Home » Gaming » Games » Nintendo 3DS » Specifications, Cameras and Interface

Nintendo 3DS - Specifications, Cameras and Interface

Ardjuna Seghers

By Ardjuna Seghers


Our Score


User Score

Review Price £196.99

We can only speculate as to the hardware inside the 3DS as Nintendo hasn’t revealed anything officially. What with the dual-core 1GHz phones and Nvidia Tegra 2 graphics provided by the likes of the LG Optimus 3D (incidentally another glasses-free 3D device, along with the newly-announced HTC Evo 3D), the 3DS’ sub-300MHz ARM11 CPU and 133MHz, single-core GPU don’t sound all that impressive. However, along with the console’s 64MB of RAM, it’s enough power to drive some seriously good-looking games. On the best launch titles, quality would appear to be somewhat better than the level of the original Xbox – an impressive feat considering this is a mobile console and that it needs to render each frame twice to output 3D.

Wi-Fi G is on hand for networking, while a motion sensor and gyroscope add… scope for more interactions in games and movement controls in applications.

Altogether the 3DS has three cameras: one facing in, and two on the lid. Thus you can’t take 3D self-portraits or video-chat in 3D, but you can take 3D pictures which you can then view in all of their glorious dimensionality on the autostereoscopic top screen. Unfortunately, all three of the cameras are, quite frankly, rubbish. They sport a lowly 640 x 480 (0.3 megapixel) resolution and offer poor low light performance, and the results are predictably grainy, washed out and lacking in detail.

Nintendo was obviously limited by attempting to maintain a sub-£200 price point, but it’s a real shame that the cameras are simply a compromise too far. On the other hand, for integrating real elements into certain games and basic augmented reality titles they are (barely) adequate.

With a console offering so many functions, options and interaction methods, the interface was never going to be as simple as on the original DS. However, Nintendo has done a sterling job of creating an interface that’s both intuitive and attractive, in a kid-focused, bright and fluffy kind of way.

Each of the functions and applications are represented by a logical icon on the lower screen, which you can choose to arrange in a line or grid. The top screen shows an intricately animated and fully 3D representation of your selected item, so you never lose the wow-effect (if you find 3D wow-worthy in the first place, of course).

Another thing that’s well-handled is multi-tasking, though its scope is very limited. If you’re in one application or game and want to head back to the main menu, the application is suspended but stays visible as a transparent background. Unfortunately, in most cases you’ll have to exit the old application before the console lets you launch a new one.

Wii owners will be familiar with the Miis, personalised avatars that represent you in certain games and when interacting with other 3DS owners.

StreetPass lets your 3DS communicate with other people who are carrying one in your vicinity, allowing you to exchange information and play mini-games with or against each other. This is a feature with a lot of potential: finding new people to play with and potentially making new friends, it’s like social networking with a physical proximity radius.

SpotPass automatically detects and uses wireless access points to automatically synchronise and update. A functional web-browser has been promised in a future firmware update.

Previous page
Next page


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.


March 25, 2011, 1:53 pm

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


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.


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


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 :-)


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.


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.


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


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.


March 25, 2011, 3:39 pm

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

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 :)

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).

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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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 :)


March 26, 2011, 4:15 pm

QFT NGP FTW LOL! (oxford dictionary approves)


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.


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..


March 30, 2011, 3:19 am

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


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

comments powered by Disqus