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Nintendo 3DS - Speakers, Screens and 3D

Ardjuna Seghers

By Ardjuna Seghers

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

8

Built into the 3DS’ top half to either side of the screen, its stereo speakers are quite impressive. They pump out more volume than their size would suggest, and while clarity isn’t anything to boast about, they throw in a modicum of bass too. They’re perfectly usable for games and even movies, though for the latter we would still strongly suggest headphones.

As already mentioned, the 3DS’ 3in bottom screen allows for the same resistive interaction as before, but its resolution is upped from 256 x 192 to a far healthier 320 x 240, making menus, text and graphics look sharper than ever before. Viewing angles are adequate, and – surprisingly - slightly stronger on the vertical than horizontal plane. It’s no AMOLED display like on the Samsung Galaxy S or IPS-based iPhone 4 Retina display, but it’s good enough for its purpose.

The top screen is really where the magic happens. It’s 3.5 inches and sports an impressive 800 x 240 resolution, though in 3D you only get 400 x 240. This is a necessary sacrifice to achieve that third dimension. The screen achieves the illusion of depth without glasses (called autostereoscopy) by essentially feeding your eyes two images separated by a parallax barrier (a series of carefully calibrated slits) so that, from the right angle, each eye sees only the image intended for it.

Does it work? In a word, yes! Of course it’s not flawless. Go too far off-angle and the illusion disappears, leaving you seeing a double image. However, the workable angles are surprisingly generous, and as long as you’re not trying to view the display with more than one person, you shouldn’t have too much trouble maintaining 3D.

It is a little more tiring on the eyes than plain old 2D, but we would definitely argue that – obviously depending on the software or game – the extra immersion makes this more than worthwhile. And the best news is that if you would rather do without for a while, that’s perfectly possible. To the right of the screen is a 3D depth slider, with which you can adjust the perceived depth to your liking or even (shock, horror) turn the 3D-effect off altogether. This really is a great feature, as it gives you the choice of how you want to view your content.

It’s a good thing, then, that the top screen holds up fairly well in 2D mode. Viewing angles are superior to the bottom one, though still far from perfect. Aside from this it’s sharp, punchy and bright with relatively deep blacks, helped by a glossy finish that does cause annoying reflections when playing particularly dark titles in a bright environment. Again, we would have preferred a matt finish, but it wasn’t to be.

One other annoyance is that, when playing previous generation DS titles, there are significant black bars around the top image. It essentially becomes 3in rather than 3.5in, and we can’t help but wish Nintendo had found some way of harnessing the 3DS’ extra processing power to upscale the top image to match the screen’s dimensions.

justinh

March 25, 2011, 12:31 pm

Just a minor comment on the quote "Considering its small premium over previous generation DS systems". I don't see this. Nintendo DSI can be purchased from many online retailers for £100, a saving of £87 or approx 45%. Otherwise a good review.

Luan Bach

March 25, 2011, 12:59 pm

@justinh, and some places goes as low as £89.

Simon

March 25, 2011, 1:53 pm

Now seems the perfect time to buy a DS if they are only £90.

KultiVator

March 25, 2011, 2:11 pm

Decent review. Just one minor nit-pick...

" It’s no AMOLED display like on the Samsung Galaxy S or iPhone 4 Retina display"

...iPhone 4 uses IPS-derived LCD technology, rather than AMOLED.

PoisonJam

March 25, 2011, 2:15 pm

@ justinh I believe the reviewer is talking about respective launch prices.

Tim Sutton

March 25, 2011, 2:18 pm

@justinh

The respective prices at launch is specifically stated when talking about value. I understand the PSOne was available quite a bit cheaper than the PS3 on PS3 launch day, but I'm not sure it was better value :-)

BOFH UK

March 25, 2011, 2:22 pm

"On the best launch titles, quality would appear to be somewhat better than the level of the original Xbox â€" an impressive feat considering this is a mobile console and that it needs to render each frame twice to output 3D." See a year ago I'd have agreed with you but look at what the iPhone (or better yet the iPad 2) is doing now and I'm not so sure it is that impressive to be honest.

And that's kinda my worry with the 3DS, that it's going to feel very dated very quickly. Not just in terms of graphics (Nintendo have proved that's not a major issue in the portable space, at least for their target market) but it just feels... old fashioned somehow. The stylus feels like an antique (and the resistive screen really removed the option of good finger control), the styling is a bit too close to the DS for comfort, the on-line options are, in places, a bit weak... Lots of little things adding up to what could be a big problem.

The one saving grace, the 3D stuff, effectively got neutered this week when Nintendo announced all games MUST run in 2D as well as 3D modes. That takes out any possibility of introducing real gameplay innovations and just reduces it to increasing immersion. That feels like a bad move to me and really removes a lot of my interest in the system.

Don't get me wrong, it's going to sell like gangbusters and I'm sure a lot of people will be very happy with it. I just can't help but wonder if it'll have the sort of long term impact that the DS (and its many many revisions) had especially as phones and other mobile devices race ahead with new technology at a ridiculous rate.

KultiVator

March 25, 2011, 2:41 pm

With Nintendo's track record of tweaking - wouldn't be too surprised to see a revised model with improved battery life within a year or so.

Ryan131

March 25, 2011, 2:50 pm

I'm probably going to get one of these, having been mightily impressed when I played Zelda and Resident Evil at a preview event a few weeks ago.

