New Nintendo 2DS XL Review: The perfect 3DS?

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The Good

  • Huge game library
  • Attractive design
  • Affordable

The Bad

  • Bigger battery would have been appreciated
  • Lacklustre displays

New Nintendo 2DS XL review: The New Nintendo 2DS XL looks like the most balanced member of the 3DS family to date but with the Switch now straddling both home and portable gaming, is there still a place for this simpler clamshell console?

Nintendo announced that it would be halting production of the New 3DS in Japan just as the New Nintendo 2DS XL arrived on the scene, leading many to believe that this latest handheld is the last in the line for the 3DS family. At £129.99 it’s £70 less than its 3D-capable XL sibling whilst also being significantly more affordable than the company’s more powerful (but only) part-time handheld, the Nintendo Switch.

Read next: Nintendo Switch vs Nintendo 3DS XL

New Nintendo 2DS XL Review: Hardware and design

The 2DS was an oddball entrant in the 3DS family, aimed at younger gamers it shed the clamshell design that Nintendo had been using since the days of the Game Boy Advance SP and arrived as an awkward-looking square of a device with both screens always on show. Luckily Nintendo saw sense with this newest machine and has returned to a hinged form factor, but it still looks like a different beast when compared to the other folding members of the family.

New Nintendo 2DS XL review: 4/3rds closed

Firstly, it brings a style to the table all its own, not to mention it’s thinner and lighter than its 3D counterpart. It’s still an all-plastic affair but narrowly dodges feeling like a cheap toy thanks to a little considered design work.

New Nintendo 2DS XL review: Right controls New Nintendo 2DS XL review: Left controls

The lid features a hatched pattern of alternating finishes that helps with grip when it’s not in use, although it does also hold onto fingerprints pretty easily. That top edge is rendered in a contrasting glossy finish, whilst the lower half of the rounded body is made almost entirely from matt-finish plastic that does, unfortunately, attract scratches fairly easily.

With only the power input, IR blaster and four shoulder buttons on top, and the volume control slider on the left side of the console’s lower half, nearly everything else has been shifted to the bottom edge, giving the New 2DS XL a cleaner overall appearance.

New Nintendo 2DS XL review: 'Nintendo' Logo up close

The microSD card and game cartridge slots are concealed under a flexible flap on the left side, meaning they’re less likely to accumulate dust and grime but trickier to get at, especially if you swap out games regularly. The plastic stylus, meanwhile, pulls out of a slot to the right of the headphone jack and it is very short. We’re still not sure why Nintendo moved away from the telescopic offerings of older 3DS models but it makes for a less comfortable experience, especially during longer gaming sessions.

The stereo speakers have been shifted from either side of the upper display down to the bottom corners too, which gives the console a cleaner look but does mean that they run the risk of being at least partly obscured by your palms.

New hinge placement gives the 2DS XL a more graceful look when in use but when closed it sticks out awkwardly along the console’s top edge with the forward camera partially visible too.

Right now, you have the choice of an orange-on-white colour scheme or, in our opinion the slicker turquoise-on-black option (Reggie Fils-Aimé’s personal preference), with more choices becoming available as time goes on, particularly with Nintendo’s habit of creating special tie-in versions of their consoles (see: Rick and Morty) like the Japan-exclusive Dragon Quest XI edition. The accent colour carries across to the power button, shoulder buttons, volume slider, control pad and A, B, X and Y buttons, which does mean that they lose the red, blue, green and yellow accents inspired by the original Super Nintendo present on the New 3DS and New 3DS XL.

What works?

A stylish new design that’s cleaner, lighter and thinner than the New Nintendo 3DS XL.

What doesn’t?

It’s prone to fingerprints, scratches and scuffs, and the included stylus is awkwardly short.

New Nintendo 2DS XL Review: Screen and audio

The 2DS XL’s display setup mirrors that of its 3D counterpart, with a 4.88-inch screen up top and a narrower 4.18-inch display underneath. They also pack the same 400×240 and 320×240 resolutions respectively (the upper display’s lack of stereoscopic tech is the reason why it’s 400 pixels short compared to the 3DS XL), meaning they’re no sharper. The 2DS XL also looks like it’s packing a pair of TN LCDs rather than IPS panels as found on some (but not all) newer 3DS models.

New Nintendo 2DS XL review: Open

As such, it puts out imagery that, head-on appears brighter by comparison but still falls prey to reflections relatively easily, struggles in well-lit surroundings and suffers from noticeable colour and contrast distortion at more extreme viewing angles, likely as a result of cost-saving on Nintendo’s part.

