Nintendo’s 3DS handheld family is deep into its life cycle, and with so many versions already released combined with high demand for the Switch, you may be wondering where another 3DS model fits in. With the New 2DS XL, not only will newcomers get access to its vast library of games, but we get the best designed version of the dedicated handheld yet. As you can tell from the name, the New 2DS XL ditches 3D capabilities, but like the other DS systems with the “New” moniker, it’s equipped with the stronger processor and adopts many of the features that make the New 3DS XL great.

How The New 2DS XL Is Built

The original 2DS is an entry-level version with its slate-like design and omission of autostereoscopic 3D. It was also part of the older 2DS/3DS line that didn’t have the faster hardware or extra buttons. Now with the New 2DS XL, we get a handheld that doesn’t skip out on important features. Since this is an XL model, it’s equipped with 3DS XL-sized displays: a 4.9 in screen up top, and a 4.2 inch resistive touchscreen on the bottom. Both screens are well over an inch bigger than those of the original 2DS.

The New 2DS XL alongside the New 3DS XL.

This latest handheld adopts the clamshell design of the 3DS systems and mostly improves upon it. It’s slightly shorter in length, but shares the same width and depth as the 3DS XL. Additionally, a near perfect seal is created between the two halves of the 2DS XL when it’s closed. This is due to how the two screens are seated; the bottom screen doesn’t protrude as with every other clamshell-based 3DS and the top screen has a sleek smartphone-like build. The chassis sports a matte finish which makes for better grip and tops off the system’s simple, elegant look.

However, in every 3DS I’ve used, the hinge seemed to feel a little loose, causing the top portion to wobble back and forth if you gave it a little shake. Unfortunately, the same holds true for the 2DS XL. It’s as if the top is loosely screwed into the hinge; it gives a bit of a fragile feel to an otherwise solidly built system.

There are a few small changes compared to the New 3DS XL. The 2DS XL’s stereo speakers are located at the bottom corners of the body, but at louder volumes, you’ll notice the sound rattle the backend of the system, which makes it feel a bit cheap. Along the bottom of the system is the power button, and a 3.5mm audio jack adjacent to the stylus slot. The stylus is slightly shorter than the previous 3DS stylus by about half an inch. There’s now an enclosure that houses the game cartridge and microSD card, a noteworthy improvement over the 3DS XL, which left game cartridges exposed and forced you to take out the stubborn backplate to insert the SD card. The front-facing camera moved to the hinge and the two forward facing cameras moved to the top of the backplate.

System Weight Dimensions (inches) Screen Sizes (inches)
New 2DS XL 9.2 oz / 260 g 6.3 x 6.4 (open) / 3.4 (closed) x 0.8 4.9 (top) / 4.2 (bottom)
New 3DS XL 11.6 oz / 329 g 6.3 x 6.8 (open) / 3.7 (closed) x 0.8 4.9 (top) / 4.2 (bottom)
2DS 9.2 oz / 260 g 5.7 x 5.0 x 0.8 3.5 (top) / 3.0 (bottom)

It’s All About The Games

The original 3DS released in early 2011, which was a very different time for handheld gaming devices. And through each iteration of the 3DS–even in the “New” models–screen resolutions haven’t changed. In 2017, the 400×240 (top) and 320×240 (bottom) resolutions feel somewhat antiquated and noticeably low-res compared to many other devices. You can’t exactly blame the New 2DS XL, though. Higher resolution screens would also require hardware faster than the already-upgraded processor of the “New” DS systems. Equipped with the quad-core ARM11 CPU at 804 MHz, the New 2DS XL does provide that extra juice for snappy navigation through the operating system and user interface.

There are a handful of games that actually require the faster hardware, like Xenoblade Chronicles 3D, Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, and a bunch of SNES games on virtual console. Many notable games run better and load faster as well, such as Pokemon Sun / Moon, Monster Hunter Generations, and Super Smash Bros. for 3DS. So, while the screens look pixelated, it doesn’t negate the fact that the platform is home to a breadth of amazing games. If you still haven’t played Bravely Default, Fire Emblem Awakening, or The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, now would be a good time to jump in.

Every game in the 3DS family will work on the New 2DS XL, but you won’t get the autostereoscopic 3D. While the 3D effect was certainly neat, especially with how the New 3DS XL auto-detected your distance from the device, it isn’t essential to play any of the system’s games as it doesn’t serve a gameplay function.

The adoption of the c-stick means you’ll get superior camera controls and additional functions in certain games. And while it looks and feels stiff, the c-stick recognizes minuscule movements. After playing Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D, it’s hard to imagine playing it without the c-stick. The circle pad also offers smooth movement, but still doesn’t match the ergonomics of an actual analog sticks. As for the rest of the controls (face buttons, directional pad, and triggers), they all offer solid tactile feel.

When it comes to battery life, expect roughly 3.5 to 4.5 hours of play time after a full charge. Our battery life test was conducted by playing The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time with full brightness and Wi-Fi enabled, and resulted in approximately 3 hours and 55 minutes straight of play time.

What’s In The Box

Along with the system itself, you’ll get a 4 GB Toshiba microSDHC memory card, though you’ll want more storage capacity if you plan on downloading games. For reference, the download size of Pokemon Sun / Moon is almost 3.2 GB, leaving room for not much else. But older games don’t take up as much space: The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D takes up about 650 MB and Mario Kart 7 is around 1 GB. One of the biggest blunders of the New 3DS XL was the absence of an AC adapter, but thankfully a charger is packaged with the New 2DS XL. It’s the same charger required for other models and uses the same proprietary charging port. An NFC reader is built into the system, so you’ll get support for all your amiibo.

Should You Buy A New 2DS XL?

At a time when the Nintendo Switch is changing how people play games at home and on the go, it’s fair to question the need for another model of the 3DS system–especially over six years into its life cycle. It comes down to whether or not you’ve played what this platform has to offer. A few notable games are set to release later this year, like Metroid: Samus Returns and Fire Emblem Warriors, but the 3DS is a known quantity at this point. For someone who’s looking for a portable gaming platform, the New 2DS XL is a great solution, especially as the Switch starts to build out its roster of games. The New 2DS XL is also half the price of a Switch.

Despite a few shortcomings–such as the wobbly top screen and older tech–there’s a lot to like about the New 2DS XL. Should you consider buying one if you already have a New 3DS XL? Probably not. However, if you’re still on one of the older DS models or interested in jumping into the expansive library of 3DS games, I would highly recommend you consider the New 2DS XL. The platform may be showing its age, but it’s Nintendo’s best DS system yet.