The XL weighs about 4 ounces more than the 3DS, but it's nothing that will immediately strike you as heavy. In fact, I welcome the increased weight and size. I complained that the 3DS felt awkward in my hands because of the unnatural shape I was forced to hold them in. The XL is by far more ergonomically friendly -- it feels great to hold and play. The XL is also slightly thinner than the 3DS when folded shut.
Performance and 3D
Like I mentioned earlier, the 3DS and XL operate nearly identically. There doesn't seem to be any horsepower improvement at all. So what about the 3D effect? I complained about the 3DS' knack for unsyncing 3D when you move the viewing angle, but it does seem that the XL's 3D "sweet spot" is a bit wider. The handshake that your eyes must do to lock in the effect is easier to find on the XL. That said, its tendency to fall out again seems just as sensitive. Once again, playing in 3D on a bumpy car or subway ride will most likely frustrate you or give you a headache. When you don't have the luxury of remaining still, I'd recommend turning 3D off.
I'm pleased to report that the XL's battery life is a big improvement over the original's. On average I'm getting about 4 to 7 hours of battery life, better than the 3DS' 3- to 5-hour range. It's still nowhere near the double digits I was getting with the DSi, but it's certainly a welcome upgrade.
For those who might be upgrading from an original 3DS, the XL allows the transferring of content from one system to the other. This operation can only be done a maximum of five times and only once a week.
Setting up a transfer is easy, following a set of onscreen instructions. However, the process itself can take around 30 minutes to fully complete. Also, any downloaded titles will not make the trip. This means that once the transfer is over, you'll need to manually download again every last title you've purchased from the 3DS Shop. It's not the most glamorous of work flows, but with a little patience it does seem to get the job done.
No two ways about it, the 3DS XL is definitely the best of the 3DS consoles out there. It's sturdy, solidly built, and more ergonomic, and has screens that dwarf its predecessor's. That aside, Nintendo really should have included the elusive right circle pad here; that's a missed opportunity and something that gamers and critics alike will bash it for.
Regardless of the 3DS XL's look, feel, and performance, there's still the overlying issue of games. A portable console is nothing without a great library of games, and the 3DS still fails to provide more than just a handful of must-own titles. Your decision to buy a unit should revolve around your desire to play its games, so it's absolutely paramount that this be considered before buying. It's safe to say that there will be a laundry list of first-party Nintendo games and reboots that will hit the platform, but these releases are sporadic at best.
At $200, the XL still falls below the 3DS' original price, but those looking to save $30 still have the option to go for the original. At launch, the XL will be available in North America in two-tone red/black or blue/black.
By no means do I think a current 3DS owner should make the upgrade to the 3DS XL unless he or she absolutely must have the bigger screens. There are simply not enough improvements that warrant a new purchase, which is why the XL should really only be sought out by newcomers to 3DS games.