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Hardware Review: Nintendo 3DS

Posted by Corbie Dillard

We take Nintendo's 3D portable wonder for a spin

To say that the buzz surrounding the upcoming Nintendo 3DS system is insane would probably be the understatement of the century. The system has garnered an incredible amount of hype and anticipation over the past year since it was announced and now that we've had a hefty dose of playing time on the unit, we thought we'd let you in on our thoughts about it.

When you first take the 3DS out of its protective wrapper, not much can prepare you for just how glossy and shiny it truly is. Now while this does mean the unit will show every single fingerprint that touches it, it does give the system a very sleek and glittery look. Its shape and feel is very similar to that of the DS Lite with its slippery outer shell and smooth rounded edges. About the only dead giveaway would be the system's layered plastic makeup that does give it a very unique look and feel.

The first major difference from past DS systems is the addition of the analogue Circle Pad, something DS owners have been clamouring for since Super Mario 64 was launched alongside the original DS system. Despite the Circle Pad's similar look to that of the analogue nub on the Sony PSP, it's actually quite a bit more comfortable to use, not to mention a bit larger in size. Rather than the hard plastic makeup of Sony's analogue nub, the Circle Pad has a slightly more rubbery feel which makes it not only easier on your thumb, but also gives it a bit more grip.

Adding in the Circle Pad meant that Nintendo would have to find a new home for its D-Pad and that location is now just below the Circle Pad. Now while this obviously offers up the question as how comfortable it will be using the D-Pad given how much lower down on the system's control face it now is, we can safely say that it works just fine in its new location. Sure it feels a little odd right at first, but once you use it for a while, it quickly becomes like second nature. And given how much more control response the analogue Circle Pad offers, having the D-Pad moved down a bit is a small price to pay in the overall scheme of things.

Of course we can't talk about controls without mentioning the buttons of the unit, and once again there are a nice variety of them to play around with. The system once again features the 4 action buttons on the control face with the two shoulder buttons on top of the unit. The other buttons have been moved around a bit with the power button now residing on the left lower side of the system's control face and the SELECT, HOME, and START buttons lined up along the bottom of the touch-screen. Much like the D-Pad, it just takes a little getting used to, but soon you'll be hitting the buttons instinctively.

On top of the action and function buttons, the 3DS also features sliders for volume, 3D depth, and wi-fi. The depth slider tends to feature a looser feel, similar to the volume button on the DS Lite system, whereas the volume and wi-fi sliders are far more tight and don't have any wiggle to them. All three work quite well, although the slight looseness of the depth slider can cause it to be moved just from picking it up or carrying the system around. It's certainly not a major concern, but it does make you wonder why Nintendo didn't give it the same tucked in feel the other sliders feature.

Once again Nintendo has made use of dual screens, but this time one of the screens is not only a 5:3 widescreen, it also features full 3D without the need for any type of glasses. The crispness and clarity of the top 3D screen is impeccable from the moment you first lay eyes on it. Of course keeping the 3D in focus will mean keeping the system centred in front of your eyes, something you'll become more accustomed to the more time you spend playing the system. Even when you switch the 3D function off, the screen still shows the type of vibrancy and clarity we've come to expect from Nintendo's portable game systems over the years. The bottom screen is a standard 2D touch-screen and performs and functions just like the one on the previous DS models.

In keeping with backward compatibility, the 3DS will even allow you to play your classic DS games. They will be stretched to fit the screen vertically by default, something that will make them a bit fuzzy and washed out colour-wise. If you're not a fan of having the DS games stretched out a bit, you can always hold the SELECT and START buttons when you load them up and play them in their native resolution. The only downside to this is that playing the games in their native resolution will make them a tad small in size given the higher resolution of the 3DS screens, but it's a small price to pay for the added vibrancy and clarity.

The speakers remain in their same location on both sides of the top screen, although the 3DS uses dots in the shape of a crosshair instead of the two tiny oval openings like those on the DSi. Sound quality is quite good and seems to come off a bit more spacious on the 3DS. Nintendo has also moved the 3.5mm headphone output over from the bottom right side of the system to the bottom middle, a nice touch which keeps it out of the way of your hands this time around.

