Nintendo's 2DS XL doesn't need 3D to be a solid handheld

The best of the 2DS without the gimmicks of the 3DS XL.

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Nintendo's latest portable, the New 2DS XL, isn't even out yet and people are already questioning its existence. Does the company really need another hand-held gaming console, especially with the recent launch of its hybrid Switch? For Nintendo, the answer is an obvious "yes," based on the belief that consumers want a 2DS with the form factor of a 3DS XL. At $150, the 2DS XL will slot in between these two models, which cost $80 and $200, respectively. So, what exactly do you get in return? If you're comparing it to the 2DS, the extra-large version is nearly identical, with the main difference being the clamshell design. Otherwise, they both come with the same processor, same battery, same low-resolution cameras and, well, you get the point.

That said, there are a some notable differences between the 2DS and 2DS XL, aside from the most obvious one (read: It folds). While there's no 3D effect here, the 2DS XL borrows few features from the flagship 3DS XL, such as the C Stick and ZL/ZR buttons, the larger upper (4.88 inches) and lower screens (4.18 inches), as well as built-in NFC. Most important, though, the 2DS XL will support software that's exclusive to Nintendo's 3DS platform, something that can't be said for the entry-level 2DS. When the 2DS XL arrives this summer, two games will be released alongside it: Hey! Pikmin and Miitopia, both of which are a ball of fun if you're into quirky adventure titles.

When I picked up the 2DS XL for the first time, I noticed right away how much lighter it is than the 3DS XL. (The 2DS XL is about 9 ounces, whereas the 3DS XL is closer to 12.) That's good and bad because its lightweight design also makes it feel less sturdy and premium than its 3D-enabled sibling. The black/turquoise colors on the 2DS XL's launch model are nice, though, as is the overall matte finish on the shell and buttons. Weirdly enough, the thing that made me most happy about the 2DS XL is that the microSD card is easily accessible, meaning you no longer have to worry about unscrewing any compartments. There's now a cover on the bottom that houses two slots, one for your game cartridge and another for the microSD card.

In terms of ergonomics, the 2DS XL is just as comfortable to hold as the 3DS XL. The face buttons (A,B,X, Y), joystick and C stick are placed the same across the board, although the speakers on the 2DS XL have been moved below the lower screen. That change gives you the sense that the 2DS XL's display is bigger than it actually is, thanks to the black bezels on the sides. You'll also notice the stylus now lives more to the center of the device, next to the 3.5mm headphone jack. All in all, I can see how some people may be interested in the 2DS XL, particularly those who don't want or need the 3D effect but want something with a little more oomph (and a better design) than the 2DS.

If that's you, the 2DS XL is set to hit stores on July 28th for $150. We'll know then whether Nintendo was right about the market for its handhelds.

Gallery: Nintendo 2DS XL hands-on | 15 Photos

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