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The Nintendo 3DS XL is the bigger, wiser brother of the 3DS (hands-on impressions)

The Nintendo 3DS XL stretches the definition of portable game consoles: It’s not something that you can just slip into your pocket, unless you’re wearing cargo pants. But what it sacrifices in size, it makes up for in a refined hardware design that’s still easy on the eyes.

For the second time in company history, Nintendo is increasing the size of its current line of devices with the 3DS XL, a supersized version of its 3D-enabled handheld, set to release in the U.S. on August 19 for $199. I recently played around with the 3DS’s bigger brother for the first time during last week’s demo of New Super Mario Bros. 2.

With the new model sporting bigger screens — 4.88 inches on top (up from 3.53 inches on the 3DS) and 4.18 inches on the bottom (up from 3.02 inches) — the one thing that struck me about the 3DS XL was how comfortable it felt to hold. My hands aren’t exceptionally huge by any means (for comparison, I thought the original Xbox controller was way too big), but the extra spacing that the XL version offers is a welcome relief from my occasionally cramped experience with its predecessor.

NSMB 2 looks really sharp on the larger screen, and that’s probably my favorite improvement so far on the XL. Though I didn’t play too long with with the 3D depth slider — which has more range than previous models — turned all the way on,  it at least looked just as good as the 3D effect in previous Nintendo games.

Everything else about the 3DS XL felt solid, right down to the redone Start, Home, and Select buttons on the bottom half of the device. Nintendo took what already worked on the 3DS and made some smart adjustments all around.


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