Nintendo 3DS XL pictures and hands-on

A super-sized version of the Nintendo 3DS was touted just before the start of E3 in June, but the Japanese videogames firm clearly decided to let the Wii U be its star turn at that particular show. Instead, it waited almost a month before confirming that a Nintendo 3DS XL was indeed more than a rumour.

And now Pocket-lint has got it's mitts on the new handheld and - ahead of a full review, which we'll bring you as soon as we've spent more time with it - we thought we'd give you our initial thoughts.

As soon as you take it out of the box (which is unnaturally heavy because of manuals as thick as phone books) you notice that it's not really like the normal 3DS at all. Although sturdy, it does feel a little more plasticky, although the curved edges are aesthetically more pleasing than the angular build of the former edition.

Strangely, it reminds us more of the first DS than the DSi XL that came out a couple of years ago. Mainly, that'll be the size of the console, but as we were also sent the silver unit (red and blue versions will also be available) it matches in colour too.

Some physical features definitely jump out at you immediately. For starters, the lock positions of the hinge are more defined - you feel like the back screen click into place when you open the clamshell. And a minor thing that stood out is that the 3D slider on the side of the top screen has a stopper at the minimum level it can be set to, without turning the 3D off entirely. Of course, you can still go beyond that, but at least you can tangibly feel it click.

Other changes include the swapping of the Select, Home and Start buttons from a sort-of all in one sheet with buttons underneath to actual separate buttons. The headphone socket is now bottom-left rather than centrally located. And the stylus slides out from the side rather than top.

Apart from those and size differences, there are slightly altered specs, including enhanced battery life. To power the 4.88- and 4.18-inch screens (over the 3.53- and 3.02-inch equivalents on the vanilla 3DS), Nintendo has added a larger battery. This comes with the benefit of extended life - claimed to be 3.5 to 6.5 hours for 3DS gaming, 6 to 10 hours for conventional DS games.

Charging it might be tricky, however. In a baffling decision that the big "N" puts down to cost cutting and expectations that a majority of adopters will be upgrading from a former model, there's no power pack in the box (clearly the multi-language manuals take up any allotted room). Certainly the console isn't big enough to make a massive difference.

Although the screens are both 90 per cent larger, the device itself is only 46 per cent bigger than its smaller counterpart. That's because the manufacturer has managed to reduce the bezel, but without hampering audio quality. And from our initial test, when compared to our normal 3DS, it seems that Nintendo has also improved the quality of the top screen, making it brighter and more vibrant.

It's also worth pointing out that one of our early worries, that games would look more pixelated on a larger screen because they were developed for a smaller one, were unfounded. Super Mario 3D Land looks absolutely stunning on the 3DS XL. Better than ever before, even.

We also immediately noticed that 3D works much better on the larger top screen. Although we're one of a gradually shrinking number of gamers who stick with the 3D option on the 3DS, we're not immune to swearing out loud when the crosstalk fails because we've altered the viewing angle.

For starters, the 3DS XL seems to have a wider viewing angle, so you're less likely to lose the effect when waggling the console about slightly. Also, we've yet to get as much eyestrain when playing on the larger screen than before. And, at its minimum 3D setting, it's actually a good, in-depth experience, where before you couldn't quite see any effect at lower levels.

The proof of the pudding will come when we've spent more time with the handheld and can review it more thoroughly, but there's no doubt even with a small amount of play that the Nintendo 3DS XL is impressive and more of a worthy rival to the PS Vita than the previous iteration. Even without a supplied charger.

The Nintendo 3DS XL will go on sale in the UK on 28 July for around £180.

What do you think of the Nintendo 3DS XL? Let us know in the comments below...