Nintendo 3DS vs 3DS XL vs New 3DS XL: What’s The Difference?

The Nintendo 3DS is a fantastic console for portable gaming with an incredible library of worthwhile titles. But with all of the different console iterations – Nintendo 3DS vs 3DS XL vs New 3DS XL – it might be difficult to discern which version is right for you.

What's the difference between the Nintendo 3DS, the 3DS XL, New 3DS/ New 3DS XL?

Nintendo 3DS

  • Original model
  • Smallest display (3.53 inches)
  • Comes in a variety of glossy colors
  • SD Card and SDHC Card compatibility up to 2GB and 32GB respectively

Nintendo 3DS XL

  • Revised, bigger unit with a larger screen (4.88 inches)
  • Bigger buttons and circle pad
  • Generally available in matte colors
  • SD Card and SDHC Card compatibility up to 2GB and 32GB respectively

New Nintendo 3DS/New 3DS XL

  • Upgraded revision with slightly better technical specs
  • Addition of the C-Stick for more control options
  • Comes in two sizes (standard New 3DS and larger New 3DS XL)
  • Some games are exclusive to the New 3DS/New 3DS XL
  • Access to SNES Virtual Console
  • microSD Card and microSDHC Card compatibility up to 2GB and 32GB respectively

While those are the major differences between each of the various 3DS models, which is the best? Which is right for you? Well, that might depend on your own personal gaming preferences, but there are certainly pros and cons to each respective iteration.

Nintendo 3DS

Nintendo 3DS
Nintendo 3DS vs 3DS XL vs New 3DS XL: What's The Difference? 5


  • It's cheaper than some of the other models
  • Small, compact design


  • Smallest display
  • Screen has some glare issues
  • 3D looks and works better on later models
  • Battery life isn't the best

Overview: Perhaps the best thing the original 3DS has going for it is its compact form factor. The clamshell design of the handheld makes it easy to fold and store away for easy portable gaming. And the glossy colors the console comes in still look really nice today – however, they are subject fingerprints and general smudges.

Also, the original 3DS is generally cheaper than its counterparts. That said, there isn't that much of a price difference between them, so this is only a minor win for the console.

Still, as good as the original 3DS is, its successors really improved upon it. Firstly, while the compact design is great for portability, the smaller display is more prone to glare issues and worse 3D effects. With the original unit, 3D effects were optimal if viewed at a certain angle – but with the larger display on the later models, the viewing angle is much easier to achieve. Additionally, thanks to anti-reflective coating used on each later of the 3DS XL's screens, screen glare was dramatically decreased.

Lastly, the battery life on the original 3DS is easily the worst of the bunch, however, it still offers respectable performance. The original 3DS battery lasts up to five hours playing 3DS games and closer to eight hours with original DS games. For comparison, the 3DS XL offers six and a half hours of 3DS gameplay and 10 hours for DS games.

Bottom Line: The original 3DS is by no means a bad console. In fact, it's a pretty great handheld with access to the 3DS library as well as the original DS catalog. Still, with the improvements that the later models implemented, it's hard to recommend this unit over any of the others – that is, unless you find a fantastic deal.

Nintendo 3DS XL

Nintendo 3DS XL
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  • Larger display with less glare
  • Improved battery life
  • Better 3D than original model


  • Lacks some of the features of the New 3DS line of consoles, like the C-Stick and SNES Virtual Console

Overview: The 3DS XL is an improvement over the original model in nearly every conceivable way. The display is bigger and better than its predecessor, and even battery life is an improvement. And pricing honestly isn't all that different between the two models either. The larger form factor makes this console slightly less portable than the original model, but it's not too significant of a difference at the end of the day. Simply put, the 3DS XL is everything a console revision should be.

When it comes to negatives, the only thing bad we can say about the XL is that it doesn't feature some of the great add-ons that come with the New 3DS and New 3DS XL. For example, those latter models feature a second analog stick – the “C-Stick” – for additional control options. This is extremely useful for camera control, and it eliminates the need for the garish Circle Pad Pro accessory.

Bottom Line: If you're deciding between the 3DS and the 3DS XL, then it's really no contest – unless you really like the smaller design or glossy color schemes on the original model. Bigger doesn't always mean ‘better' – but in this case, it kind of does.

New 3DS / New 3DS XL

New Nintendo 3DS & New 3DS XL
Nintendo 3DS vs 3DS XL vs New 3DS XL: What's The Difference? 7


  • Additional control with C-Stick
  • Access to SNES Virtual Console
  • Upgraded processor
  • Built-in NFC
  • Some titles are exclusive to the New 3DS
  • New 3DS is customizable with swappable faceplates


  • Stylus build quality is a downgrade from earlier models

Overview: If you haven't caught on by now, Nintendo really perfected the 3DS line of handhelds with the New 3DS and New 3DS XL, as there is just a laundry list of advantages these respective consoles have over their predecessors.

The C-Stick is a major perk that we've already discussed (which is admittedly significant for a ton of games), but the console has more than just some additional controls. The New 3DS models also include additional processing power, which allows for some exclusive titles – most notably Xenoblade Chronicles 3D and Fire Emblem Warriors – and SNES Virtual Console support. Additionally, the processing speed also helps with download speeds and generally UI responsiveness.

On top of all that, the New 3DS line of consoles includes Near Field Communication (NFC), which allows for Amiibo support. Amiibo figures are sold separately from New 3DS consoles, but they offer unique gameplay experiences and unlockables with certain games.

The only negative to the New 3DS and New 3DS XL – and we really had to dig deep here – is the stylus. Admittedly, this isn't that big of a deal, but the flimsier all-plastic build of the New 3DS stylus isn't quite as strong as the original models, which are bigger and use metal as well as plastic. Again, this isn't a deal-breaker by any stretch, but it is something worth bringing up if you're comparing the various models.

Bottom Line: Out of all the 3D-capable handhelds in this family of consoles, the New 3DS and 3DS XL set the standard. If you prefer the smaller form factor and swappable faceplates, go for the standard New 3DS. If you want the larger screen, check out the New 3DS XL.