As for the audio setup, provided your hands don’t get in the way, the pair of downward-facing speakers push out respectable sound with clarity throughout their range. Wider stereo separation would have been appreciated but anyone who’s owned a DS console before will know that it’s worth switching to headphones for the best audio experience, especially as there’s some impressively rich sound design on offer from top-tier games.

What works?

Respectably clear and loud audio quality from integrated speakers.

What doesn’t?

Both screens suffer from heavy colour and contrast distortion at more extreme viewing angles.

New Nintendo 2DS XL Review: UX and games

The user experience on offer from the New 2DS XL is practically unchanged from the rest of the line, albeit lacking in any sort of 3D screen calibration functionality. You’ll find a familiar scalable grid-based interface designed to house any installed or loaded applications and games.

New Nintendo 2DS XL review: Open displaying the eShop

System settings grants access to brightness controls, power saving tools, wireless settings, Nintendo account information and parental controls, whilst a number of apps along the top edge of the lower screen, dubbed multitasking apps, can run and then be suspended without having to be closed completely when playing games.

As for the games themselves, the New 2DS XL benefits from the largest back catalogue of any of the 3DS family with support for most Nintendo DS, DSi and 3DS titles (sans 3D functionality) out the box and provided you’ve got enough storage space, room for downloadable titles as well as physical copies of games thanks to the Nintendo eShop.

What works?

Support for almost all Nintendo DS, DSi, 3DS and New 3DS titles, as well as downloadable offerings from the Nintendo eShop.

What doesn’t?

Navigation around the interface can feel a little convoluted at times.

Read next: Best 3DS games still coming in 2017 and 2018 and Best Nintendo 3DS horror games

New Nintendo 2DS XL Review: Performance and battery life

There are already hundreds of articles chastising Nintendo for the awkward naming convention it’s adopted for the latest 3DS family members but the ‘New’ in New Nintendo 2DS XL isn’t just stating the obvious, it’s also meant to highlight the handheld’s uprated hardware when compared to the original 3DS consoles.

New Nintendo 2DS XL review: Stylus use

Sporting an 804MHz quad-core CPU and 269MHz GPU the 2DS XL is capable of running all the latest exclusively ‘New’-branded titles, including The Binding of Issac: Rebirth and Xenoblade Chronicles 3D, as well as offering lag-free gameplay on other more demanding games like Ever Oasis and the upcoming Metroid: Samus Returns.

New Nintendo 2DS XL review: Gameplay

As for battery life, the XL packs in the same 1300mAh capacity cell as the standard 2DS, rather than a larger 1750mAh battery like the one found on the latest 3DS XL; likely accounting for the notable weight saving it offers. At least without stereoscopic 3D you can expect the same longevity as the latest 3DS XL despite a smaller cell, with around three days of standby time (Sleep Mode) or on average around four and a half hours of constant gameplay (such as we experienced when playing Ever Oasis at maximum brightness).

Another plus, especially if you’ve never owned a 3DS console before, is that Nintendo once again includes a charger in-box, something absent from the New 3DS XL.

What works?

Solid performance no matter what game you’re playing and Nintendo includes a charger in the box this time around.

What doesn’t?

We would have sacrificed weight in order to reap the benefits of longer battery life from a larger cell than the one actually employed by the 2DS XL.

New Nintendo 2DS XL Review: Verdict

The New Nintendo 2DS XL is a stylish refinement on a now well-established formula and whilst stereoscopic 3D is an appreciated feature, this console proves that it’s by no means essential.

New Nintendo 2DS XL review: Partially opened with stylus

The internal hardware provides you with the smoothest gameplay experience yet and whilst it’s a far cry from the Switch from a performance standpoint it’s a notably more capable portable with a significantly more robust portfolio of games to dive into from the get-go.

Issues like its easily scuffed exterior and lacklustre displays are symptoms shared by the entire 3DS family, so whilst we wish Nintendo had used this opportunity to address them, they don’t detract from the fact that the New Nintendo 2DS XL is arguably the most focused and best iteration of the company’s 3DS hardware to date. And that’s before you take into account that its approachable price tag is only going to drop as we draw closer to the holidays.

New Nintendo 2DS XL review: Console in-hand

Still unsure as to whether the New Nintendo 2DS XL is the handheld for you? Check out our New 2DS XL vs 2DS vs New 3DS vs New 3DS XL feature for a direct comparison between it and the rest of the 3DS family.

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