Ever since the original DS, Nintendo has been using innovation to sell its consoles. With the DS it was a touch screen, while with the Wii it was motion control. Now the ‘next big thing’ is 3D. It’s in everything from our TVs (like the Samsung D7000) to our laptops (such as the impressive HP Envy 17 3D). However, one of the most frequent complaints about these methods for giving you that extra dimension are the glasses you have to wear to get the effect. So Nintendo has utilized a glasses-free 3D display to give its new portable console’s graphics extra depth without the eyewear, and called it the 3DS.
The question that’s bound to be on many people’s minds is whether the 3DS is just a souped-up DS with a gimmicky 3D screen. Does the real deal live up to our largely positive impressions from our 3DS hands-on in January? Read on to find out.
First off, let’s talk about the design. The basics of Nintendo’s successful clamshell design haven’t changed too much since the days of the original GameBoy Advance SP. With the original DS it gained in width to accommodate widescreen displays, with the DS Lite Nintendo slimmed things down and gave its portable those sleek lines that have helped it sell like hot cakes ever since. The evolutionary DSi didn’t mess with a successful formula and neither, essentially, does the 3DS.
Mind you, that’s very much a good thing; clamshells work for a reason. Most importantly, they protect the 3DS’ screens from dirt and scratches, meaning that a case is not required as it is for the Sony PSP. Another major advantage is that you can angle the main display to be comfortable for viewing while leaving the bottom half of the 3DS at an ergonomic angle for the controls. On the PSP you have to go for one or the other.
Despite the extra processing power in the 3DS, it’s virtually the same size as the DS and DSi. In fact, when they’re closed these consoles can be a little hard to tell apart, with the main differentiator being the 3DS’ twin cameras instead of a single one on the DSi and none on the DS.
As usual for Nintendo, build quality is very solid. The 3DS feels like it can take most of the abuse many people subject portable consoles to without breaking; the plastics are strong and thick, while the hinge offers smooth action.
Unfortunately, Nintendo has decided to go back to glossy for the 3DS. After switching to a matt finish with the DSi, we were hoping this would be a permanent change. Shiny might look better and the finish Nintendo has used is more resilient than most, but after only a few hours your console will be covered in unsightly fingerprints that need to be wiped off if you want to keep it looking good. Call us boring, but we find a matt finish just looks more… mature.
Another thing we’re not sure about is Nintendo’s choice to use a gradation in the colour of its new portable. Whether you go for the Cosmos Black or Aqua Blue version, the top half fades to a slightly lighter colour on the bottom half. It makes the console look like it consists of two disparate bits stuck together, and we far prefer the unified shade of the older DS generation.
Mind you, as far as colour choices go, both black and aqua are very attractive, and we wouldn’t be surprised if pink and white joined the party later in the 3DS’ life-cycle. Indeed, on its own merits, the 3DS is quite a good-looking console.