Nintendo 3DS Review

Nintendo 3DS Review

The Nintendo 3DS is available from a Dick Smith Electronic near you, or on their website as part of their Massive Toy Sale Range for $199, and it also comes with a free Universal Game Selector valued at $29.95. Head over to their website to check out the rest of their Toy Sale categories.

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The Nintendo 3DS is just over a year old, so it seems fitting to review the unit and discuss some of the changes. The Nintendo 3DS is a handheld gaming device designed as the successor to the Nintendo DS series of devices. It was initially released in Japan on the 26th of February 2011 and in late March of the same year to the rest of the world and here are some thoughts. This review will focus on the hardware and software of the unit itself, and not on any peripherals that have been released since.


Like previous Nintendo handhelds (barring the Gameboy and its subsequent iterations) the 3DS uses a clamshell design, which encases 2 screens, a D-Pad, push buttons, stereo speakers and the customary power button. In addition to this, the 3DS adds a circle-pad, which is essentially a joystick, and a Home button in addition to the Nintendo Start and Select buttons. Externally the 3DS has two 0.3MP VGA Cameras in addition to the internal one to enable 3D image capture.

I own the “Cosmo Black 3DS and it looks fairly sleek and streamlined. In terms of build quality, some parts feel a bit flimsy like the Circle-Pad and the main hinge, but having been in use for close to a year, I have not had any problems. In hindsight this flimsiness is in comparison to the Gameboy Advance, it feels better than some other current tech (The original Gameboy and the advance models, were particularly sturdy in comparison with any other current tech).

In conclusion, other than Nintendo’s penchant for odd colour choices, the 3DS looks better than anything of their other products, and it is built by Foxconn in China, the same manufacturing company behind most of Apple’s products, so the quality of the build is fairly excellent.

Ease of Use

Like most products these days, you can play with the 3DS straight from the box. The home menu is icons without text, when you select one the top screen will tell you what it is. The icons have been clearly designed to be used without the need for text though, someone who is unable to read, such as a young child, would have no trouble finding their favourite games, features, etc.

If you do not want to use the 3D function it is as simple as moving the slider next to the screen (See Above). The button layout is pretty good except for the circle pad being situated directly above the D-Pad , luckily very few games call for both (normally they are interchangeable), at least at the same time. Top down RPG type games such as Pokémon work very well on the handheld but it can be difficult to play games that require timing and pressing buttons simultaneously can put stress on your hands. For example after playing through a couple of tracks on Mario Kart 7 my hands were quite sore. The same occurred while playing The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. It is an issue that stems from the angular design. It is possible that those with smaller hands may not have the same issues, but it could be a cause for concern.

All the Nintendo inbuilt software is very easy to use and is clearly designed for this device and not simply ported versions of Wii software.

Overall the Software is easy to use, but there will be problems for some people when playing intensive games for extended periods of time, of course it should be mentioned that taking a break every once in a while is probably good for your health anyway…


The 3DS has some features that clearly differentiate between it and its competitors and precursors. The first of which is the much hyped autostereoscopic screen, or to put it plainly glasses-free 3D. This 3D experience is excellent, however there are some drawbacks. 3D must be viewed from directly in front or you get a headache-inducing warped screen. Also if you are the sort of person who gets a headache watching movies in 3D, you will most likely feel the same here. Luckily the 3D can be easily toned down or switched off with a slider on the side of the screen. I found myself doing this any time I had to travel with the device because any bump or movement caused the screen to skew. So while it can be fun, it seems a bit of a gimmick. Luckily there is more to it, the 3DS comes with twin external cameras so you can take 3D photos and video, and view them on the device.

It also comes with inbuilt AR software (Augmented Reality) so when the camera picks up certain logos for example on the included AR Cards, a 3D character or object can be manipulated in a real environment. Nintendo have cleverly included some simple AR games as well, my favourite being one where you can take a photo of a friend or yourself and then play an arcade-style shooting game in your own home (or any zany location you can think of really!).

Finally Nintendo have built some real wireless functionality into a device! The wireless on the 3DS is simple and easy to use. It has the ability to virtually handshake with other nearby 3DS’s which provides for some fun software out of the box and a Mii Plaza similar, but with more functionality, than the one on the Wii. Mii’s can be used in game and have some built in games that reward you for exercising (at least for walking with your 3DS). Nintendo have added an internet browser, which while being quite limited (there is no flash video, same as the iPhone I suppose!), can be useful for game hints etc.

