It’s probably against the law to talk about the 3DS today, but I’m a rebel. In the latest Iwata Asks, system designer Ryuji Umeza explains Nintendo’s baffling “three to five hours” official battery life statement.
Unsurprisingly, how you use the 3DS determines how much juice you’ll squeeze out of its battery. Backlights, the plague of handhelds since time immemorial (the nineties), are the prime suspect in reducing your play time.
“When I measured [battery life] by playing several Nintendo games, with the backlight set to the brightest level and the power save mode turned off, battery duration was about three hours,” Umeza said.
“But if you use the power save mode under the same conditions, it gets about 10-20% longer. And if you set the backlight to the darkest setting, the battery lasts five hours, but the power save mode makes less of a difference then.”
The 3DS’s power save mode dynamically adjusts backlight brighting according to the image displayed, darkening on black screens.
Switching off 3D effects can extend battery life by 25 percent, again slashed thanks to curséd backlighting.
“The 3D [backlight] has to deliver separate images to the left and right eyes, which means that in 3D the amount of light delivered to each eye is halved. 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.”