The launch titles are very uninspiring, however... I think I'll wait for now.

Michael G

March 25, 2011, 3:08 pm

@KultiVator


Decent review. Just one minor nit-pick...

" It’s no AMOLED display like on the Samsung Galaxy S or iPhone 4 Retina display"

...iPhone 4 uses IPS-derived LCD technology, rather than AMOLED.

Re-read, there's an "or" in that sentence, there is no implication that the iPhone uses AMOLED.

Personally for me, I feel the device is kind of ugly. It's very boxy looking, it doesn't strike me as being sleek and stylish.

TechVegan

March 25, 2011, 3:39 pm

@justinh:
As PoinsonJam and Tim Sutton said, I was referring to the launch price.

@KultiVator:
Don't worry, I'm well aware of that, since I'm a screen technlology fan and review monitors :) The AMOLED part was just referring to the Samsung, but it was easy to read amiss so I've altered it for clarification. Thanks!

@Tim Sutton:
Excellent comparison there :)

@BOFH:
In fact, some almost look like Xbox 360 titles played on a standard definition telly, and the 3D effect really helps to disguise any 'rough edges'. I'd say graphically the 3DS has little to worry about for now, and the experience offered is far superior to playing games on a smartphone.
But I do agree with your overall point. For better or for worse, the 3DS physically looks and feels like a product that could have come out several years ago. However, I'm with KultiVator in guessing/hoping that Nintendo will streamline it and improve the battery life on updated iterations (as with the DS > DS Lite).

@Ryan:
Indeed, Resi looked fantastic :)
Waiting never hurts, so probably a good call.

hankb6d

March 25, 2011, 3:50 pm

I highly recommend you try before you buy, not just for the 3D effect but the upscaling of your DS library. It's not the prettiest.

GoldenGuy

March 25, 2011, 4:42 pm

@ Michael G

"Personally for me, I feel the device is kind of ugly. It's very boxy looking, it doesn't strike me as being sleek and stylish."

I know design aesthetics are subjective and all but I still don''t understand the positive reviews for the whole DS line, in that respect. Their dull, boxy, plasticky appearance, make them look like 90s Chinese knock-offs of themselves - something Stuart Ashen would end up reviewing. You think of mobile devices roughly in a similar size - iPods, larger smartphones, smaller tablets - and on the whole, they show how badly dated the DSs are. Sure, Nintendo's target market's always been younger but iPods, with their glass, chrome and curves, haven't looked similarly toylike in a long time - and kids and teens don't exactly reject those. And I'm not knocking the actual utility of the stylus but it doesn't exactly have contemporary connotations, does it? But hey, that's looks. I'm as keen to see how the stereoscopy looks as anybody. I'm a lot more enthusiastic about 3D gaming than 3D cinema and television.

ilovethemonkeyhead

March 25, 2011, 9:25 pm

i picked up a black 3ds today - one gripe i found a little frustrating was the nintendo ds emulation. it seems to be built on the ds lite software rather than the dsi software, so the wifi support excludes wifi networks with any security higher than WEP.

JellyUK

March 25, 2011, 11:59 pm

@ilovethemonkeyhead - The newer software update allows WPA2 PSK etc, you just need to turn off security on wireless (or turn it down to WEP), get the update, turn it back up and it works. Just had to do it on my housemate's 3DS.

J4cK1505

March 26, 2011, 3:01 am

sounds distinctly sub par to me, even a step backwords in some areas - just think how this console will be seen towards the end of its approx 6 year lifespan

ilovethemonkeyhead

March 26, 2011, 1:33 pm

played a whole day with it - i noticed it didn't have the last gen ds's microphone port, and that my earphones with built in a microphone worked just fine in the sounds app. that's very very useful, in my opinion. also, there's an infrared port, the likes of which i haven't seen since the gameboy days. i think nintendo shot themselves in the foot by not releasing 3dsware at launch (like they did with dsiware). i feel there's so much more the 3ds can do out of the box if an online service was there from the get go. either way, i'm playing super mario 64 ds the way it should have been played :)

adoniteINK

March 26, 2011, 4:15 pm

QFT NGP FTW LOL! (oxford dictionary approves)

icurafu

March 26, 2011, 6:26 pm

"the most powerful dedicated portable gaming machine around."

Are you sure about this? The PSP came out over 6 yeas ago and I'm certain that the "3DS’ sub-300MHz ARM11 CPU and 133MHz, single-core GPU" compares slightly below the 333Mhz MIPS CPU and 133 MHz GPU with dedicated RAM. And from looking at the video of the 3DS, you can see that it far behind the aging PSP. Well atleast they will be able to sell it at half the price of the NGP.

weirdwilli

March 26, 2011, 10:20 pm

Would have got one of these if Mario or even just Mario Kart had come out as a release title, it's a shame that neither have really. Remember getting my DS on release day, loved it to pieces, American Sk8land was possibly the best Tony Hawk's game ever, and Mario 64 brought back so many memories..

Mattj

March 30, 2011, 3:19 am

@Goldenguy. Talking of Ashens, Here's his (entertaining as ever) review http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

alphanash

August 17, 2011, 8:27 pm

Now the huge price-drop has happened, I wonder how many people have reconsidered buying the 3DS. Besides the gimmicky 3D, lack of real advancement from the DS and price, I can;t bring myself to buy a console with few to no new games.

You know a console is in trouble when the main game that's shifting it is a re-release of a 13 year old game

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