The LED lights on the 3DS are a bit more strung out on the unit and feature an additional fourth light that displays alerts such as friend communications, StreetPass, and SpotPass functions. The power on and charging lights are housed on the bottom edge of the system with the wi-fi and alert lights on the top right side and top right hinge respectively. While the power and charging buttons only light up when the system is powered on and/or charging, the wi-fi and alert lights will typically blink during various communications. The alert light will even turn red and blink to warn you when your battery life is beginning to get low.

Another new addition with the 3DS comes in the form and location of the stylus. This time around Nintendo has included a telescoping stylus that extends to form a fairly lengthy stylus that should be comfortable for just about any size hand. The stylus compartment is also now located on top of the unit rather than on the right side like the DSi. It takes a little getting used to, as anyone used to the DSi system will find themselves constantly reaching for the stylus on the right side of the system.

Although it's only a 2GB SD Card, Nintendo was at least kind enough to include one in the box this time around. In fact, they were so generous, that they went ahead and installed it into the system for you, something which left me aimlessly searching around the 3DS box for 15 minutes looking for it. While we've yet to get an official confirmation on what the size limit for these SD cards is, I've tried up to a 32GB card and they all performed flawlessly. You'll also be able to launch games directly from the SD card this time, yet another long-awaited feature.

The addition of the cameras on the DSi opened up some brand new things that could be done with the system, including augmented reality. With the 3DS system, you still get an inside and outside camera system, but this time the 3DS features two camera lenses on the outside of the system allowing you to shoot photos in full 3D. It also allows developers to use these cameras for augmented reality in full 3D as well. If you need a little sampling, Nintendo have been kind enough to pre-install two AR games for you to try out that show just how amazing these cameras can make gaming experiences when used correctly.

For any of us who've spent any significant time with a portable game system, we know how gruelling it can be to plug that tiny AC adapter fitting into our system. There's absolutely no telling how many countless man-hours have been wasted partaking of this painstaking activity. Well we can all breath a huge collective sigh of relief as Nintendo has felt our pain and finally included a charging dock with the system called the Charging Cradle. Now you just gently sit your 3DS on top of the cradle to charge and walk away with no strenuous plugging in of the AC Adapter whatsoever.

To round out the package, you'll once again have a HOME menu that controls all of the inner workings of the 3DS system. These range from your settings all the way to Mii creation tools. You'll even have the Camera and Sound applications to toy around with once again, although Nintendo hasn't added much to the Sound application and is surprisingly similar to the one found on the DSi system. You can also tackle a host of AR Games using the included set of AR card or paste your ugly mug onto one of the Face Raiders and take part in an all out augmented reality war right there inside of your very own surroundings.

It would be nearly impossible to not be wildly impressed with Nintendo's newest portable wonder. The 3DS delivers one of the most amazing gaming experiences we're ever seen, and it does so with many of the conveniences we've become accustomed to from Nintendo over the years. The inclusion of the Circle Pad immediately pays dividends and the 3D screen alone is worth the price of the system. While there's really no way for us to convey exactly how amazing the system's 3D display truly is, we're confident that once you lay eyes on this incredible system in person, you'll be lined up with everyone else come launch day. So after careful consideration, not to mention countless hours of playing time, I'm going to have to stand by my original evaluation of the 3DS - it's incredible, absolutely incredible.

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User Comments (80)

zezhyrule

#1

zezhyrule said:

Awesome! I can't wait to buy one in 2 years!

/me goes to buy a PSP

Not to sound like a Sony fanboy here, I just never buy consoles at release :3

TeeJay

#2

TeeJay said:

The more compliments this system gets about how incredibly amazing it is, the more I want it. T h i s i s t a k i n g f o r e v e r ! ! !

Again with the Blue 3DS...why doesn't anyone give the shiny black one a chance? :(

Don't worry Black 3DS, you'll get the love you deserve when I buy you.

47drift

#5

47drift said:

How are the shoulder buttons? Do they break after only a few uses like the DS Lite and DSi shoulder buttons? I'm pretty sick of having to blow into them on my DSi. :T

JimLad

#7

JimLad said:

Stop tempting me!
I decided not to get one just because I never play any of my handhelds.
That said, the new ones always get me excited.

CorbsAdmin

#8

Corbs said:

I've never had a problem with any of my DS system's shoulder buttons and so far the 3DS has performed flawlessly. So here's hoping it continues too. :D

Gavin_Rozee

#9

Gavin_Rozee said:

I enjoyed reading that.

