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Nintendo 3DS XL Hands-On: First Look At The New 3D Handheld (PHOTOS)

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We've just been fortunate enough to have a full hands on with Nintendo's new upgrade to the 3DS handheld, the 3DS XL. So how was it? Check out our impressions and gallery, below.

The 3DS XL is just like the 3DS. But bigger.

...

If we were lazy, we could stop there. Because that really is the main difference here. The upper screen is larger by about 1.8 inches diagonally across, and at 4.88 inches that almost matches that of the PS Vita. It's bright, colourful and easy on the eye. All good stuff.

Yes, the resolution hasn't changed - which means you'll be looking at the exact same image, just blown up a little larger. But although some reviews have complained about this, we didn't notice any pixelation or major loss in quality.

In fact, if anything the new larger screen helps give Nintendo's glasses-free 3D effect room to breathe. It felt less strenuous to turn the effect up to maximum as on its smaller cousin, and we were able to play for longer without taking a break. The images seemed to 'pop' more than before, and we noticed details in games we'd previously missed. Plus the screen now 'clicks' into two recommended positions, which makes it feel sturdier and less, well, 'flappy', than the original.

Despite this, the main problem we had with the screen - and in fact the 3DS as a whole - is that after about 30 minutes we stopped noticing how much larger the screen was. Once you forget it's bigger, it just becomes another screen. And as with the iPad's Retina display, you only notice it when it's not there - which means anyone upgrading from a standard 3DS may have buyer's remorse unless they keep the old one around to remind themselves why they upgraded.

What we mean is, Mario Kart is awesome on the 3DS XL. But Mario Kart is always awesome.

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There are other improvements too. The matte finish on the inside of the 3DS XL is nicer than the shiny surface of the original. The battery life is vastly better - from 3.5 to 6.5 hours - and it's easy to port your data over from your original console.

On the downside, the 3DS XL is still an unutterably ugly device. Like the 3DS, it lacks Nintendo's signature design panache and character, with rounded corners, odd colours and a total lack of the cute-but-utilitarian brilliance of a Game Boy or Super NES. It's a step up - just - from the 3DS, which was boxy as well as characterless. But that's all.

The new 3DS is also heavier than before, and still has just one thumb stick control, despite the greater real estate. Yes, a Circle Pad Pro add-on is coming to add another one back in again (in Japan at least) but that just makes the handheld even uglier.

Then there is the fact that the console comes without an AC adapter.

Nintendo has argued it's to keep the price down, but even putting the confusion, anger and frustration it's going to cause aside, it's just a peculiar and annoying choice.

If you already own a 3DS, and you still play it, you're going to definitely wish you'd waited for this instead. But it's unlikely, in our opinion, that you're going to buy a 3DS XL to replace it. Which is sort of a problem for Nintendo.

All that aside, on its own terms the 3DS XL is a good, solid, useful and ugly upgrade which given a few more killer games, a price cut and a marketing push should help the platform start to find its feet fairly soon.