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.
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