The announcement made quite a stir at the Nintendo booth in the exhibition hall. People lined up for hours just to get a few minutes with the device. Nintendo tethered each 3DS to its booth and each system had its own dedicated spokesperson dressed all in white at the ready to answer questions.
One question that was asked but not answered in detail was, “When is it coming out?” It would take nearly a year before the 3DS launched worldwide. But in March 2011, gamers around the world got their first chance to purchase a 3DS system of their very own.
So how does this new device work? What makes it different from the DS units that preceded it? And just how can you see 3-D images on a screen without wearing glasses? We’re going to answer all those questions and show you exactly what’s running the show inside the Nintendo 3DS.
Nintendo 3DS Features and Specs
Compare the 3DS to an older DS or a DS Lite and you’ll see it’s a bit bigger, thicker and heavier than its older siblings. But the Nintendo DSi XL remains the biggest kid on the block. Here’s a rundown on the physical features of the 3DS:
- 5.3 inches (13.4 centimeters) wide, 2.9 inches (7.7 centimeters) long and 0.8 inches (2.1 centimeters) thick
- Upper screen (3-D display) is a 3.53-inch (8.97-centimeter) display with a resolution of 800 x 240 pixels
- Lower screen (touch-screen display) is a 3.02-inch (7.67-centimeter) display with a resolution of 320 x 240 pixels
- Weighs 8.3 ounces (235 grams)
The 3DS shares many of its predecessors’ features. You can download games over WiFi or buy physical cartridges for the 3DS. It has an 802.11 WiFi connection as well as Nintendo’s proprietary WiFi service. It has a microphone that lets you record sounds for playback — it also comes into play with some games where sound is an interactive part of the experience. You can store information on an SD card and even transfer content like music and photos to other devices, though there are some limitations on the content you can share.
The 3DS has a standard 3.5-millimeter headphone jack, and a physical sliding control for volume. There are also sliders to control the 3-D effect on the upper screen and a switch to turn the WiFi on or off. On the back of the device, you’ll find a storage space for the 3DS’s telescoping stylus, a port for the 3DS’s AC charging cable and an infrared transceiver panel.
Like the other members of the DS family, the 3DS has a resistive touch-screen display. That means the screen reacts to pressure. Inside the display are two special layers that detect touch. One layer is conductive while the other is resistive. When the two layers come into contact with each other, the 3DS detects the change in the electrical field and interprets the touch as a command. Technically, any pressure on the screen will work but Nintendo warns users to limit themselves to using the official Nintendo stylus with the touch-screen display.
The stylus and touch-screen interface aren’t the only way you can control games with the 3DS. It also has a direction pad, a new circle pad that can act as a joystick or camera control interface for certain applications, four controller buttons and dedicated buttons for home, start and select features. The control pad and buttons will look familiar to any Nintendo fan — they have their roots in the old Super Nintendo Entertainment System controller.
The 3DS has three cameras. One faces the player. The other two are on the back of the 3DS — you can use them to take pictures in 3-D. We’ll dive into the three-dimensional world of the 3DS a little later.
Gaming on the 3DS
You can get games for the Nintendo 3DS either buy purchasing game cards — tiny cartridges — or by downloading them through Nintendo’s service. The 3DS is backwards compatible — it can play game cards for the Nintendo DS and DSi systems. But don’t expect those old games to take advantage of the 3-D capabilities of the 3DS. You’ll be able to play them but they’ll remain in 2-D.
Early reviews of the Nintendo 3DS criticize the loading time for old games. Part of the problem may be due to the fact that the 3DS has a different screen resolution than the DS and DSi. To compensate, the 3DS may need to take more time to adjust the graphic settings for a game before it can launch into gameplay.
Downloading a game will store the title on your 3DS’s SD card. Each SD card can hold up to 300 titles. Nintendo is quick to point out that you don’t actually own these games — just a license to play them on your machine.
If the game is free, you may even send a copy of it over Nintendo’s SpotPass service. This uses WiFi to let you distribute games to other Nintendo 3DS owners. The service won’t allow you to distribute purchased games.
Nintendo has incorporated some digital rights management (DRM) strategies with the downloadable software. For example, if you copy a title from one SD card to put it on another, the title will stop working on the old SD card. This prevents Nintendo 3DS owners from making illegal copies of games and giving or selling them to other people.
Nintendo also includes parental controls on the 3DS to help parents limit the types of games and information kids can access when using the system. Since the 3DS has a Web browser, parents may want to turn on the parental control features to limit what sort of content their kids can see while online. And not all video game titles are family friendly — the parental controls let you set what types of games will work based on their ESRB rating.
For more Detail: How the Nintendo 3DS Works