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Nintendo 2DS vs 3DS vs 3DS XL: Which should you buy?

Sam Loveridge


 Nintendo 2DS vs 3DS vs 3DS XL: Battle of the handhelds

Which Nintendo 3DS should you buy?

Nintendo has released a slew of different 3DS models, each with their own unique sizes, specs and games to be considered.

Over the years Nintendo has sought to reiterate its portable device with a series of makeovers, from the XL models to the kid-friendly (and confusingly-named) 2DS to even the "New", more powerful units. It can be pretty confusing to walk into a store and know which one to buy.

We've taken a quick look at all the options currently available, including the original 3DS, 3DS XL and New 3DS line of consoles. Oh, and who can forget the slate tile-inspired 2DS? Now, we also have an upgraded edition of 2DS in the form of the New 2DS XL which is coming in July 2017.

Both the New 3DS and the New 3DS have noticeable benefits over the original iterations, including enhanced 3D technology, larger screens and better processors, not to mention their additional features and small library of exclusive games.

We'll guide you through the buying process for the 3DS family, including a few hints and tips to help decide which one would be best for you.

For a full walkthrough of all the new features, read our extensive New Nintendo 3DS vs 3DS comparison

2DS vs 3DS vs 3DS XL – Price

2DS – £99

New 3DS – £149

New 3DS XL - £179

All the above are the RRP as outlined by Nintendo, but of course retailers consistently tend to offer better deals on all the handhelds.

Despite it being over a year since the 2DS was released, the 2D console has managed to hold its price, with most retailers offering the 2DS for around the £99.99 mark or £129.99 bundled with a case and a game.

That price still means its the cheapest option on offer, but the original 3DS is repeatedly on-par.

Due to the introduction of the New 3DS and New 3DS XL, you'll notice that you can pick up the original 3DS for £79 if you don't mind the Ice White option. 3DS bundles tend to retain their value, with prices sticking around the £179.99 mark.

The New 3DS is available for £149.99 – although we've seen it for £135 at some online retailers – or £179.99 with a game. The New 3DS XL is £179.99 when bought on its own, or £209.99 with a game.

See also: Best 3DS Games 2017

New 3DS vs New 3DS XL

New 3DS and New 3DS XL

2DS vs 3DS vs 3DS XL – Screens

The Nintendo 2DS and 3DS have the same size screens. You get a 3.53-inch display up top and a slightly smaller 3.02-inch screen below.

However, the 2DS screens are actually part of a single, flat screen that’s split in two by the plastic screen surround of the console. It makes the 2DS cheaper and simpler to produce. This isn’t possible in the 3DS and 3DS XL because of the hinge mechanism and 3D top screen.

The Nintendo 3DS XL and New 3DS XL have much larger screens. They’re 4.88 inches and 4.18 inches respectively. Just like the previous-gen DSi XL, though, you don’t get a real increase in image quality – just image size.

The screens all use the same effective resolution – 400 x 240 pixels for the top screen and 320 x 240 for the bottom one.

However, in the 3DS and 3DS XL, the top screen has doubled this max resolution to 800 x 240 pixels in order to offer 3D.

The New 3DS has 1.2x larger screens than its original counterpart. Now you get 3.88 inches from the top screen with enhanced 3D, compared to the original's 3.5 inches, and you get 3.33 inches from the bottom screen, up from 3 inches.

See also: Nintendo Switch Review

2DS vs 3DS vs 3DS XL – 3D

As their names suggest, the 3DS and 3DS XL have 3D top screens, while the 2DS has no 3D whatsoever. It’s another factor that dramatically reduces the production costs of that lower-end console.

Both the 3DS and 3DS XL have little sliders on the side of their screens, letting you choose the power of the 3DS effect. You can also turn it off completely.

The type of 3D used in these consoles is called autostereoscopic 3D. It's a glasses-free technology that requires you keep your head still. It causes eye discomfort and headaches in some people, which is another reason for Nintendo to produce the 2DS – especially given the appeal it has for young kids.

Both the New 3DS and New 3DS XL feature new, enhanced 3D technology, which Nintendo is calling Super Stable 3D. It uses the front-facing cameras in the new consoles to track your head and eye movement, automatically adjusting the 3D effect according to what angle your head is at in relation to the 3DS screen.

We found the 3D effect much more effective in these new consoles, not only because it's more reliable and allows you to use it when moving or on public transport, but because the colour reproduction is better compared to the 2D image.

See also: Xbox One vs PS4

3DS 2

Nintendo 2DS in Black/Blue and Red/White

2DS vs 3DS vs 3DS XL – Which is the most child friendly?

There is a benefit to the flat construction of the 2DS other than keeping costs down. It makes the handheld console much less easy to destroy – the hinge of the 3DS and 3DS XL is an obvious point where they could fail.

That’s not to say that the 2DS is better constructed than its more expensive brothers, though. It feels a bit more like a children’s toy – but a rugged one that’s made of tough plastic.

Nintendo is offering a free case with any purchases of the 2DS and the larger 3DS XL, which will keep your handheld protected when chucked into a bag.

