But then we come to the battery. You can almost be certain that of all the reviews for the 3DS that come flooding out over the next week or so, there is one thing they will all be united on, and that is a loathing of the short battery life. Nintendo claims that the battery is good for around five hours of use, and that is being generous. If you are using it fairly intensely, with the brightness turned all the way up, the volume at full, and the 3D as high as it can go, plus you are connected via Wi-Fi, you will probably run out of juice in less than three hours.
The 3D simply drains the power from a device, and to use a longer-lasting battery, it would significantly impact the weight of the handheld. We still expect to see third-party manufacturers jump to correct this issue with additional and replacement batteries, but to replace the battery you would need to open the case — it is not designed for people to switch them out.
Most people will find themselves frequently relying on the charging cradle, and Nintendo wanted to make that as painless of an experience as possible. While it is still possible to plug the 3DS directly into a wall socket, you can also charge the device by simply setting it in the cradle and letting it power up. From empty to full will take around three hours.
But for as much focus as the poor battery will draw, it is important to note that you can extend the life significantly by simply turning off the 3D. In fact you can extend it by almost twice the life.
Another addition to the 3DS is the 3D camera, which uses two small lenses on the outer case to take pictures. Playing with the 3D camera is a lot of fun, and the pictures are often amazing, but the poor camera quality limits this from being little more than a gimmick. Along with an inward facing third lens, the resolution of each camera is 640 x 480, with a .03 mega pixel count.
Nintendo has improved the display significantly from 256 x 192 resolution on the original DS family has been replaced by 400 x 240 per eye, which the brain processes as 800 x 240 pixels. It is something of a cheat to use the 800 x 240 listing, but however you label it, the display is much improved. The improvement of 16-bit color to 24-bit color capable of 16.77 million colors also helps.
As a result, many games look awesome. Nintendo has never been over concerned about graphics, but they look impressive at times. Again though, much of that comes down to the software, and thanks to backwards compatibility with the DS, even older games will look a bit better, although they are not 3D compatible.
As far as memory goes, the SD card slot means that the amount of memory will be up to you. Data from older DS systems can be wirelessly streamed from DS to 3DS, so switching cards won’t be an issue.
The software…what there is of it
This is where Nintendo stumbled. The games are a different issue, and we will review those separately, but the missing software is just sad for launch day. The most notable absence is the missing Internet browser, even though there is an icon for it on the 3DS that when pressed offers a message that it will be coming soon in a future update. The Nintendo eShop is also a sad omission, ad although both are promised to be on the way, it makes the 3DS feel slightly rushed to market.
Still, that is the risk of buying any launch-day hardware. When you throw down your cash for a device like this, you are betting on the future of that device as much as what you will get out of the box. The 3D offers some intriguing possibilities, and the announcement deals with several Hollywood studios will soon bring feature-length 3D movies to the device. The promised ability to stream Netflix is also exciting, in theory.
In general though, the software included is an improvement on older Nintendo software of a similar nature. The Mii Maker is easy to use, the Street Pass is streamlined, and the 3DS will also be able to look for hotspots and connect while in sleep mode in order to keep you updated.
The software that was included all seemed responsive and easy to use, and you can back out of any program — including games — and still have them running in the background, but to open a new program will force you to close out. It is a touch annoying to constantly have to say yes to backing out of a program you just exited, but it will save gamers a ton of frustration if they accidentally hit the Home key, or just wanted to see if their friends are online.
Overall, the software is solid, there just isn’t much of it. The future is bright for the 3DS, but the launch day offering is a bit skimpy.
The 3DS is simply a fun device with a lot of promise. Unfortunately, we will have to wait a bit to see much of that promise realized, but the potential is definitely there, and Nintendo has claimed that it is not a matter of if, but when the 3DS will receive the software love it deserves.
The main selling point, the 3D works well — sometimes too well and it can give you eye strain, but the adjustable bar is there to ease that. The display looks very good, and the 3D is impressive. The camera, however, is not. It is fun to take 3D pictures, but if you can display those same pictures in a different setting — on a TV for example — they look grainy and off.
The controls are an improvement from the DS, both with addition of the analog stick, and the better buttons. The biggest issue with the 3DS though is the battery, which will drain away quickly if you are using the 3DS at its most power hungry settings.
The 3DS is no doubt bound for success. It takes what worked with the DS and it improves upon it. Many people might be slightly disappointed on launch day, but given time to grow, the 3DS could once again solidify Nintendo’s first-place hold on gaming.
- 3D works well
- Much more powerful than the DS
- Incredible amount of potential.
- Very short battery life
- Low-resolution camera
- Missing a lot of software