My husband and I got our 3DS’ on launch week and paid the full $250 retail price for them. We did get some money off by trading in our DS Lites and the Ambassador program made us feel better since the price of the systems had dropped significantly. The current price of $170 is reasonable and I have seen sales for $150 which makes them an even better bargain. The 3DS XL has an asking price of $199 and for the extra $30 you gain some really nice features but you lose some as well.
When the DSi XL came out I thought it was geared for those with visual impairments and wasn’t interested in it. Since then I have purchased a Vita and have come to appreciate a big screen that can comfortably fit into my back pocket. Now that the 3DS XL offers the same features, I decided to give it another look. A $100 trade in for my 3DS and a free game pretty much sealed the deal.
The big and beautiful screen is the most obvious improvement over the standard 3DS. I've had this system for a couple of days and I am floored every time I open it. It's just that amazing. Seriously. While the colors are a little warmer than the original 3DS, games still look phenomenal on it. The 3D technology looks better and the sweet spot to see the 3d effects is larger too. DS games are noticeably more pixelated than before. If you hold down the select button while launching the game, it will run without scaling. In this mode, pixels from DS games are mapped 1:1 onto the 3DS screen. On the 3DS, it was far too small to be usable this way. On the 3DS XL, there is a large unused black area, but the visible portion is actually very close to the size of the original DSi, and looks very nice. Between the two modes, it will likely please everyone.
The 3DS XL and the DS share some similarities. The left and right triggers have a DS Lite feel to them instead of the 3DS’ original design. I hope they don’t share the same defects the DS triggers experienced. The stylus on the 3DS XL is back to being plastic, instead of metal and retractable. I rather liked the feel of the metal stylus so I’ll miss that. Overall, the original 3DS has a slightly more 'premium' feel to it, with the fancy shiny casing with translucent accents, the metal stylus, and the charging dock.
Another drawback is the sound. The 3DS XL is simply not as loud as the 3DS. This is good for kids that don’t know better, but I wish they would have crippled it via parental controls instead of limiting the hardware.
If you have a lot of songs on your system, or download lots of eShop games, you'll enjoy the extra 2GB of space with the 4GB standard SD card. The longer battery life is another welcome feature. While I didn't mind the smooth select, home, and start button on the 3DS, they are separate buttons now on the XL.
The 3DS XL is obviously bigger, but it still fits in my back pocket. It's quite comfortable, if not more so, than the standard 3DS. I’m a little disappointed that it didn’t come with a docking station, but Nintendo sells them separately for $20. I bet there will be cheaper third party solutions out soon. If you fidget with it enough, you CAN get the regular 3DS dock to work, but for as much time as you spend doing that, you may as well just plug it into the back of the XL.
Despite all of that, I still think the 3DS XL is a much better package. While the paint job is simple (and smear free), and it doesn't come with as much stuff, that screen more than makes up for it. I also think that the d-pad and buttons have a slightly different feel that I prefer. And to these adult hands, it is much more comfortable to hold. Oh, and that screen. Did I mention how fantastic those screens are?
Migrating over the data is a two part process. Each DSi/3DS system lets you do a system transfer five times. Thankfully, this gets subtracted after completing successfully, as it failed on me once during the transfer. An internet connection is required and most of the game stores near me didn’t offer wifi, so I had to setup my Android phone as a wireless hotspot. The system transfer roughly takes about 30 minutes and brings over the console number, friends, Miis, coins, puzzle pieces, and the necessary encryption to re-download eShop purchases. The second half is to copy your information from the SD card to the bigger card. Failure to do so will result in the loss of eShop/DLC downloads, photos, swap notes, game data, and stationary. Going from identical systems will be painless if you just put your old SD card into the new one.
Sadly, I forgot to copy my SD data over, but the loss is bittersweet since I'm enjoying the many benefits of my shiny blue 3DS XL. There is a red model available too. The game stores close by have a very limited stock as they seem to be selling really well. If you haven't bought a 3DS yet, go for the XL. If you can find a good trade in deal like me, go for the upgrade! The bigger screen is such a huge benefit in my opinion. Just make sure you back up your SD card first.