New Nintendo 3DS XL vs. Sony PS Vita Slim

Smartphone gaming may be better than ever right now, but for a proper console-style experience, you can’t beat a proper handheld gaming machine.

And when it comes to proper portable gaming machines, you can’t beat the Sony PlayStation Vita Slim. Or at least it was until last month when Nintendo released a new and improved version of the 3DS XL to the world.

Rather cleverly, they named it New Nintendo 3DS XL. And also quite smartly they kept all the good stuff we loved from its predecessor while improving a few other things.

So all very smart. But is he smart enough to see Sony’s king of mini-consoles? We put them head to head to find out.

New Nintendo 3DS XL (£180)

What is the problem?

Nintendo went the experimental route (as it so often does) with its current handheld, wrapped in a top screen with a glasses-free 3D effect. The new version of the 3DS XL refines this effect while bringing other performance, control and design changes all around.

Is he good?

Yes, but that’s because of the games, not the hardware itself. Truth be told, both the original and new versions of the 3DS – whether it’s the large XL model or the smaller standard model – feel like dated technology. The newer models introduce ‘super stable 3D’, which uses an eye-tracking camera for better viewing angles, but frankly it can be a little disorienting.

The low-res screens are horrible (even with the new 3D), the processor doesn’t even produce Wii-quality graphics, and the battery life isn’t great either (3.5-7 hours). Although the New Nintendo 3DS XL has a rechargeable battery, it does not come with an AC adapter. Any 3DS, 2DS, or DSi will work, but if you don’t already have one, you’ll shell out for a new one. Also, although the newer models have fancy constructions, they still look like heavy plastic toys.

Luckily, you can partially ignore the above, because where else are you going to play Nintendo’s games on the go? And what games it is: the likes of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Mario Kart 7 and Pokemon X and Y can be imitated but not duplicated. The 3DS also plays old DS games and has excellent Japanese RPGs from Eternal Studios. It’s a begrudging recommendation to some extent, as we want better hardware from Nintendo, but amazing games are impossible to ignore.

Things say ★★★★✩

The 3DS is a rinky-dink device, but Nintendo’s great games help hide its flaws

Sony PS Vita Slim (£145)

Sony PS Vita Slim (£145)

What is the problem?

Sony pushed to be more premium with the Vita, making it a more traditional successor to its PSP, but also packing in a touchscreen and touchscreen rear panel. The Slim revision has extended battery life, new lower-cost display technology, and more comfortable ergonomics.

Is he good?

Sony’s handling of the Vita has gone through ups and downs. On the plus side, the Slim is good-looking hardware, with a large, crisp, colorful LCD screen, although now surpassed by your average smartphone screen. The previous Vita had an OLED display but we actually prefer the realistic coloring of the second-gen device. It’s also a good companion device within the Sony ecosystem, as you can use it to stream games from your PlayStation 4 via Remote Play – potentially a killer feature. By contrast, the Vita Slim has a measly 1GB of internal storage, so you’ll need a memory card for sure. They are expensive, but at least they go up to 64GB.

On the games front, Sony has (strangely) stopped producing its own games for the system, especially the shiny AAA titles that sold us on its initial potential. But other studios and indie developers in particular are filling the void with smaller gems that shine as personal, portable experiences. And there are a host of old digital PSone and PSP games available. The output stream is dwindling and we miss big budget games, but there’s still enough great stuff coming out to occupy our thumbs.

Things say ★★★★✩

Things say ★★★★✩

The Vitas better hardware, neat perks and a bigger selection of titles make it today’s best laptop

If you only play one game…

For the 3DS it is 3D Super Mario Land, obviously. It’s an extremely creative game in a series full of them, and it strikes the sweet spot between the best 2D and 3D mario entries. Each level is totally unique and there are plenty of surprises to discover, so keep digging.

On the Vita, it must be To tear outThe last of little big planet Media Molecule creator. This colorful papercraft-inspired platformer is not only wonderfully inventive and endlessly charming, but it’s also one of the few games that puts almost every neat little trick in the hardware to good use.

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