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Recently I acquired the latest XL model of Nintendo’s handheld 3DS, and I have to say I’m enjoying it so far. Although the system itself is basically a 3DS with larger screens, the design is very intuitive. With the only hardware controls being A, B, X, Y, two shoulder buttons, a directional pad and an analog stick, you would think some games like Ocarina of Time would feel hampered. But with the placement of the touch screen, there’s a lot of room for every other button you could possibly need in a game.

Now, I’m a big, tall person with larger hands, so I decided against buying the original 3DS after playing it and finding it too small. If you’re like me, this thing fits in your hands just about perfectly. The screens are both wider than my Galaxy Nexus android device, and I love the new size of the touch screen. I can use my thumbs instead of the stylus without many issues, and I don’t have to stretch very far to do so. Whether or not you have larger hands, and you just want the bigger screens, the range of motion required to play games like Ocarina of Time 3D or Super Mario 3D Land is minimal.

I would compare the graphical capabilities of this system to that of a Wii, which is extremely decent for a handheld console. On its own, the console’s speakers aren’t terribly loud, most likely by design but through headphones it sounds fine. The main design changes that took place between the original 3DS and the XL model seem to be about comfort and aesthetics more than anything. This thing feels very comfortable in your hands, and the adjustable 3D settings (although I don’t usually set it very high) work extremely well on the larger screen whereas I found myself constantly fiddling with it on the original model.

Having grown up with an original Game Boy and NES consoles in the house, it’s insane to see a console with this much power for a relatively low price, much less a handheld. I tried the original PSP back when it came out, and had some fun with it before it bricked itself, but I’m usually very wary of 1st generation hardware. The 3DS XL seems like someone really thought long and hard about the features that should go into a handheld, rather than just shoving the first product concept onto the shelf. The current lineup of games for the DS & 3DS is huge, and constantly growing, which is another big selling point for me.

One minor complaint that I do have about this console is the clicking, point-based hinge that folds the screen up and down. On some models such as the DSi, the hinge didn’t lock into any preset positions which allowed for less of a loose, shaky feeling to the screen than the 3DS and 3DS XL. There are three positions that the screen holds to, the first at about 75 degrees, the second at 30 degrees or so, and the last in the completely open position. This works fine, but the screen has some definite potential for unwanted wobble if you’re on a shaky bus or something. Other than that, the top screen is very slick-looking and integrated well for such a large console.

A lot of handheld consoles from other developers seem to fizzle out or do very poorly after the launch date, but this is Nintendo we’re talking about, so the fanboys and fangirls won’t be disappointed in the 3DS XL. They designed a great product and made it affordable, something that ALL companies need to keep in mind during tough economic times. After some time of playing the console consistently between classes and whatnot, I’ll write up a more thorough review. But for now, I’m really enjoying the 3DS XL for the powerful handheld that it is.

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