3DS Hardware Review

The Nintendo 3DS is the followup handheld to the highly successful Nintendo DS. With improved graphics and glasses free 3D.

Glasses free 3D

Impressions of the 3D tends to be very mixed by people. I’ve noticed anyone with any eye difficulties or history struggles to see the 3D effect – conditions such as Amblyopia (Lazy eye) can cause difficulties to see the 3D effect. Also tiredness and fatigue can impact how comfortable you feel with the 3D effect.

However, I have found the 3D to be very impressive at times. The effect is more like looking through a window rather than things popping out of the 3DS screen. With it being stereoscopic glasses free 3D, there is a knack of positioning your head in a “sweet spot” in order to view the 3D effect.


The firmware on the Nintendo 3DS is updateable. There have already been a number of updates and patches released, allowing you to make folders. Allowing you to download and sort games and videos. The firmware allows you to press the home buton during gameplay, which pauses the game, at which point you can access the friends list, internet browser, game notes and notifications from the top bar – then being able to return to the paused game. Or you can switch straight to another application.

There are also 5 brightness settings you can access from the top bar and a power saving mode. The system also has a built in clock and calendar. There is also a stepometer, each day you can earn up to 10 Play coins (1 per 100 steps). The play coins can be used to purchase ingame content.

Also along the top of the top screen it shows if you are connected to the internet, have streetpass or local wireless activated and how strong the signal is. The date, time and battery left are also displayed.

Bundled software

You can have up to 100 friends registered on your 3DS, either by searching for each other on local wireless at the same time or by adding each others friend code over the internet. You will then see whether their Mii is online and what they are playing, but you cannot message friends.

Internet Browser

The internet loads pages at a moderate pace. Webpages run over both screens and you scroll and navigate by wiping or tapping on the touch screen. The browser supports HTML, CSS, Javascript and some elements of HTML5 but not Flash. The browser also does not support multiple tabs. Overall, the browser is okay, but it is not a substitute for browsing on a tablet or computer.

Game Notes

In game notes you can save up to 16 pages. Write in black, blue or red ink. Its a feature I haven’t had to use much, but would be handle for scribbling down anything while in game.


This is a list of notifications, usually telling you who you have streetpassed with and what software you have exchanged data with or notification for any messages or content sent by Nintendo.

Mii Maker

Here you can make your Mii character from either taking a photograph of yourself or by building it from scratch.

Nintendo 3DS Sound

Here you play record brief sound bites or play songs that you have transferred to your SD card. But don’t mistake this for an advanced music player. There is not really an advanced music player, you can’t really order the music and you can’t play it with the 3DS closed.

Nintendo eshop

In the Nintendo eshop, you can download eshop only games, (DS Ware and Download Exclusives), download old games (Virtual console), download full retail games, download demos, watch videos and trailers.

Bundled Games

AR Games

When you get a 3DS, you also get a set of AR cards. You can place these on a surface and the camera on the 3DS will read the card and turn that space into various games on your 3DS screen. Games include target shooting, fishing, you can also have your Mii and various Nintendo characters pop up an pose in the real world. These games are fun, unfortunately, they haven’t been updated since the 3DS launched.

Face Raiders

Face Raiders also uses the 3DS camera. You line up your face or someone else’s face with the camera and it then turns your face into flying head enemies and you have to turn around in your room to find and shoot these enemies. Initially, its a funny game, but doesn’t have a long life to it.



Streetpass is a local wireless function that works in the background. When you are out walking with your 3DS in your pocket, it can be in sleep mode but have streetpass active. If you walk near someone else who also has a 3DS and streetpass activated, you will “Pass” each other and a green light will appear on your 3DS to indicate you have passed with someone. When you pass you can exchange various data. If you both have a copy of animal crossing with streetpass activated, you will have a copy of their house and character arrive in your copy of the game. Or with Mario Kart, you will get time trial data from the person and can race against their ghost.

Streetpass Mii Plaza

This software comes with all 3DSs. When you “pass” with someone, their Mii will appear at your gates for you to greet, you can then see a brief profile of their Mii (containing no personal information). It is very addicting collecting other people’s Miis. Within this software are two games. In Puzzle Swap, you exhange jigsaw pieces with other Miis, the complete jigsaws make short Nintendo themed looping animations. The other included game StreetPass Quest 1 and 2, has your collected Miis, attacks ghosts and enemies, clearing rooms to progress through a small map. Sometimes when you clear a room, you will be rewarded with a hat, which you can put on your Mii and will appear on other people’s 3DS’s when you pass with them. The hats range from Nintendo themed to more general types of hats.

Streetpass Mii Plaza has recently been updated with the options of buying further download content.

Hardware: 3DS or 3DS XL

The most immediate difference is the screen size. The screens on the XL are 90% larger, but the resolution is the same but stretched out. Its a matter of taste how much this bothers you. For me, its rare a game has looked poor because of this. For me, many of the games now have more breathing space and some look better for it. Prolonged gameplay is easier on the eyes on the 3DS XL.

Other differences: The 3Ds has more of a gloss finish, whereas the XL is more matte and less reflective.  The Start, Select and Home buttons are of a higher quality, but are still a little spongy. The edges are more rounded on the XL, so dig into you less and are more comfortable. The stylus slot has moved from the top of the 3DS handheld to the right hand side on the XL, which is easier to access. The headphone port has moved from the bottom center on the 3DS to the bottom left on the 3DS XL, which again is slightly more comfortable. The camera quality is still poor on both and only suitable for taking pics in good daylight. The battery lights are now also more easily visible while looking down on the XL and the 3D slider now clicks into the fully off position.

If you can get past the resolution being stretched out, i would recommend the XL over the original 3DS. It is larger and not suitable for carrying in a pocket, but if you didn’t carry it in a pocket it really shouldn’t be a problem.

3DS Hardware Review Summary

The 3DS is a fantastic handheld, with some great original features. Of course it is the quality of games available which make any console good. Anyone not already owning a 3DS, now is a fantastic time to buy one with the range of games available.


David Lee
David is the founder of Heart Gaming. Regular writer, reviewer and editor. Has a strong passion for gaming; particularly the Legend of Zelda series.