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8/10

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Nintendo 3DS - Speakers, Screens and 3D

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.

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