Although the 2DS is our choice for the youngest children because of its price, lack of 3D and study design, we'd still recommend any of the other consoles – just watch that hinge and overexposure to 3D.

See also: Upcoming Nintendo Switch Games 2017

New 3DS vs 3DS

Original 3DS and New 3DS

2DS vs 3DS vs 3DS XL – Design and Portability

2DS – Width: 144mm; Height: 127mm; Depth: 20.3mm

3DS – Width: 134mm; Height: 74mm; Depth: 21mm (closed)

3DS XL – Width: 156mm; Height: 93mm; Depth: 22mm (closed)

New 3DS – Width: 142mm; Height: 80.6mm; Depth: 21.6mm (closed)

New 3DS XL – Width: 160mm; Height: 93.5mm; Depth: 21.5mm (closed)

Not having a hinge increases durability, but reduces portability in the 2DS. When closed, the 3DS and 3DS XL are both significantly smaller than the 2DS.

The 3DS is 74mm ‘high’, the 3DS XL 93mm and the 2DS 127mm. It’s much less easy to stash away in a bag and pretty much impossible to fit in most pockets. In comparison, the New 3DS is 80.6mm high and the New 3DS XL 93.5mm high, meaning they're not much bigger than their original counterpart.

Just as important, the clamshell style protects the screens of the 3DS and 3DS XL from scratches while the consoles are in a bag – the 2DS is much more vulnerable in this respect.

The 3DS XL is the heaviest of the bunch at 336g but – perhaps surprisingly – the 3DS is the lightest. It weighs 235g, while the 2DS is 260g. The New 3DS weighs 253g, and the New 3DS XL is 329g. That means the original 3DS XL is still the heaviest.

See also: Best Wii U Games3DS

2DS vs 3DS vs 3DS XL – Battery Life

Battery stamina is different across the three consoles. The 3DS XL lasts for between 3.5 and 6.5 hours when playing games. The 3DS last for 3-5 hours and the 2DS between 3.5 and 5.5 hours. Although the 3DS is the ‘loser’ here, we also need to consider that the 3D function itself uses extra power.

Nintendo claims the two newer consoles offer a slightly longer battery life than their original counterparts, which is partly down to a new auto brightness feature. The New 3DS XL has the longest battery life at 3.5 hours with 3D turned on and 7 hours with the 3D turned off.

The New 3DS, on the other hand, offers the same 3.5 hours of 3D playtime, but only 6 hours with everything turned down.

See also: Xbox One vs Xbox 360

New 3DS vs New 3DS XL

2DS vs 3DS vs 3DS XL – Games

There are no game support issues with the Nintendo 2DS – it’s only a ‘cut-down’ console in some respects. All 3DS games will work with the 2DS, and all DS games will also work with all three consoles.

How come? 3D is an optional extra in every 3DS game, and all three consoles have the same processor and the same array of sensors. Each has a motion sensor, a gyroscope and a microphone. They can all do the same thing, more or less.

However, you might want to consider the fact that the New 3DS and New 3DS XL have enhanced processors, which speed up the loading time for games, download speeds and general menu navigation.

At the moment there are only a handful of titles that currently take advantage of the enhanced processor. Some titles are exclusive, such as Xenoblade Chronicles, while others just offer improved performance.

3DS 3

2DS vs 3DS vs 3DS XL – Sound Quality

One of the most significant differences for more discerning gamers between the handhelds is sound quality. The 3DS and 3DS XL have stereo speakers, which are quite effective as they fire directly at your ears, from each side of the screen.

The 2DS has just a single speaker, which sits to the left of the screen. It’s not a major concern if you’re going to use headphones, as the 2DS still outputs stereo through the 3.5mm jack socket. But when using that mono speaker it makes for a less immersive experience.

Although Nintendo hasn't outlined it in the upgraded features for the New 3DS and New 3DS XL, we find that the speakers in both new consoles sound crisper and cleaner, as well as a touch louder at full volume. They might not have been improved, but the slightly larger bodies are definitely having an effect on the sound quality in these new consoles.


For younger gamers, the 2DS seems like a sensible buy – especially if he/she isn’t going to be too concerned by the lack of 3D or buying the latest games. It's also more fool-proof than the hinged models, as there are fewer hardware elements to break. For older and more experienced gamers who can afford the extra cash, we recommend sticking to the 3DS and 3DS XL.

But if you want the ultimate 3DS experience, you have to opt for the New 3DS or New 3DS XL. The latter is the best for larger hands, but we'd recommend the New 3DS as the best all-rounder, no matter the age of the gamer.

The enhanced 3D, new features – as outlined in our New 3DS vs 3DS feature – and slightly larger form factor make it the perfect choice.

Aaron K Stone

October 25, 2013, 7:01 pm

I would advise not considering the normal 3DS altogether. Despite being smaller than the XL it actually feels larger due to its design, also the finish is a fingerprint magnet and truth be told it's not that comfortable to hold due to its tiny size and the sharp edges cutting into the corners of the hands.


October 27, 2013, 3:55 pm

My biggest point of praise for the 3DS XL is its rounded corners. The original DS iteration was pretty sloppily designed, as well.

