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Nintendo 3DS: Futuristic Handheld, Retro Battery

Design and Build Quality

Nintendo’s latest handheld console is just under a week away (for North America, that is). Is this portable 3D powerhouse worth $250, or is it better to wait for that inevitable “3DS Lite?"

The form-factor of the 3DS is the latest iteration of Nintendo’s clamshell design, which dates all the way back to 2004 and the original DS handheld. You can even make the argument that it goes back even further to the Game Boy Advanced SP, which shares plenty of hardware and design traits with its DS cousins.

At first glance, the 3DS is roughly the same size as a DS Lite - 5.3 x 2.9 x .83 inches versus 5.2 x 2.91 x 0.86 inches – and the weight difference is a mere 0.4 ounces (8.1 versus 7.7). The 3DS maintains an illusion of being larger than the DS Lite, however, because of its oddly-shaped top half, which is slightly wider than the bottom half. The top hangs out over the sides of the bottom half of the device, but only by a few millimeters.

The build quality is on par with previous devices, although the inside of the 3DS is also covered in shiny plastic this time around (it used to be a matte plastic). The analog input, D-pad and A-B-X-Y buttons are all very responsive, and there’s no hint of Nintendo cutting corners in this department. On the other hand, the console’s hinge quality is a problem. Compared to the still-sturdy hinge on our five-year old DS Lite, the 3DS feels worn despite being a brand new device. It takes virtually no effort to close the hinge – gravity usually does the trick when holding the console at the proper angle – and we’re very concerned about long-term stability. Your best bet is to buy a case and keep the console as well-protected as possible.