One thing you may want to change though: the top screen is a 5:3 ratio, not 16:9.

outrun2sp

#11

outrun2sp said:

Works out well for me when i get one later in the year.

GBA SP to play GBA and GB games

3DS to play 3DS and DS games

Ive got everything covered.

CorbsAdmin

#12

Corbs said:

I'm working on the Super Monkey Ball 3D review now and we still have the Ridge Racer 3D review coming next week. Of course as soon as the review copies start rolling in, we'll have plenty more. :D

rhythmheavenfan

#13

rhythmheavenfan said:

I can't wait to buy the system, but I'm a little disappointed with the launch games. There's really nothing that looks good to me. Maybe I'll settle with Super Monkey Ball or Nintendogs.

Issun

#14

Issun said:

I've already spent about 30 minutes total in stores trying it : I love it already. Glad I can actually see the 3D and also having preordered it last September :) 13 Days left ! The wait is starting to kill me.
Oh and you have already Okamiden you cheeky monkey, I envy you !

2-D

#16

2-D said:

It's becoming harder and harder not to buy one, haha
I can't afford it atm and I'm not crazy about the launch titles, so I'm gonna wait for the inevitable hardware reconfiguration. Honest.

TeeJay

#17

TeeJay said:

I hope my grades don't plummet when I purchase mine. I'm already having a hard time staying focused on work when I'm working on anything outside of class. For some reason, this doesn't affect me during class. Probably because I'm too busy participating...god thing too.

citizenerased

#18

citizenerased said:

I was actually more excited seeing Okamiden than the 3DS (got a bit of a 3DS oversaturation I guess), but that's probably just me. Not many exciting games on the 3DS yet, but I'm sure they'll come.

DestinyMan

#19

DestinyMan said:

You guys really know how to pump up the hype, because I'm feeling it as I should be! Once I lay eyes on the 3DS's screen it'll be like a miracle!

Rensch

#21

Rensch said:

I'm really curious about this thing. I won get it day one but once there are some games that I like start coming around I'll pick it up.

maka

#24

maka said:

I'm a bit disappointed about how DS games will look on the 3DS... I'm thinking about trading my DSi for a DSiXL as soon as I transfer all the DSiWare titles to the 3DS... That way I can enjoy the DS games to the fullest (and finally be able t o use the shoulder buttons again...)

shinesprite

#26

shinesprite said:

@Corbie I noticed you didn't say anything about the IR sensor in the back of the system. Have you had a chance to try it out? What was your experience with it?

Omenapoika

#28

Omenapoika said:

Thanks for the hands on Mr C!
I've been lucky enough to try the system in a Nintendo party in Finland, and I agree that this is an awesome console. (Along with the OoT, it seems I'll be getting my 4th copy of the game... :D)
But there's a thing I haven't been able to find out: does the sound application play mp3s?

DrCruse

#29

DrCruse said:

The shiny blue metallic color gives it a cheap look IMO. I'm definitely more interested in getting a PSP, or even NGP to be honest.

NGpenguin

#33

NGpenguin said:

this is a nice read, at first i thought this was a reveiw once into reading this....

I really cant wait!!

Colors

#34

Colors said:

I got a black gameboy advance SP, a black DS lite, and a black Dsi. Obviously I'm going to get the black 3DS.

JoeDiddley

#35

JoeDiddley said:

Great impressions.

I really don't understand what the deal is with the charging cradle. I often play my portable consoles plugged in. It sounds less user friendly to have to hold the 3DS in the cradle when it's charging, especially as the batteries need charging every 3 hours.
What are the pros & cons of the cradle?

Token_Girl

#36

Token_Girl said:

Nintendo should be paying you guys, because I am going to have to buy this thing once the May shop update comes (want to be able to sell the DSi after I transfer my DSiWare). I was planning to wait even longer, originally, but between you guys and Kid Icarus I'm going to have to get one this spring/summer (depending on how difficult it is to find).

TimeGuy

#40

TimeGuy said:

Does the 3DS have any internal memory? Nintendo has said nothing about that so far.

BleachFan

#41

BleachFan said:

I haven't been keeping up to date with this...

Has Nintendo addressed the problem that left-handed people might encounter with games that use the circle pad and the touch screen simultaneously?

