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

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

Review by Kat Bailey, .

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.

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Comments 25

  • Avatar for Lonecow #1 Lonecow 9 months ago
    Nah. The 3D is an amazing effect and still impresses even against the prettier Vita and Switch visuals because it is unique and it can show depth in an image.

    Every time I turn off the 3D effect the visuals looks jagged and just mushy in comparison.

    3DS games should be viewed in 3D. No matter what the shell looks like, you are asking for a lesser experience playing these games in 2D. Just look at the new Metroid game.
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  • Avatar for hiptanaka #2 hiptanaka 9 months ago
    The 3D effect is great in A Link Between Worlds, and even helpful in Mario 3D Land. It's easier to do the platforming when you have proper depth vision. Still, this new 2DS is so slick I'm tempted to trade in my New 3DS for it.
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  • Avatar for mattcom26 #3 mattcom26 9 months ago
    I'd never delved into 3DS but this new release convinced me the train was still rolling and I should jump in. Very excited for my preorder! Of course the 2D is a trade off but the price is great and I moreso love the idea of getting the latest version and being a part of this unlikely scenario.Edited July 2017 by mattcom26
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  • Avatar for Kat.Bailey #4 Kat.Bailey 9 months ago
    @Lonecow God no. 3D adds literally nothing to the experience for me. It actually makes it look worse in a lot of ways for me. But like I said, personal preference.
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  • Avatar for yuberus #5 yuberus 9 months ago
    Part of me is really interested in this because I don't care about 3D and the New systems are nice. But then I think about the hellish stories I've heard of file transferring data from the old 3DS systems and that puts me right off.
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  • Avatar for zidanix #6 zidanix 9 months ago
    Does the screen get damaged when the system is closed? My N3DS and I think all of them have that issue.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #7 VotesForCows 9 months ago
    This'll be my first member of the 2/3DS family, looking forward to it. I've no use for 3D, and the original 2DS was just too ugly for me...
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  • Avatar for Thad #8 Thad 9 months ago
    I've already got a 2DS. I like its ergonomics, and I don't think the SNES and Xenoblade compatibility are enticing enough for me to switch, but I've been seeing glowing writeups like this one, so I'm at least thinking about it.

    Am I right in understanding that if I want to play my downloaded games on the New 2DS, I have to remove them from my old 2DS?
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  • Avatar for LunarFlame17 #9 LunarFlame17 9 months ago
    I'm generally pro-3D, and I have a New 3DS XL, but damn if I don't want this 2DS XL. It just looks so much nicer than the New 3DS XL, which was already a huge upgrade over the older 3DS models. I probably won't get it, just cause I don't have $150 right now, but I really, really want one. I've even been playing with 3D off lately, in a sad attempt to pretend I already have one.
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  • Avatar for riderkicker #10 riderkicker 9 months ago
    I use the D-Pad on my 3DS more often, but I worry about the spacing of the Dpad on this system compared to the bottom. Is it more comfortable to use it, or it's a little more harrowing? I know there is a going to be a grip soon, but we don't know when.
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  • Avatar for modernlove69 #11 modernlove69 9 months ago
    I think the 3dsxl is priced at $199, only $50 more than this new 2ds.
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  • Avatar for Gamer-Law #12 Gamer-Law 9 months ago
    If we get that amazing silver/black Slime Dragon Quest 2DS that Japan is getting, then count me in.
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #13 Roto13 9 months ago
    3DS games look kind of bad in general (thanks to the super low resolution) but the 3D helps a lot. I don't think looking like an iPhone is worth the sacrifice.
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  • Avatar for LBD_Nytetrayn #14 LBD_Nytetrayn 9 months ago
    @yuberus I'm still suffering from that design choice.
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  • Avatar for LunarFlame17 #15 LunarFlame17 9 months ago
    @yuberus I've transferred multiple times and never had an issue, for what it's worth.
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  • Avatar for Woogity #16 Woogity 9 months ago
    @yuberus I tried to do a complete system transfer when I bought my New 3DS XL. Since I was trading my old one in at the same time, I had to do this at the GameStop store I was buying it from. It took something like 3 hours, then had a connection issue, and the entire transfer was canceled. I then decided to transfer only my saves, and re-download my games on WiFi at home later. This worked out much better, but it was a nightmare having that first transfer cancel after so long.
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  • Avatar for touchofkiel #17 touchofkiel 9 months ago
    @Kat.Bailey 3D doesn't do much for me either, especially when playing a game that requires constantly glancing at the bottom screen. Seeing as my 3DS primarily is a Etrian Odyssey-playing machine, 3D is terrible for that series. The way I hold the system - usually playing and shifting around in bed - just does not work well with the 3D effect.

    But I'm still not sold on the new 2DS, despite that. The best Xenoblade experience, of course, is emulated in HD via Dolphin - it's hard to go back to the dinky 3DS resolution after playing that. Regardless, I'm not the type to really upgrade my systems - especially when my 3DS Xl serves me well enough the past 5 years (even if it's less than ideal).
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  • Avatar for Captain-Gonru #18 Captain-Gonru 9 months ago
    @yuberus I found the Wi-Fi transfer worked fine. The SD card method was awful. I lost a bunch of stuff, including a couple saves that were on cartridges somehow.
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  • Avatar for Jonnyboy407 #19 Jonnyboy407 9 months ago
    I really like that white/orange one. I may have to triple dip at some point here.

    Oh, and 2D 4 Lyfe! 3D Suuuuuuuux! (I kid of course. Play however you want)
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  • Avatar for Dante1930 #20 Dante1930 9 months ago
    The 3D effect makes quite a difference for me. It deepens the image, and makes even colors look better. It is actually impressive, and when I put it off (I mainly play Monster Hunter), the game looks flat and colorless.

    That said, the New 2ds looks damn fine, and people not interested in 3D should really just get it.

    But Kat, don't suppose that because you don't like 3D other people don't. I find people vary a lot according to this matter indeed.

    Any one option is, as you said at the end, a great system, with an incredible amount of great games.Edited July 2017 by Dante1930
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  • Avatar for GeoX #21 GeoX 8 months ago
    Yeah, I need the 3D. That's the whole point of the system, and its absence is a total dealbreaker.
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  • Avatar for jeffcorry #22 jeffcorry 8 months ago
    I love the 3D on 3DS. I loved the 3D on PS3. I didn't use it all the time, but it was pretty slick. 3D is something that I look for in my displays, not because I HAVE to have it, but because I like the option.
    Gran Turismo 5 was great with 3D as is Ocarina of Time, Star Fox, and the PS3 Wipeout games. Seriously. Wipeout in 3D is amazing.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #23 VotesForCows 8 months ago
    Woohoo, got it yesterday. Its very nice. Much bigger than I expected (the last gameboy I owned was an original DS lite).
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  • Avatar for orient #24 orient 8 months ago
    I would've picked this up weeks ago when it came out here in Australia, if Nintendo had a proper account system, but they don't. With purchases restricted to a single system and my entire library being digital, the 2DS XL is not a "must-have" but a "when it's $99, I guess...if there are any games I want to own physically".
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