New Nintendo 2DS XL
Who it's for: Someone looking for a slightly lighter version of the 3DS without the 3D
Nintendo has been king of the handheld consoles since the release of the original Game Boy in 1989. It hasn't always had the most powerful hardware, but it has always offered the best support (meaning games).
The company raised eyebrows when it released its first two-screen handheld in 2004, the Nintendo DS, and it has kept with this format ever since. The switch to 3D, via glasses-free technology, in 2011 proved the company could still innovate in the handheld space.
Since then, we've received larger 3DS systems, faster "new" 3DS systems with more buttons, and even a flat 2DS system for those who don't care about the 3D function. Now, Nintendo has released a "New" Nintendo 2DS XL system, promised to be a lighter, brighter and more sophisticated system at a better price. And while all of these goals have technically been achieved, a number of confusing design choices keep this from being the best solution for those looking for a new handheld.
The designers did get a number of things right: The top screen is beautiful and bright, and games look fantastic on it. The bottom screen seems to be comparable to the ones used in the New 3DS consoles, with a nice responsive touch function. Buttons are stiff and solid, responsive enough once you break them in a little, and the left circle pad, D-pad and four shoulder buttons all work fine. The right-hand analogue C-nub seems a little stiffer than the one on the New 3DS, but it still works OK for games that support it.
The system is indeed light and comfortable to hold, and games look and play great. But hindering things are a number of egregious design problems that keep me from recommending this system.
First is the hinge. Instead of the usual hidden hinge, Nintendo went with an exposed external one that juts out awkwardly from the system's spine. Previous Nintendo 3DS handhelds fit nicely in your pocket because of the recessed hinge. Even the XL systems (which seems to be the standard now) could slip into your jeans with ease. This exposed hinge catches and seems more vulnerable to damage should the console be bumped or dropped.
Once opened, the upper screen has more wiggle to it than does either the old or New 3DS systems, giving it a cheap and somewhat unstable feel. Also, in order to make the system lighter, the upper screen is incredibly thin, which adds to the flimsy feel. It may be tougher than it looks, but it didn't inspire comfort or confidence.
The thin upper screen also led to another abysmal design choice: the placement of the speakers. Relocated to the bottom edge of the hardware, I am not sure how you would hold the system during normal play and not cover them with your hands. This may be a non-issue for those using headphones, but anyone who likes to use the speakers will not appreciate their new placement.
Lastly, the supplied stylus is stubby and awkward like a golf pencil. Nintendo has used a telescoping stylus in the past, and it would have made sense to revisit that design here. But instead it went with an uncomfortable option that fits only in the smallest hands.
Were it the only option, the New Nintendo 2DS XL would be brilliant, despite its shortcomings. However, at $150, the price isn't good enough to warrant a purchase. With some smart shopping, you can find a New Nintendo 3DS for about $25 more (MSRP is $200) and get a more solid, albeit slightly heavier, system that will give you the option for 3D should you want it.
Because of its shortcomings and the relatively small price difference, I cannot recommend this rare miss from Nintendo.