Road-testing the new 2DS XL – 2D is the new 3D
Product test

Road-testing the new 2DS XL – 2D is the new 3D

Philipp Rüegg
Revision: Eva Francis

Nintendo’s fifth 3DS is finally saying farewell to 3D. But is there even space on the market for the new 2DS XL next to the Nintendo Switch?

It has been over six years since Nintendo launched the Nintendo 3DS. The 3D display that works without 3D glasses is fascinating in spite of its small size and modest quality. Now, four handheld iterations later, the 3D hype has finally fizzled out. The first signs that enthusiasm for 3G was beginning to wane came in 2013 with the launch of the first non-foldable version of the 2DS without a 3D display.

The New 2DS XL lets Nintendo offer a new 3DS without 3D but with additional buttons. It is from the same generation as the shiny, green initial version in 2011.The New 2DS XL uses the same game modules, and in terms of the basic design, nothing has changed. The newer model just happens to look a bit like Tupperware. Or my orange one does, at least. I don’t say that as a negative thing. In fact, I don’t think the colour contrast of orange and white looks too shabby at all. If that’s not your cup of tea, though, there is always the blue-black version.

With the launch of the New 2DS XL, Nintendo seems to be sticking with its propensity for christening its products with complicated names. First there was the Original 3DS, then the larger version called the 3DS XL. After that came the small, non-folding, 2D version known as the 2DS. With extra buttons, the New 3DS came following on its heels. Now we’ve reached the New 2DS XL. We’ve gone back to a bigger model, with additional buttons like on the New 3DS but without 3D.

Savings that you can live with (most of the time)

Let’s take a closer look at what the New 2DS XL can do. The drive for games is now placed more discretely behind a cover on the front of the handheld device. That’s also where you’ll find the microSD card slot. Unlike on the New 3DS, you don’t need a screwdriver to access it. Right next to that, you’ll find the headphone jack and the hidden pen. The latter has obviously shrunk. And no, you can’t remove it – I already tried that. If you have big hands, you should brace yourself for the outcome. Thanks to the asymmetric shape of the ballpoint, the pen is slightly tricky to store away. You can even encounter problems if you have small hands. To reach some of the extra buttons (ZL and ZR) on the reverse side, your fingers need to almost become longer. By contrast, the little grey knob above the XYAB keys is well placed.

You can hardly make out the writing

At first glance, it looks a bit strange to have both cameras on the reverse side. These let you snap 3D photos as before. But without the corresponding 3D display, it seems rather pointless.The 0.3 megapixel front-facing camera resolves slightly so you can take selfies. Unless you don’t want to be recognised anywhere. Admittedly, these devices are first and foremost for playing older games where you need to access the camera. You can even play AR games on them.

Incidentally, you can activate amiibo figures by putting them on the lower display.

Despite 2D, the battery doesn’t last long enough

According to designs, the 2DS XL is slightly smaller than the 3DS XL. To compensate for the smaller size, there is something messy hiding behind the hinge. Nevertheless, the device sits comfortably in your hand. That’s probably in part due to the rounded shape and the diet it went on. Compared with the 3DS XL, the 2DS XL is almost 100 grams lighter. Cutting out 3D technology seems to make it slim down. As for the display size, it has stayed the same (4.88 inches above, 4.18 inches below). This has reduced the resolution of the top screen considerably. Rather than 800x240 pixels, there are now 400x240 pixels because the screen doesn’t have to show two images next to each other for 3D any more. That makes me think of when mobile phones still had green and black displays. The image doesn’t look that bad, but given we’re all used to high-definition smartphone quality now, the display can look a bit dated. To compensate for this, Nintendo gave the 2DS XL more RAM.

Surprisingly, the reduced resolution doesn’t have a positive effect on battery performance. If you play games non-stop, the device runs out of steam after about four hours. On top of that, the standby mode doesn’t seem as efficient as before. When I put the various 3DS/2DS models side by side and switch them on for a mini photoshoot, the New 2DS XL is already on its last legs. Mind you, StreetPass was activated. All in all, the battery life is satisfactory even when I think back longingly to the almost 20 hours of battery on the old DS. But credit where credit is due: These devices still come with a power supply. Sadly, that isn’t a given these days.

The New 2DS XL is put in its place by the old 3DS XL and the New 3DS

The loudspeaker is now in the front edge, where it can easily be hidden by your palm. This muffles the already not very loud sound even more.

Apart from that, the workmanship can’t be faulted. The upper screen has become lighter as it doesn’t support 3D, making the whole device feel more balanced. You only need to shake the device slightly to get the screen to move up and down. But with normal use, it doesn’t shake.

The New 2DS XL does have a protruding hinge, but it’s still smaller than the 3DS XL

The hardware isn’t difficult for anyone to get to grips with. But let’s face it, the first 3DS technically isn’t the gold standard. What its success shows is that processor performance isn’t everything. You can still enjoy all your previous games, with very few exceptions, on all handheld devices. It’s clear to see that the games library is the biggest strong point of every Nintendo 3DS and 2DS. Over the last six years, Nintendo have amassed a fair game collection and they’re still releasing new titles. Given they’ve sold almost 70 million of them, it’s no wonder.

Should you upgrade your device or keep your old one?

If you already have a 3DS XL or one of its successors, you’d probably rather spend your money on games. Unless you’ve let yourself get sidetracked by the 2DS and are now peeved at how cumbersome the device is. There aren’t that many exclusive games for both «New» versions to warrant an upgrade. However, the virtual console does boast some NES and SNES games that require the additional buttons.

2DS or Switch?

But the question is this: do you even need a new 2DS when Nintendo’s most up-to-date games console is also handheld? Yes and no. You have so many more games to choose from on the New 2DS XL and the price tag is a lot lower. That’s why the Switch has more extravagantly produced games, such as the new Zelda, Splatoon 2 and Mario + Rabbids. The display on the Switch is also bigger, has a higher resolution and is capacitive. That means it reacts to touch rather than pressure. With its removable controllers, the Switch is definitely the more versatile console. This is reflected in the price, where you can expect to part with almost twice as much. In spite of a few 3DS/2DS highlights, the Switch still lags far behind when it comes to game selection.

Sooner or later, Nintendo handhelds will probably be replaced by the Switch. However, this changeover could take longer than anticipated because of the broad user base. If you’re looking to buy your child a cheap, portable game console, the new 2DS XL should tick all the boxes. Even big kids who travel a lot and like the sound of the game library don’t need to think twice before giving it a go. On the other hand, if you already have a 3DS XL or newer, there’s not much reason to change. And if you prefer more extravagant games, I’d recommend Switch.

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Being the game and gadget geek that I am, working at digitec and Galaxus makes me feel like a kid in a candy shop – but it does take its toll on my wallet. I enjoy tinkering with my PC in Tim Taylor fashion and talking about games on my podcast To satisfy my need for speed, I get on my full suspension mountain bike and set out to find some nice trails. My thirst for culture is quenched by deep conversations over a couple of cold ones at the mostly frustrating games of FC Winterthur. 

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