Cheaper mobile gaming: We take a closer look at Nintendo’s upcoming 2DS XL

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Nintendo announced, a month back, that they would be launching yet another iteration of their 3DS mobile games console. Joining the 3DS, the 2DS, the New 3DS, and the 3DS XL will be the 2DS XL, a handheld that looks set to make up for the faults that the 2DS was saddled with.

The handheld console is going to make its debut at the end of July this year but we managed to get our hands on a prototype sample. It should be noted, right off the bat, that the prototype (which we got from Nintendo — it wasn’t ‘found in a bar’ or anything) is non-functional, meaning that we weren’t able to get a bead on the machine’s performance. But its look and feel? We’ve done a lot of looking and we’ve done a bunch of feeling.

Better the second time

The 2DS XL is a huge improvement over the wedge-shaped 2DS, a statement that can be taken figuratively and literally. The screens for the console are in place in the demo blank and they’re identical in size to those seen in the 3DS XL. Even if it doesn’t look like it in the side-by-side image above — that is just the slightly different form factors messing with your eyes.

Nintendo are stripping out the 3D upper display. That… should be obvious, given the name, but almost all of the other bits are intact. The D-Pad, Circle Pad, ABXY buttons, that little camera nubbin, and shoulder buttons are all in place, lifted right from the 3DS XL’s configuration. There’s a front-facing camera on the hinge next to a mic port and dual rear cameras for… taking 3D photographs? Not that you can view them on this console, but okay.

Long story short? It looks and feels like the 2DS that should have come first — there’s no dinky, eye-straining screen here and the clamshell design feels made for taking on the road. Which, you know, it is.

Concessions to cost

There is a difference in build quality between the 2DS and 3DS XL. We weren’t able to get a proper weight comparison, as the blank is missing most of its internals but even packing identical hardware the cheaper plastic shell should result in a weight reduction.

That said, the newer handheld isn’t going to be flimsy. The plastic used may cost less but its still plenty durable. It just doesn’t have that premium feel the better-specced console does. It also doesn’t come apart, as bits of the 3DS XL do. More on that in a bit.

The buttons have had a similar downgrade. It’s not a negative, just a reduction of premium materials. The console’s lid is a lot thinner, again because of that missing 3D display, and the hinge feels a touch flimsier due to its smaller size. The blank did display a lot more stiffness than we’re used to when opening the console. That’s probably because it’s very new. For now.

Nintendo have us in two minds when it comes to inserting a microSD card and a cartridge. They’ve made it simpler to upgrade internal storage by putting the microSD slot under a flap at the base of the console (as seen above) instead of under a screwed-down plate. Great idea. The trouble is that you change your game cartridges in the same place, which could get annoying. Or maybe not. You’re not likely to swap carts multiple times in a session, or even in a day, so having it closed off by a flap of plastic could prove to be a good thing. Time will tell, once we use the working console.

Performance is predictable

While we haven’t had a chance to play with a working unit as yet, the demo unit is close enough in size and shape to the excellent 3DS XL that we’re confident we’ll know how this one will work. Drop the 3DS XL’s internals in here and it’ll take right off. In fact without the 3D display we’d expect the 2DS XL’s battery life to outstrip its older sibling. Nintendo’s going to take an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ to the console’s software, if we’re any judge, meaning that you’ll be shelling out far less than the 3DS XL’s R3,000 for a very similar experience come the end of July.

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