New Nintendo 2DS XL review: A top-notch gaming portable


With the Switch, Nintendo seems to have a bona fide hit on its hands: It’s still all but impossible to find in stores, and a promising new slate of games shown at the E3 gaming show has only ramped up interest.

But even though the Switch does double duty as a home and mobile console, Nintendo is still cranking out new derivations on its pure portable line. The New Nintendo 2DS XL is the latest and, in many ways, the best Nintendo portable yet. It retains the big twin screens of the earlier (and still available) New Nintendo 3DS XL, but loses the gimmicky 3D effect that’s effectively unused in most games.

Best of all, the 2DS XL has a slightly trimmed-down version of the 3DS XL clamshell design, rather than the weird flat frame and tiny screens of the budget standard 2DS model. It’s available now in the US, UK and Australia for $150, £130 and AU$200, respectively.

With an unparalleled design, Nintendo’s already-impressive game library — it plays nearly every 3DS and DS game, in cartridge or download form — and an affordable price, there’s little here not to like. But like the recent PlayStation 4 Slim ($269.99 at Amazon Marketplace) and Xbox One S ($302.91 at Amazon.com), this is really just a more affordable repackaging of an existing console: Effectively, it’s a 3DS XL price cut, rather than anything really new. So while it’s a great product with a fantastic game library, there’s no burning reason to buy it if you already have one of the preceding models.

This review was originally published on June 26. It has been updated to reflect the 2DS XL’s availability in the US and UK.

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The 2DS (right), New 2DS XL and New 3DS XL (right)


Sarah Tew/CNET

Refined design

The 2DS XL moves away from the two-screen flat tablet design of the original 2DS released back in 2013. Instead, it’s the folding handheld style used for most of the DS range. What’s more, it does it while looking and feeling better than any other DS that came before.

The dimensions are almost identical to the 3DS XL. Both pack the top 4.9-inch and bottom 4.2-inch dual screens (the bottom one is a touchscreen); both sit at around 6.3 by 3.4 by 0.8 inches (160 by 86 by 20mm) when closed. But the 2DS XL is markedly lighter than the 328 gram 3DS XL, tipping the scales at 238 grams (8.4 ounces). The two sides of the unit will close together cleanly into one gradual curved edge, where the 3DS’s rounded top half left a sizable crevasse.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The matte plastic finish and raised ridging on the top side feel better and cleaner than the glossy pearlescence of previous generations. The hinge is exposed, so the actual top panel is smaller, which in turn makes the top hero screen look bigger. The cartridge slot is hidden behind a subtle curved panel, to stop you accidentally popping out your game. All told, the 2DS XL feels like a refined version of a classic, because that’s what it is.

Depending upon your region, you’ll be able to nab the new 2DS in either black and turquoise or a very BB-8-ish white and orange. Both options are quite eye-catching, and the turquoise and orange details break up the flat colour slabs very nicely. Personally, I opted for the black and turquoise, because if something is living in my bag, it’s not going to stay white for long.

I do take umbrage with one aspect of the physical design. You’ve got the supersized 2DS, right? Bigger screen, bigger case. So why for the love of all that is holy is the stylus so short? A side-by-side comparison with the 3DS XL stylus reveals the 2DS XL stylus is only half an inch shorter, but boy is that incremental measurement important. It means the difference between comfortably holding the stylus as you would a pen or needing to use some sort of cramped, arcane, twisted claw gesture on a stylus made for ants. Or, more likely, small kids’ hands. But if you’re a grown-up with grown-up hands, go for a third-party option.


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New Nintendo 2DS XL review: A top-notch gaming portable

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