Nintendo 3DS buyer's guide

Published: 15:40, 24 September 2017
Updated: 14:58, 02 October 2017
Memory capacity of some of the versions.

The Nintendo Switch may be the latest portable console from Nintendo but that does not mean the 3DS is dead. Here's our guide on what 3DS version is right for you.

We at AltChar expected the Nintendo Switch to be Charon to the 3DS. Slowly bringing it across the river to the land of dead Nintendo consoles where it will rest with the Gamecube, the N64 and the rest of them, including the Virtual Boy. But alas, although our knowledge of Greek mythology is superb, our market analysis is not.

Nintendo appear to be behind the 3DS with their announcements at E3. This year we have Metroid: Samus Returns, Pokemon Gold and Silver, Pokemon Ultra Sun and Moon, Yo-Kai Watch 2 and Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions. The 3DS has a large and varied library of games and the device also has backwards compatibility for the original DS. So picking one of these up is a great idea. But what version should you buy?


There are a lot of versions of the 3DS:

  • 3DS
  • 3DS XL
  • 2DS
  • New 3DS
  • New 3DS XL
  • New 2DS XL

Different versions of Nintendo 3DS. Different versions of Nintendo 3DS. Different versions of Nintendo 3DS.

And you guessed it! The ones that say 2D don’t have the 3D functionality which was a big selling point of the console. But do you actually need 3D to play games? Not necessarily. It has always been an optional extra that you could contro, and due to the technology used, not everyone could see it, so not every game makes it a must-use feature.


The original 3DS has a 2GB SD Card included. The 3DS XL and 2DS come with a 4GB SD Card. All of these can be expanded up to 128GB via SD, SDHC and SDXC cards.

Nintendo Memory capacity of some of the versions. Memory capacity of some of the versions.

The New systems have a 4GB Micro SD Card included and are expandable up to 256 GB via Micro SDXC card slot. However, Nintendo recommends the 32GB Micro SDHC card.

Weight and dimensions

Unlike traditional consoles when buying a portable - the weight and the dimensions matter. It’s got to be sturdy but light. Big but not too big. Here's the official weight of each console:

  • 3DS = 235 grams
  • 3DS XL = 336 grams
  • 2DS = 260 grams
  • New 3DS = 253 grams
  • New 3DS XL = 329 grams
  • New 2DS XL = 260 grams

Display size

All of the versions can support approximately 16.77 million colors. With the lower screen being 320 x 240 QVGA.

Nintendo Lower screen resolution. Lower screen resolution.

The upper screen is where we have the main difference in sizes. Starting from the lowest:

  • 2DS = 3.52 inches
  • 3DS = 3.53 inches
  • New 3DS = 3.88 inches
  • 3DS XL, New 3DS XL and New 2DS XL = 4.88 inches

Battery life

One of the most important features for anyone is the battery life, which is determined by screen brightness, WiFi, sound volume and 3D effect.

  • 3DS = 3 - 5 hours
  • 3DS XL = 3.5 - 6.5 hours
  • 2DS = 3.5 - 5.5 hours
  • New 3DS = 3.5 - 6 hours
  • New 3DS XL = 3.5 - 7 hours
  • New 2DS XL = 3.5 - 6.5 hours

Graphics, Memory and Processor

All of the 3DS family use a 268 MHz Digital Media Professionals PICA200 as the GPU. It’s with the memory and the processors that the difference happens:

  • The original systems have 128 MB FCRAM @3.2GB/s
  • The new systems have 256 MB FCRAM @ 6.4 GB/s
  • The original systems use a 268 MHz dual-core ARM11 & 134 MHz single-core ARM9 as the processor
  • The new systems use a 804 MHz quad-core ARM11 & 134 MHz single-core ARM9

This difference in processors makes all the difference when it comes to playing the games, which, of course, is the most important thing.


All of the consoles support the original DS and DSi Game Cards. For the virtual console they can all play Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Gear and the original Nintendo.

Nintendo Game Boy, Game Boy Color & Game Gear Game Boy, Game Boy Color & Game Gear

The New versions have the added benefit of playing Super Nintendo games from the virtual console and some exclusive titles like Xenoblade 3D and Fire emblem Warriors.


So after all of that, we recommend going for the New 3DS XL, if you want a 3DS. The old versions are good quality and on the cheaper side but the extra cost is getting you access to great games, a better battery life and a better display. We suggest getting a 3D version over the 2D because some games work nicely with it and it’s a really cool feature.