Our Score


User Score


  • Fun
  • Glasses-free 3D works
  • Superb controls
  • Mini-games included
  • Well-built


  • Poor battery life
  • Proprietary charger
  • Region-locked games

Review Price £196.99

Key Features: 3.5in glasses-free 3D display; 3in secondary touch display; Wi-Fi G, 2GB storage; ?3D? camera; Wireless multiplayer gaming

Manufacturer: Nintendo

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.

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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


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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