Nintendo's latest console may be attracting eyes to its flashy 3D screen, but that same technology has had a significant casualty: The console's battery life.
Nintendo estimates the 3DS's battery while playing 3DS at three to five hours, a significant drop from the 10-hour battery life of the original DS. DS games fare a bit better, giving the 3DS a 5-8 battery life, Nintendo says. Both numbers, however, are estimates, and the company freely admits that actual numbers may end up slightly lower depending on usage patterns.
In an entry in Nintendo's Iwata Asks series, Nintendo 3DS system designer Ryuji Umezu says that the reason for the 3DS's drop in battery life lies in the power needed to run the 3DS's three-dimensional display. What eats more electricity than anything in a handheld gaming device is the LCD backlight, he said.
But it isn't just the backlight, which would be an issue for any handheld. The 3DS's 3D display has its own set of problems, Umezu says.
The 3D screen essentially splits the image into two images - one for each eye - the amount of light entering each eye is cut in half. In order to make it look just as bright as usual, you have to increase the brightness of the backlight, which increases the power used by even more, he said.
For this reason, Nintendo included a special charging cradle meant to encourage 3DS owners to constantly charge their consoles. The company sets the device's charging time for 3 hours and 30 minutes. As for the battery, it is inevitable that Nintendo 3DS will be a device which requires more frequent recharging than Nintendo DS, said Nintendo president Satoru Iwata.
But where Nintendo has failed, other companies have stepped in. Nyko has developed a battery placement called the Power Pak+, which the company says doubles the 3DS's battery life. Released alongside the 3DS, the Power Pak+ will retail for $19.99.
As with Nintendo's previous consoles, the company will likely fix the 3DS's most glaring issues with future redesigns.