The Nintendo 3DS is a much bigger technological leap forward over the DSi than its relatively unchanged design suggests. The 20 free 3DS games that Nintendo offered to early purchasers might even suggest that it’s taken a leap forward in goodwill marketing as well.
There are a lot of (rather gimmicky) never-before-seen software features too, but we’re mainly going to look at the hardware upgrades and meaty internal specifications.
Completely overhauled graphics
Some of the pre-release images of the 3DS depicting a three-dimensional Mario dancing on the lower screen is sure to have made some people believe (or hope) that it would feature holographic 3D graphics projected in the space in front of the screen. Said people would probably have been disappointed at the “stereoscopic 3D” graphics that merely adds a sense of depth to a flat screen, but it’s still impressive considering you don’t need to wear any blue/red, flickering or polarized glasses to see the effect.
In addition to the autostereoscopic graphics, you might also notice that the overall resolution is higher – 400×240 pixels versus the DSi’s 256×192 pixels to be exact. What you probably won’t notice however is the increase in color depth from 18 bits-per-pixel to 24 bits-per-pixel.
A beefier computer inside
To handle the stereoscopic 3D graphics, the greater number of pixels and the greater number of colors per pixel, the 3DS needed a complete overhaul in processing power – and an overhaul did it get.
First the graphics processing unit has been upgraded from a Nintendo-built chip to a PICA200 chip, which is much more powerful. RAM has octupled from a puny 16mb to a full 128mb, and internal flash storage has also increased by the same proportion from 256mb to 2gb. There are no official details on the main processing units apart from the fact that it’s still two Nintendo-built ARM processors, but there are rumors that they are both 266MHz in comparison to the DSi’s 133MHz and 33MHz processors.
WiFi on the DSi was only a step up from poorly-implemented version on the DS – support for the secure WPA/WPA2 protocol was flaky. Thankfully on the 3DS its compatibility is almost as good as any WiFi chipset on the average notebook computer, though DS games will still have to use the less-secure WEP potocol. An interesting feature that has returned from the old Game Boy Color is infrared, though whether it will actually be useful remains to be seen.
Input on steroids
Even on pocket gaming devices, a couple of buttons and a D-pad don’t cut it anymore. An analog-input “circle pad”, which is basically a flat button that moves in all directions like a joystick, allows for precise input for games that support it (which is probably nearly all games, except for some of the free Nintendo 3DS games that the company offered as they are older GB Advance or NES games).
The accelerometer and gyroscope, as their names imply, measure the rate of acceleration of the unit in a given direction and the direction of gravity respectively. The ways in which these can be utilized by games is limitless; however gamers have run into problems with viewing angles when trying to play with stereoscopic 3D vision turned on and waving the the device around at the same time.