Nintendo New 2DS XL Review: The 3DS Model You Should Own

Nintendo New 2DS XL Review: The 3DS Model You Should Own

The 2DS hardware refresh sacrifices 3D for a much more attractive design.

Nintendo's 3DS and 2DS family has proven surprisingly resilient over the past six years. Indeed, the release of Nintendo 2DS XL is not the first time the system has defied predictions of imminent death.

Many expected the Nintendo Switch to supplant the 3DS, but Nintendo is instead going out of their way to support the platform through the rest of 2017. Between Metroid: Samus Returns, Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, Fire Emblem: Shadows of Valentia, and a host of high quality RPGs, there's an argument to be made that this will be the system's best year ever. The Nintendo 2DS XL is just the cherry on top.

Nintendo is positioning the New 2DS XL as a value option for anyone who wants to enjoy these games; but despite the price point, the New 2DS XL is in many ways the culmination of six years of hardware revisions. Given the choice, I'd seriously consider picking up the 2DS XL over the (very slightly) more fully-featured New 3DS.

So let's dive in, shall we?

The 2DS XL's Most Important Changes

From a pure technical standpoint, the New 2DS XL is not appreciably different from its forebearer—the New 3DS. It has the same screen size and processor capabilities. And like the New 3DS, it can play both Xenoblade Chronicles and SNES Games, which the original 2DS could not. Battery life appears to be roughly comparable at around 7 to 8 hours.

The main difference, as the name suggests, is that it lacks the 3DS's stereoscopic 3D. Whether or not this is a dealbreaker for you is a matter of a preference. Personally, I have no use whatsoever for 3D—it's a pure aesthetic feature that is more distracting than entertaining. Some of Nintendo's biggest games, such as Pokémon, barely even support it. But like I said, it's kind of a matter of taste.

Beyond that, most of the biggest changes are from an ergonomical standpoint. A couple of the big ones:

  • The stereo speakers have been moved from the top screen to the bottom of the unit with the power button and the headphones. This makes the top screen look noticeably thinner and more attractive—almost like a super high-definition television—but it has the effect of making the New 2DS XL's sound ever so slightly hollower than the New 3DS. I don't know that this is a massive detriment, but it is noticeable.
  • The game cartridge slot is in the same spot, but it's now pushed deeper into the system and has a cover over it. This area also contains the SD memory card, which is much easier to access than on the New 3DS, where you have to remove a rear plate with a screwdriver. The overall effect is very nice.
  • The camera and the mic are now in the middle of the system rather than at the very top of the screen, making it somewhat easier to talk into it. I should mention that I almost never use the camera or the mic, so this change doesn't really stand out to me one way or another.
  • On that note, the rear cameras are now on the bottom of the system rather than directly behind the camera on the top screen.

The New 2DS XL is noticeably lighter than its counterpart, and the matte finish makes it smooth and pleasant to hold. Moving the speakers from the top screen to the bottom of the unit allows it to sit flush when closer, which is a small addition, but is nevertheless aesthetically pleasing. About the only thing I don't like about the unit's overall design is that the hinge sticks out a bit too much, though that's only noticeable when the system is shut.

My favorite thing about the New 2DS XL is the look of the screen. It's not really any different than the New 3DS, but the more compact design makes it feel bigger. Moreover, as I mentioned earlier, the fact that it doesn't stick out makes it look like an HD screen.

The New 2DS XL is a handsome design by Nintendo. It smooths out the blocky countours of the New 3DS and makes it look slick and high-tech. It doesn't have much to offer in the way of technical improvements (you could even say that it's a tiny step back in terms of the audio and the 3D), but there's no denying that it feels cool to hold.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3D can only be played on the New 3DS and New 2DS XL.

Should You Buy a New 2DS XL?

So should you invest in a New 2DS XL? Well, it depends on how much you care about style. My general rule of thumb is that I will buy a new handheld if it has a better screen. The New 2DS XL's screen isn't really any better than the New 3DS, but it seems better thanks to the design, which does count for something. But for the most part, this is a pure luxury upgrade.

Those buying a New 3DS for the first time have a more interesting decision on their hands. Personally, I would choose the New 2DS XL over the New 3DS because of its improved ergonomics and design. As I mentioned, 3D counts for almost nothing for me, and I usually play with headphones (or no sound at all). At a hundred dollars cheaper, it loses almost nothing compared to the New 3DS, and it looks better to boot.

The New 3DS as a whole also offers a number of nice improvements for those looking to upgrade from a previous model. The New 3DS and the New 2DS both boast much sharper screens, faster loading times, and the ability to play SNES Virtual Console games. Their improved processors also result in improved framerates for a handful of games. In terms of pure performance, they are the best iteration of the 3DS that you can buy, and very much worth the upgrade.

If you don't own a 3DS at all, then now is the time to get one. The 3DS has a fantastic library of both traditional retail and digital games, as well as a large number of classic NES, SNES, Game Boy, and Sega Genesis games. It's an all-around great platform, particularly if you love RPGs, and every hardcore gamer owes it to themselves to try it at least once.

We may well be near the end of the road for the 3DS and the 2DS, but it at least has another few months of life in it, and a great backlog besides. It may not be worth switching over if you already own a New 3DS, but the New 2DS XL is an attractive little system all the same, and I plan to make it my main 3DS from this point forward. Consider that a recommendation.

The Nintendo New 2DS XL sacrifices the mostly superfluous 3D for a handsome re-design that stands head and shoulders above the rest of the 3DS/2DS family. And like its counterpart, it includes an improved processor and the ability to play SNES games. If you're looking to buy into the 3DS/2DS line for the first time, this is the one we would recommend.

Kat Bailey

Editor in Chief

Kat Bailey is a former freelance writer and contributor to publications including 1UP, IGN, GameSpot, GamesRadar, and EGM. Her fondest memories as a journalist are at GamePro, where she hosted RolePlayer's Realm and had legal access to the term "Protip." She is USgamer's resident mecha enthusiast, Pokemon Master, and Minnesota Vikings nut (skol).

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