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Snail W 3D hands-on review at CES 2015

A smartphone/tablet boasting glasses-free 3D and physical gaming controls, the Snail W 3D is an Android gaming machine to rival Nvidia’s Shield. We had a play at CES 2015 in Vegas.

Gamers will know all too well the frustrations of playing anything more compicated than Hearthstone on a mobile device. Your thumbs are tripping over themselves trying to frantically bash the virtual buttons and chances are you’ll be blasted into a million pieces at a crucial moment because you tapped just a millimetre too far to the right.

That’s where Snail’s W 3D comes in. This 5.5-inch phone (although it’s really more of a mini tablet, as who is honestly going to carry this in their pocket?) features physical controls surrounding the screen, much like Sony’s PS Vita gaming console. You get dual thumb pads which are comfortable to use and appear to be responsive, plus a D-pad. Then there’s four face buttons and four shoulder buttons up top. The shoulder buttons are rather dinky and it’s a little too easy to mash them both in panic, but hopefully that’s something that will change as you get used to the W 3D.

The 5.5-inch 1080i screen is glorious, producing rich, colourful images that really leap off the screen – literally. Turn the 3D on and the W 3D tracks your eyes using the front-facing camera, producing a decent multi-layer effect just like Amazon’s Fire phone. You don’t have to hold the phone or your head rigidly in place either; you can move your eyes around quite a lot and the effect stays true.

There are a few Android games so far that support 3D, including the highly exciting Bus Simulator 3D (reason enough for a purchase, surely, and we can only imagine what it entails – presumably you have to order chavs to get off for playing their crap music too loud). You can also watch 3D movies, with a decent selection available online now.

The Snail W 3D has dual SIM slots so you can use it as a phone if you really must, but we’d feel a bit dopey holding this thing against our face and although it’s quite slender, it’s still far too bulky to fit in a normal pocket.

Bad news for UK gamers sadly, as Snail reckons the W 3D won’t be hitting British soil until 2016 at the earliest – although the UK is likely to be the first place in Europe to get it when it does finally make the trip across the Atlantic. It’s nice to have those physical controls if you’re obsessed with playing the likes of GTA on your commute, but the Nvidia Shield offers more exciting features such as PC streaming, so that’s still our favourite portable gaming machine right now.


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