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New 3DS vs New 3DS XL – what’s the difference?

As Nintendo's New 3DS and New 3DS XL hit shop shelves, we compare both consoles to see what's different and which one you should buy

The Nintendo 3DS is one of the best-selling consoles of this generation, but now there are two new iterations joining the 3DS family – the New 3DS and New 3DS XL. With upgraded internals, bigger screens and a whole new set of controls, the New 3DS consoles are a big upgrade over their predecessors, but what’s really changed? We’ve put both consoles to the test to see which one you should buy.


NEW 3DS The smaller of the two New 3DS consoles is currently priced at around £150. There are currently only two colours on offer (black and white), but it’s worth noting that neither console comes with an AC power adaptor or a charging cradle, so you’ll have to buy these separately. It uses the same adaptor as the old 3DS, so you can use your old one if you’re a current 3DS user, but new ones only cost around £7 from Argos.

You can’t use the same charging cradle as your old 3DS, though, as the New 3DS’s larger dimensions means it won’t actually fit inside it. This costs around £8 from Nintendo, but Zavvi‘s currently offering a New 3DS and charging cradle bundle for £155, saving you a few pounds over buying them separately. Nintendo’s only made a white charging cradle for the New 3DS, though, so the colours won’t match if you want a black console.

This won’t be too much of a problem, though, as you can always swap out the New 3DS’s front and rear panels for something a bit more colourful if you buy one of its many compatible cover plates. These range from generic patterns to wooden illustrations of your favourite Nintendo characters and cost between £11 and £20.

New 3DS charging bundle

NEW 3DS XL Nintendo’s super-sized New 3DS costs a little bit more, with basic consoles starting at around £180 for either the metallic blue or metallic black models. There were also limited edition Majora’s Mask 3D and Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate console bundles (which each came with special console and a copy of their respective game) available for £210, but these have now sold out. Still, it’s a good indication of what future special edition consoles will cost. Other bundles are currently available from Nintendo for around £220, but these only consist of standard consoles, accessories and a copy of Majora’s Mask 3D.

Need some games for your New 3DS? Here are our top 3DS games for 2015

It’s also important to bear in mind that the New 3DS XL’s front and rear panels aren’t removable like its little brother’s, so you won’t be able to swap them out for any additional cover plates at any point in the future. That means you’ll be stuck with the basic version of the console if you buy one at launch, so it may be worth waiting until a special edition you like appears, or opt for the smaller New 3DS which you can customise to your liking if you’re bothered about your console’s appearance.


SCREEN SIZE The main difference between each console is the size of its screens. While the New 3DS has a 3.88in autostereoscopic 3D display and a 3.33in touchscreen, the New 3DS XL’s 3D screen is a whole inch bigger, measuring 4.88in while its touchscreen comes in at 4.18in. To put that top display in perspective, that’s practically the same size as your average smartphone.

However, each pair of displays have exactly the same resolution, as both 3D displays have a resolution of 800×240 and both touchscreens have a resolution of 320×240. This means that games don’t look quite as sharp on the New 3DS XL, as its larger screens give each display a lower pixel density than its little brother. To compare the hard numbers, the New 3DS XL’s top screen has a pixel density of 171 pixels-per-inch whereas the New 3DS’s top screen has a pixel density of 215 pixels-per-inch.

New 3DS vs New 3DS XL front

This means you’ll see a greater number of jagged edges when playing games on the New 3DS XL as the image stretches to fill the larger screen, and we found that turning on the glasses-free 3D made them even more prominent on nearly every game we played. This isn’t a massive problem in the grand scheme of things, as certain games such as Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate still look fantastic on the New 3DS XL and feel far more immersive as a result. However, other games such as Majora’s Mask 3D didn’t look half as impressive on the XL, as character models looked noticeably less crisp compared to the solid, pin sharp models on the New 3DS.

DIMENSIONS A larger console means a bigger piece of kit to carry around with you, though, making it less portable than its compact brother. Measuring 160 x 93.5 x 21.5mm and weighing 329g, the New 3DS XL is quite a sizable handheld compared to the New 3DS, which measures a much more manageable 142 x 80.6 x 21.6mm and weighs 253g.

Having spent a lot of time with both consoles, we feel the New 3DS XL is a little too big for your average gamer, as even we couldn’t comfortably reach all the buttons while still being able to grip it securely in our hands. Larger members of the team certainly appreciated the extra room, but we felt the smaller New 3DS was a much better fit. Neither console felt too heavy, though, so you shouldn’t get any aching wrists if you’re sitting down for a long session in the car, for example.


We’ve already mentioned that the New 3DS XL doesn’t support cover plates, but that’s not the only part of its design that separates it from its smaller cousin. Whereas the New 3DS has a completely matt plastic chassis, the New 3DS XL only has a matt plastic interior. Instead, its front and rear panels have a glossy finish, which makes it look more attractive out of the box, but much harder to clean once you’ve started using it.

No matter how hard we tried, our New 3DS XL was constantly marred by smeary fingerprints, which just made it look perpetually grubby compared to our pristine New 3DS. It also didn’t provide nearly as much grip when gaming for long periods of time, as its glossy rear felt positively oily compared to the New 3DS’s smoother matt chassis. In our eyes, this makes the New 3DS a much more classy object to behold, as it’s not only less toy-like compared to its big brother, but it also looks like a more stylish, modern piece of hardware.

New 3DS vs New 3DS XL closed

The fan-pleasing SNES-themed ABXY buttons also have slightly different colouring on each console, as the New 3DS XL only has red, blue, green and yellow lettering. The New 3DS, on the other hand, has full-blown coloured buttons, which once again makes the New 3DS the more eye-catching of the two consoles.


Naturally, the New 3DS has a smaller 1,400mAh lithium ion battery compared to the New 3DS XL, which has a 1,700mAh lithium-ion battery. It’s difficult to give a definitive battery life based on this alone, though, as different games drain the battery at different rates, particularly if they use the touchscreen a lot and you have the 3D turned on. Each console also has five different brightness modes and an automatic brightness option, which will all affect how long the console lasts on a single charge.

However, according to Nintendo, the New 3DS should last between 3.5 – 6 hours when playing 3DS games and 6.5 – 10.5 hours when playing DS games. The New 3DS XL, on the other hand, should be able to play 3DS games for 3.5 – 7 hours and DS games for 7 – 12 hours, making the New 3DS XL the better choice for long car journeys. Both consoles should last around 3 days in sleep mode, though, so they should just about be able to make it through a weekend if you happen to forget your charger when you’re away.


Both consoles have their advantages, but for us, the New 3DS is by far the superior handheld. Not only is it more attractive and more comfortable to hold, but its screens are also noticeably sharper, delivering a clearer, more defined gaming experience across the board. There’s certainly nothing wrong with the New 3DS XL, but its lack of cover plates is a big deal breaker for us and the sheer amount of fingerprints it picks up just isn’t particularly great to look at.

The New 3DS XL is still a perfectly capable console, though, and is arguably better for those with larger hands or anyone who tends to play more games at home or in the car, thanks to its more immersive screens and longer-lasting battery. However, if you’re someone who likes gaming on the move and values being able to customise your console to your liking, the New 3DS is the clear winner. For more in-depth information about each console, read our full New 3DS and New 3DS XL reviews.

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