Ross Davison

October 30, 2013, 9:40 pm

How does 3DS have sharp corners, go back up & have a look, as you will see they are perfectly curved, just not as much as the 3DS xl, also, i find it very comfortable and even though it feels bugger, there are many people such as myself that dont care/like it. If you dont like fingerprints then chop your fingers off...


November 7, 2013, 12:50 am

I purchased the original DS some years back for my oldest son who was about 5 at the time. We had it for under a year, he dropped it and the hinge broke. Now my youngest son is 5 and wants a DS in the worst way! I didn't want to take any chances, so I purchased the 2DS. I love it for him! This is definitely perfect for little ones. When he gets a little older I will get him a 3DS, unless they come up with a newer model by then.


November 7, 2013, 3:47 am

Yeah, If you just want a 3ds, then you should get a 2ds, but if you want bigger screens, then go for the XL.


November 11, 2013, 7:16 am

I recently bought a 3DS XL after 9 years of playing my original Nintendo DS (since 2004) and I am happy with the larger screens. I am an adult gamer and the smaller screens don't justify anymore, which was why I chose to it over the original 3DS. The 2DS is perfect for younger children and should just be looked at as a children's device. The 3DS XL would be more suited to the adult gamers and the 3DS could be for 13-15 years of age. However in saying this, I am personally not a fan of the 3D, while useable, it just doesn't work that well unless you are staying completely still and it drains out the battery quicker (which is why I turn mine off at all times). If I had a child, I would definitely purchase the 2DS for Christmas as it saves myself some money, while giving the child a solid, entry gaming console.


November 19, 2013, 8:46 pm

For christmas im getting a 2ds is there any tips i need to know about them

Frank Mancino

December 1, 2013, 10:16 pm

lol i love how they say "2ds is good for kids" makes no sense, just because its less likely to break doesnt make it for kids lol anyone can get a 2ds


December 2, 2013, 9:21 pm

they are non-foldable

Will Iambic

December 12, 2013, 6:57 pm

The 3D option isn't recommended for younger children, therefore the 2DS is "good for kids".


December 26, 2013, 1:05 pm

I am not sure whether to go for a 3DS or a 2DS, any advice/


January 7, 2014, 5:55 pm

You did read the review right? :D Just pick which one sounds better for you. Goodluck!


January 7, 2014, 5:56 pm

I don't think some people understood this review article D:

Stephen Curran

March 27, 2014, 4:51 pm

I have the 2DS and was very satisfied with it ...The only reason I bought the 3DS XL is because these old eyes need a bigger screen. Now, that being said, the 2DS was fine with my reading glasses. I can't see 3d so that as not a selling feature for me.


March 28, 2014, 1:15 pm

i personally would buy a 2ds as i have had 2 ds lites and the hinges have snapped

on both


March 31, 2014, 6:04 pm

i bought the 2DS as i just started to play games. i am an adult and didnt see it as a child console. it was cheaper and i wanted to make sure i like gaming before buying the 3ds xl. 2DS feels right for me. long battery life and easy to hold. feels like a tablet. i couldnt careless about the 3d screen so i think it was a good decision.

Alexis Goitia

May 20, 2014, 3:42 am

Well, the 2DS is probably the best starter console since the Game Boy Advance, so I think it was a great choice, and the button configuration is actually ideal for adults because of how spaced the buttons are, the original 3DS is a bit too small for adult hands, so the XL and 2DS are much nicer.

Alexis Goitia

May 20, 2014, 3:43 am

The Lite had quite a problem with build, but neither the DSi nor the 3DS seem to have as many problems.

Alexis Goitia

May 20, 2014, 3:44 am

I think they mean that it is the better choice for kids because it is more resistant, it is still a great console for anyone.


October 10, 2014, 2:49 am

You can completely disable 3D from parental controls. I really hope the tutorial and setup is different on the 2DS... Parental Controls 2DS say "Would you like to disable the 3D effect?" And the parent starts wonders what happened. Is there 3D?

Archie Cairns

October 27, 2014, 7:38 pm

As an experiance nintendo player i compleatly agree with this page thought the 2DS may seen superior at first over time u will begin to see the advantages of the 3DS or the 3DS XL


February 18, 2015, 10:03 pm

all the consoles probably use the same firmware, the only differences will be the hardware drivers


February 18, 2015, 10:10 pm

the original ds should be considered a prototype


July 5, 2015, 4:52 pm

I have two boys - 9 yrs old and an 6 yrs old, am starting to think about giving in to the peer pressure and buying them a games console. but which one and which games are suitable. I am not that good a technology and have no clue where to start. the 2ds looks like the sensible option but its not the latest one out- does that matter? am so confused its such an expensive purchase but I don't want to get it wrong. Please help


August 19, 2015, 1:31 am

As far as handheld game consoles, a 2DS is good for that age group; it plays the latest 3DS games other than the ones with the "New" brand attached. I know it's a bit confusing because of how Nintendo names things, so when you go to the store make sure you ask about the difference between a brand new 2DS model and the "New" (as in 'New' 3DS) model name.

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