The new Circle-Pad is an improvement on the older DS models but it is still not as user friendly as the dual sticks on the PS Vita. A welcome improvement sure, but obviously not enough, as evidenced by the more recent Circle Pad Pro peripheral and its relatively wide adoption among new games.

As mentioned earlier the 3DS has 2 external cameras and 1 internal camera and can record pictures, videos, and sound. I also has backwards compatibility with all Nintendo DS and Virtual software, which is a boon considering the lack of quality titles at launch!

Nintendo have also added an Activity log which is actually quite useful. It records which software you use, how often you use it and for how long. It also records steps which can be redeemed for bonuses in the Mii Plaza games and potentially others to. All of this info is sorted into a calendar which can be viewed at any time.

Finally Nintendo have recently announced that they plan on turning the 3DS into an E-Reader although due to the screen size, and heavy competition in this area I believe it will be of limited use.


In some respects the 3DS disappoints when it comes to performance. Battery life is horrible compared to older devices. If you turn the wireless off this is improved, but the wireless is such an important aspect, I couldn’t justify doing it. On the darkest screen setting I seem to get about 3 to 5 hours use, with the 3D on it becomes even less. This is not too bad for trips, but pales in comparison with older models. You really need to have your charger with you if you are going to be anywhere other than home for the day. Standby with the wireless on lasts for around 2 – 3 days which is plenty, better than my phone really, and it means carrying it around with you won’t drain the battery too much, while still netting you steps and spot pass hits.

The video and picture quality is too poor for general use, but it is fine if you just want to have a bit of fun.

The 3DS easily runs any of the software designed for it with no lag or clipping apparent. Ported titles like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time look considerably better than the original console version. In fact it is almost like the game was made for this device in many respects.


First released in Australia for $350 the 3DS was overpriced, Nintendo realised this and reduced the RRP to $249.95 last August (2011) Following that, you can actually pick one up today for $199 at Dick Smith. At this price you can get an excellent portable console for a reasonable amount. The 3DS comes with a wealth of inbuilt software, which I have spent hours using; in fact even without games this is a fun device. I think that at the lower price point the 3DS is a worthy addition. If you are a fan of Nintendo classics, I think the 3DS is the best value method to join in the fun.

The Good?

Wireless Integration, Incredible back catalogue of DS titles, Good software out of the box, Reasonable price, good construction, continued development and support from Nintendo.

The Bad?

Less than ideal battery life (although not the worst going around), Lack of original 3D titles, 3D is iffy with “portable” gaming, odd colours.

Techin5 Review Score - Nintendo 3DS
Looks good, build quality good, could use improved controls
Ease of
Works out of box, easy to navigate, can cause hand cramps
Heaps of excellent features, internet browser lacking a bit of functionality
Capable hardware, poor battery life compared to old versions
Excellent value for money, heaps of included software
The Nintendo 3DS is exactly what it should be, a fun, accessible simple entry into the gaming scene. It may lack the specs of competing products, but easily makes up for this with the quality and quantity of games available. Inbuilt software is good enough to use on its own, without the need for expensive games and memory cards etc, although once you begin to use the system, there is a hunger for more top notch games. Overall a stylish handheld which has got most things right, including some top of the class innovation. You will not be disappointed by this purchase if you enjoy Nintendo games.

Max is currently based in Melbourne Australia having just graduated with a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in Communications & Philosophy from Monash University. His love for technology began after a 5 month backpacking tour of Europe in 2007. Upon returning he built his own desktop PC which he still uses (admittedly the only original parts are the power cord and case). His friends and family have always come to him for "technical support" and this has lead to where he is today.Max loves travelling, Snowboarding, playing music, cooking pork belly & of course all things tech. You can follow me on Twitter at @MaxReeGoodings
  • TheMrDrewbear

    Hi, great first review! Just something I picked up on (and it’s a small thing) – this was the first review I’ve read for the Nintendo 3DS and I was hoping you would mention some of the device’s specs (eg. screen size). I know it’s easy to simply google it, but since this was the first article I’d read I just thought I’d let you know. Can’t wait to read more from you in the future! Well done

  • Techin5

    Thanks for your comment Drew, we’ll pass it on to the Author. 

  • Max Ree-Goodings

    Thanks for your feedback TheMrDrewbear, I probably should have written about the specs, there is actually quite a bit that I didn’t include particularly about touch-screen performance.

    Display: Autostereoscopic (3D) screen is 3.53in and the touch-screen is 3.02in
    Memory: 1.5GB Internal, 2GB SD card included
    It comes with a Nintendo ARM processor (I’m not sure of the Specs) and 128FCRAM

    What sort of specs were you after?