Let’s Discuss Image Quality via the 3DS XL

Worldwide, gamers can have their hands on the 3DS XL, a do over of Nintendo’s successful glasses-free 3D handheld. Like its predecessor the DSi XL, the screen boasts a vast size increase but does nothing for the screen resolution. This means the pixels are spread thin across the screen, and with the size increase, visual flaws are more evident.

But… that doesn’t mean the image is worse.

What does a “worse” image entail? Well, put a DS game into your 3DS. The console begins compensating for mismatched resolutions, poorly upscaling the images and leading to a muddy, murky look that appears filtered. That’s an image downgrade.

Now, take a 3DS game, play it in a standard 3DS unit, and then move up the XL. What happens? Nothing actually. People like to point out jagged edges (or visible pixels if we’re speaking on 2D games), but those aren’t flaws. The hardware itself isn’t doing anything different. Those visual quirks were always evident, you simply couldn’t see them (at least not to that degree) before.

It’s no different than playing Halo Reach on a 27 inch TV, but when you move up to a 60 inch, you suddenly notice the low resolution Reach is being rendered in. The game isn’t suddenly downgraded in its visuals so much as it’s being rendered at a size where the jagged edges and pop-in become evident.

Image quality is subjective. For instance, I find the PSP-3000 and its rather garish color and interlacing artifacts to be overbearing. That’s a change from the PSP-2000 models. The 3DS XL on the other hand doesn’t change anything except for a better contrast ratio; it blows it up an established image and some seem to think that means a downgraded image. We’re so in tune with the idea of anti-aliasing that it’s become a no-no regardless of the hardware.

Trying to take that element out, or finding a means to alter it, not only requires additional processing at a hardware level, edges could lose their sharpness, and suddenly, we’re back to the DS game in a 3DS issue. No one wants that. Instead, appreciate that you can see your games in such remarkable detail on a small screen. That wasn’t always possible.