JohnDoe123

#42

JohnDoe123 said:

Great article. Are you going to do a hands on of the included applications? (Photos, Mii Maker, etc.)

JumpmanZ

#46

JumpmanZ said:

@35 The charger is a DSi charger that plugs into the cradle for easy charging. You can unplug it from the cradle and straight into the 3DS if you want to play plugged in. Or you could have a charger plugged into the cradle and just have one from a DSi for direct charging. However you do it, you can still easily play while charging. Hope that helped, now I have to get back to playing Pokemon Black. :)

djosh444

#50

djosh444 said:

i tried the 3ds in london. today and its brilliant!!! definitely gettin at launch.
a bit off topic though- is the 3ds touch screen multitouch capable?

Glade

#52

Glade said:

@44 well look at the 3Ds's sales so far.....
and you still think its DoA!!??? pffft..

Rankerfire2

#55

Rankerfire2 said:

OH BOY SO EXICTIED! Preordered mine like in janurary. I can not wait for the release date.!!!!!!!!!!!!

1080ike

#56

1080ike said:

I didn't think I could get any more excited, but this hand on changed my mind. I'll be counting down the days.
And is that a Japanese copy of Okamiden, or is that a PAL/American copy?

nmozdzier

#59

nmozdzier said:

Yay black 3DS!!! Sigh it is annoying though, all of my friends are all skeptical of the 3DS.

SilverBaretta

#60

SilverBaretta said:

There was quite a few "of course" utterings in that article, but it's definitely one heck on an informative read. Nice one, Corbie, I can't wait to try it out myself! :)

the_randomizer

#61

the_randomizer said:

15 days left - 360 hours - 21,600 minutes, which would make it only 31,104,000 seconds left to go. 31,104,000.....31,103,999....31,103,998....
31,103.997......

tommm

#62

tommm said:

Corbes, what do you mean by launching games directly from your SD Card. Are you talking about Virtual Console games.

Ronald0wnzu

#63

Ronald0wnzu said:

The blue 3DS looks very sexy. I'm glad I preordered mine in January and am only number 5 on the list at my local Gamestop. 15 MORE DAYS! =/

CorbsAdmin

#67

Corbs said:

Yes, that's the US review copy of Okamiden. It came yesterday when I was taking pics so I tossed it in there. And the many "of course" utterings come from writing this up over a 5 day period rather than my usual sitting down and writing something in one go. You lose track of what you've already said. LOL :D

CorbsAdmin

#69

Corbs said:

Black one has that same glittery look and it's not even really black. It's dark gray. :) Had it actually been real black, I might have picked one up.

marcus3DS

#70

marcus3DS said:

@52

that was my point exactly,

the ngp needs a price point, a release date and a nintendo to make software for it - 2/3 is not enough, so, enjoy your PS suite, ppl

AlexSays

#72

AlexSays said:

Hey hey hey, I have a question. Are those pre-installed games on the SD card, and can you delete them?

I don't even like it when apps come with my phone..

On another note, I like how the picture above the caption about "classic DS games" features a DS game that isn't even out for most people. lol.

Edit: CRAP I FOUND MY ANSWER. No you cannot delete them. Now I always have to look at them.. >.>

Marioman64

#73

Marioman64 said:

wait... wifi SLIDER? how is there a slider for wifi. "Oh yes I think i'll keep my connectivity at 25% today." ?

CorbsAdmin

#77

Corbs said:

Yeah the slider is spring-loaded. You slide it up and it returns to its original position when you let go of it. So you can only turn Wf-Fi off or on. No in-between settings. LOL

And yeah AlexSays, you gotta keep them. LOL

WhiteTrashGuy

#79

WhiteTrashGuy said:

I have mine preordered at my locally owned gamestore, Video Game Headquarters. They're going to be getting 20 and I'm # 4 (oh - damn, I inadvertantly promoted that damn movie!). I don't have the money as of yet, so I guess I am going to have to sell some of my graded X-Men books on Ebay and perhaps trade in a couple of titles.

Phobos

#80

Phobos said:

Didn't pre-order mine. I am in a heck-load of trouble? ...To heck with all this, the night before the release, I'm sleeping outside VMH. Shiny black 3DS, it'll be just me and you. :D

Nice article, by the way - it answered a few lingering questions. :)

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