Nintendo introduced the New Nintendo 3DS in 2015 promising improved performance and a number of other tweaks. Digital Foundry has revisited the hardware since it has been out for over a year now and with the recent release of Hyrule Warriors Legends they have concluded that it is worth taking another look at the device. Here’s the publications definitive conclusions about the best Nintendo 3DS model on the market.
“It’s something of a hardware lightweight though, and its library is effectively a triumph of software design overcoming some brutal limitations. Nintendo in particular has extracted magic from this meagre spec, to the point where titles like Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros compare favourably to their Wii U counterparts.”
“However, the New 3DS represents a significant leap forward – unfortunately, the GPU offers no improvement in any way whatsoever, but the main ARM processor is upgraded to a quad-core model, CPU frequency can increase to 804MHz, plus there’s much more memory, opening the door to advantages such as shorter loading times, and higher detail textures. Specifically, system RAM doubles to 256MB, the GPU receives an extra 4MB of VRAM, while there’s also some extra L2 cache on the CPU.”
“After all, the spec revision doesn’t actually introduce any new technology as such – there’s just more RAM, more CPU cores and a clock-speed boost. The fact that we still see such impressive performance boosts when the GPU component apparently remains completely unchanged from one 3DS to the next is hugely revealing – it tells us that the initial launch hardware was unbalanced, that the GPU was left severely under-utilised, owing to a severe lack of CPU resources. Very possibly this was down to the fact that battery life was a real issue – we assume that the New 3DS takes advantage of a smaller process node for its hardware.”
“As things stand, existing 3DS titles see no performance bump when running on New 3DS hardware, even those with unlocked frame-rates. Unless the software asks for the additional power, the New 3DS simply runs at the old version’s speed – though you do get loading time improvements from the larger pool of RAM. That hasn’t stopped hackers with custom firmware kicking in New 3DS’s 804MHz speed on older 3DS content. Unfortunately, this is something we couldn’t test, but there are reported improvements on titles such as Pokemon XY (which ran poorly), Monster Hunter 3U and Luigi’s Mansion 2 (unlocked frame-rate), Ace Combat 3DS (unlocked frame-rate). Curiously, you can also downclock New 3DS to old 3DS’s 268MHz clock-speed, and not surprisingly, Xenoblade is crippled as a result.”
“GPU component apparently remains completely unchanged from one 3DS to the next is hugely revealing – it tells us that the initial launch hardware was unbalanced, that the GPU was left severely under-utilised, owing to a severe lack of CPU resources.”
That’s pretty sad. Kinda feel like selling my old Zelda 3DS.