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Old Skool Nintendo 3DS XL vs. "NEW" 3DS XL

Updated on December 11, 2016
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Aron Brent has worked for Square Enix, ATLUS, Black Isle and Interplay as a Story Artist and holds a PhD.

The Contenders. Old Skool 3DS XL in the left corner--"NEW" 3DS XL on the right

Rating the NEW 3DS XL compared to the Old Skool 3DS XL

3 stars for NEW 3DS XL

Should you upgrade to the NEW 3DS XL?

The question many 3DS XL owners have is, "Should I upgrade to the NEW 3DS XL?" Most video game sites and tech junkies around YouTube will boast of the (barely) upgraded processor, that 2 games out of the hundreds of 3DS games support the pencil eraser-like C-Button poking out of the right side of the unit and a "what if?" notion that future Nintendo 3DS games will require the new processor, pencil eraser C-Button and bonus badly located tiny Z-Trigger buttons on the back of the unit. That's ridiculous. Apart from a few tacked on chachkies for Nintendo boys to moon over, the NEW 3DS XL offers little, if anything, "new" compared to it's XL predecessor.

The NEW 3DS XL is Frankensteined from the strange Circle Pad Pro add-on that was made available at GameStop and various online retailers, primarily to aid in playing the difficult to control Monster Hunter. As cumbersome and awkward as it looks, players rated this contraption that resembles pool floaty water wings for the 3DS XL very highly, which led Nintendo to add these buttons to a new machine. It sets a new precedent for Nintendo to upgrade the same console and, because they violated such a taboo, gamers are flocking to the NEW 3DS XL thinking Nintendo made it to phase out the old skool 3DS XL.

The STRANGE Circle-Pad Pro 3DSXL attachment that became the NEW 3DS XL
The STRANGE Circle-Pad Pro 3DSXL attachment that became the NEW 3DS XL

Both 3DS XL models have the same size screens

Here's what matters:

  1. The screens are exactly the same SHARP 4.88inch top and 3.53inch bottom.
  2. Both units contain the EXACT same 3D effect. The selling point of the unit using new technology to follow the tilt of your head to maintain the 3D effect is negligible. Myself and 2 testers used both systems and couldn't see a bit of difference in the new model. In fact, the older 3DS XL seemed to maintain a better 3D sweet spot since the effect is constant, whereas the 3D got blurry and lagged as the new unit would reorient itself if you pushed up your glasses or moved your hand through your hair. We also noticed wearing glasses aided in the 3D effect on both units.
  3. The 3 new buttons are worthless and you can play Zelda: Majora's Mask and Xenoblade just fine on the regular 3DS XL.
  4. The ability to plunk a salt shaker sized amiibo on the bottom screen is awkward, making the 3DS XL attachment a better option if you want this function (does anyone?).
  5. The single center HOME button is not as convenient as having the old skool 3DS XL SELECT, HOME, START buttons. It's a game system, not an Apple iPhone.
  6. The "Now with new upgraded processor!" line is moot as the cartridges load and process 90% or more (depending on the game) of the data on the 3DS XL through flash memory and the installed microchip in the 3DS cartridges. The processor wouldn't help downloaded games either because they download to the SD flash memory card installed in the unit and load from there. The only places you might see faster response are in the array of relatively useless applications on the 3DS XL, such as Mii Plaza, Swap Note (mostly discontinued) etc.
  7. You can pick up a refurbished old skool 3DS XL on for $115 or on flash sale from for $103 up to $129 for special editions.
  8. The NEW 3DS XL goes for $200 and comes in "red," which is really 1980's Chevy interior burgundy and "black," which is really sparkly dark grey. No special editions in the U.S. as of yet.
  9. You can pick up an old skool 3DS XL in all manner of now unwanted special edition models USED courtesy of Nintendo Boys drooling over their ugly colored NEW 3DS XL for as low as $49 on eBay (if you really look) or even cheaper if you make a few simple repairs.

NEW 3DS XL doesn't offer anything exciting

The "NEW" 3DS XL doesn't offer anything exciting. It doesn't offer a bigger screen, higher resolution, new applications, it won't vacuum your room, do your homework or help your love life (well...maybe...). But if you don't mind coughing up $200 + tax and want the ease of walking into a store and walking out with one, then maybe it's your thing. But if you are a serious gamer who just wants quality on a budget, go for the old skool 3DS XL and don't fear being phased out. Nintendo has not made any statements indicating their desire to lock out old skool 3DS XL users. The door to the Mushroom Kingdom is wide open to cost savings.

NEW 3DS XL poll

Will you upgrade to the NEW 3DS XL?

See results

© 2016 AJ Brent


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