional in-game purchases to play more of the game. In Fullblox's case, this amounts to extra puzzle packs - which we can safely say are all superb having lost dozens to them.

C-Stick

The biggest new feature on the New 3DS is the additional 'C-Stick' nubbin just above the fan-pleasing SNES-coloured face buttons, which should hopefully appease anyone who felt the old 3DS was incomplete without a second analogue stick. It's certainly different to how we expected a second analogue stick would look on the 3DS, but it's surprisingly responsive, as we were able to navigate the home menu screens with only the tiniest of movements.

New Nintendo 3DS and old 3DS open face on

 The New 3DS isn't out in the UK until February 13th, but we've been putting our Australian import through its paces

In games, its primary function is to move the camera around, but it won't just be limited to new games such as Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, as it's also compatible with older games that supported the Circle Pad Pro. We tried it out on both Resident Evil Revelations and Kid Icarus Uprising to great effect, as camera movements were smooth and fluid. We particularly like the small thumb indentation on the upper screen's hinge, as it not only gives your thumb a firm foothold to rest in, but the extra room also makes it more comfortable to use over longer periods of time.

Another complaint levelled at the 3DS on launch was how you had to hold it in a very specific sweetspot to make sure its stereoscope 'glasses-free' 3D didn't start blurring or making your eyes hurt. This has been greatly improved on the New 3DS, as the screen's inner camera can now track the position of your head and will make adjustments on the fly to make sure the 3D is stable at much wider angles.

New Nintendo 3DS and old 3DS

The New 3DS is noticeably bigger than its predecessor and has larger screens to go with it

It's a shame the screen tends to flash slightly as it makes those adjustments, but we were able to tilt the screen significantly further than our old 3DS and still get a clear image. Whereas the old 3DS started blurring almost as soon as we moved it to either side, the New 3DS produced a clear, stable 3D effect at an almost 45 degree angle, which is much better if you're playing games on the move, or physically moving the console around in-game in order to use its internal gyroscope.

Design

We love what Nintendo's done with the rest of the New 3DS's design as well, as the new, smooth plastic finish looks classy and feels fantastic to hold. Previous 3DS consoles felt a bit toy like but this, on the other hand, is a lovely bit of kit and the rounded corners fit snugly into each palm. The slightly larger chassis also makes snaking your index fingers round the shoulder buttons far less cramped, and the newly-added ZR and ZL bumper buttons lie within comfortable reach.

New Nintendo 3DS rear buttons

The ZR and ZL bumper buttons add even more flexibility to the New 3DS's control scheme

Again, any game with Circle Pad Pro controls will support the extra ZR and ZL buttons, so you can still comfortably aim and shoot in games like Resident Evil, for example. They can also be used for switching tabs when browsing the internet using Nintendo's internal browser, while the C Stick can be used to zoom in and pan round web pages on both the upper and lower screens. It certainly makes browsing the web a lot more user friendly than the old 3DS, as you couldn't have separate tabs or zoom in without tapping buttons on the lower touchscreen.

Of course, with two extra buttons on the back of the console, this doesn't leave much room for the game card slot or the stylus, so these have been relocated to the bottom edge of the console, next to the headphone jack and power button. We're not great fans of the New 3DS's stylus, though, as its short length means the curved end tends to dig into your hand. Still, it's a small complaint overall, as a lot of games only require the stylus for a few taps, which a firm press or fingernail can more than adequately perform instead.

New Nintendo 3DS open flat

The New 3DS is beautifully designed and we much prefer its matt chassis to the glossy finish on the old 3DS

Elsewhere, the plain shade of white on our particular console extends both inside and out on the New 3DS, and the upper screen's old outer lip is now completely flat, having been replaced by two small circular mounds either side of the camera. We're glad the lip's gone, as it made cleaning those last bits of dust out of our old 3DS a bit of a chore. Only time will tell if the two bumpers will adequately prevent the top screen from getting damaged by the raised lower touchscreen, though. We hope they do, as our old 3DS has taken quite a beating over the last four years, particularly where the rim of the touchscreen meets the top 3D display.

Now you're playing with power

Another big attraction of the New 3DS is its brand new CPU, which allows it to play more advanced games than the original model. So far, the only game to really utilise this is the handheld version of Monolith Soft's excellent 2011 Wii RPG, Xenoblade Chronicles 3D.

Xenoblade was by far our favourite Nintendo game of 2011, a year which saw the release of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and Super Mario 3D Land. Of course, the 3D version of Xenoblade doesn't exactly have Wii-level graphics, but if it's capable of condensing a last-gen home console game down to something you can play on a handheld, it certainly suggests we could see more ports of Wii games in the future.

New Nintendo 3DS arch

Sadly, the new CPU won't improve current 3DS games, as the frame rate issues we had in Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, for instance, still persisted when we tried it out on the New 3DS. It does, however, make Super Smash Bros. for 3DS load much faster, and doesn't require the console to restart every time you close the game down. Nintendo says it should also cut download times when buying games through its online eShop store, but this is obviously dependent on the speed of your internet connection as well.