News Article

Top Screen Backlight to Blame for 3DS Battery Life

Posted by James Newton

Too bright by half

There's no dressing it up: the 3DS's battery life of 3 - 5 hours is disappointing. Ryuji Umezu, the system designer, talked to Nintendo President Satoru Iwata about the many features that sap away the machine's battery life, with the main culprit, as you would expect, the 3D top screen.

Explaining that the most energy-hungry aspect of most portable consoles is the backlit screen, Umezu goes on to say that while the 3DS has two of these, like its predecessor, the top screen has double the energy consumption of a 2D screen as it has to send separate images to each eye. Separate images means the amount of light delivered to each eye is half what it would normally be, necessitating an increase in brightness to maintain the same level of screen illumination.

The console will implement an active backlight system to alter the screen's brightness according to what content is being played on it, in a similar way to some HDTV's dynamic contrast functions. When the screen is mostly dark, the backlight is turned down as it's not needed as much, but this power-saving option is completely optional.

Umezu claims that playing games with the power save function off and brightness turned to maximum will give around three hours of battery life, but turning the active backlight on can squeeze another 10-20% out of the battery, giving around an extra 20 to 40 minutes playtime. Setting the backlight to its lowest level will give you around five hours of play, but naturally the active backlight has less impact here.

Nintendo recommends gamers use their charging cradles every day to recharge the 3DS's battery, as even with the power-saving options turned on it sounds like players will be doing a lot more charging than usual.

[via iwataasks.nintendo.com]

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User Comments (61)

ueI

#1

ueI said:

Well this sucks. Will turning down the 3D extend battery life?

grumblebuzzz

#2

grumblebuzzz said:

It really doesn't matter to me too terribly much. I always bring my charger with me because I get super paranoid when I see a red light.

Cipher

#3

Cipher said:

Essentially, the 3DS battery is powering three screens, isn't it? The touch screen and the two screens that make up the top screen. Plus the two backlights.

@uel - Yeah, by around two or three hours, as I recall?

@vonseuz - Well, that's what the AC adapter's for. It's either-or, that or the cradle.

XMiggsX

#4

XMiggsX said:

i don't see the big deal about the battery life like the guy on top i do carry my plug everywhere anyway. same goes with my psp

Kid_A

#5

Kid_A said:

Yeesh. I suppose it might save more battery with the 3D turned off as well. And wait a minute, can you charge the system with an outlet or do you have to use the cradle to charge; because if so, that would mean you couldn't play while it charges.

zeeroid

#6

zeeroid said:

The cradle is handy for letting you simply plop the system down and let it charge, which people are much more likely to do on a regular basis if they don't have to specially plug a cord into a socket. It really comes down to a matter of effort. Of course, you can still use the plug if you want to charge while playing, or if the battery is running low but you're not ready to switch off just yet. Personally, I think everything will work out all right.

Robo-goose

#8

Robo-goose said:

I completely understand... that more-powerful 3DS batteries will sell like hot cakes.

OldBoy

#9

OldBoy said:

Personally I don't see the 3-5 hour battery life to be a problem.I mean if your playing for more than 5 hours at a time you really need to get out a bit more :P

jayo

#11

jayo said:

@vonseux- You can do that with the 3DS.
The original DS had a rather short life of 6-10 hours, but then they brought out the DS Lite and DSi which had relatively longer battery lives. So, no doubt there will be redesigned 3DS's in the future that will have longer lasting batteries! Until then, let's make the best of this...

irken004

#13

irken004 said:

Agreed with Luigi78, I only play handheld games for at most one hour at a time anyway.

Markystal

#14

Markystal said:

I wonder if the battery life increase of 2 hours is including the 3D on. I personally am not all that interested n the 3D in that of itself. I was excited by the games, not the 3D. I may play with full 3D on at home while charging the 3DS, but wouldn't the possible 3D induced eye strain from before be even more cumbersome while on the go?

WaveyChristmas

#16

WaveyChristmas said:

Good lord, why are people crying about this? Personally I usually never go over the 2 and 1/2 hour limit when gaming, 2 hours is the sweet spot for me. There's a little thing called taking a break and you know, doing something else? Life is all about balance. But hey, at least it lasts longer than a Sega Nomad. :p

Anyways, I'm perfectly happy with the 3DS's battery life. What I'm worried about is the tilt function mucking up the 3D effect.

TrueWiiMaster

#17

TrueWiiMaster said:

Works for me. The only time I play longer than 3 hours on a portable is when I'm home anyway, so I can just plug it in. For extended traveling there's always a car adapter. This is not at all a bad trade-off in exchange for amazing 3D!

NintyMan

#18

NintyMan said:

Plenty of negative news today, I presume? The battery life might not be desirable, but keeping the brightness level should help. I think it's a given that the 3D would be the reason why it would take up the juice. I personally have no complaints about charging often. Maybe when I get a 3DS, I'll just put it on the charging cradle after playing so long instead of leaving it around.

PSICOffee

#19

PSICOffee said:

I have to put the system down sometime, so what better way than to have it charge on the table in a cradle? It removes the hassle of setting up the ac adapter and moving the cord away from my pets. Brilliant idea. Better than my DSlite. Who really needs to play more than 3 hours at a time anyway?

kurtasbestos

#20

kurtasbestos said:

I still don't get it, either... the only time I can think of that I might even want to consider playing for 3~5 hours straight without being near an electrical outlet is when I'm flying or on a long road trip, when I usually have other things to entertain me anyway.

DrCruse

#21

DrCruse said:

Now I realize why the Neo Geo Pocket Color isn't backlit. It gives it its record 40 hour battery life :P

warioswoods

#22

warioswoods said:

It's good that they cleared this up, however, because some gaming and tech blogs out there were erroneously reporting that the 3 hour figure was based on average brightness etc, rather than being a true minimum based on a test with the brightest up to max.

ImDiggerDan

#23

ImDiggerDan said:

As for cradle and playing whilst charging, I'm assuming that the charger will plug directly into the 3DS or into the cradle. I'm hoping so.

Also, if you've seen the shots of the system pulled apart, I found it interesting that to get to the battery recess, the entire back comes off, not just a small panel the size of the battery. I think this will lead to 3rd (and possibly 1st) party additional batteries that cover the entire back of the system making it a bit thicker but possibly extending the battery life by many times over.

This may be an intentional design choice by Nintendo or just something the accessory manufacturers could make use of just by chance.

CorbsAdmin

#24

Corbs said:

When I'm waiting in the hospital waiting rooms (as I find myself doing quite often these days) I always take my charger and just find an outlet. :D

Meta-Rift

#25

Meta-Rift said:

Turning the 3D slider down probably won't improve the battery life unless it's completely off. I could be wrong about this, but it just doesn't make sense that playing with 3D at 50% would use less power than playing with it at 100%. The machine renders the frame once for each eye no matter where the slider is (unless it's at 0%, which I'm guessing causes it to render only once), so why wouldn't it use the same amount of power for each slider position?

warioswoods

#26

warioswoods said:

@Rift

Correct, it's all-or-nothing as far as the power consumption of 3D, just like Dead or Alive doesn't switch to the full 60fps until the slider is all the way off. A little 3D is the same as full 3D, it's just that the focal distance is reduced.

komicturtle

#27

komicturtle said:

Ah, so turning off the Wireless Funtion... So we should get 6 hours? Or seven?

Either way not a big deal. It'd only be a huge problem when the next Pokemon games come out for the system since I spent a whole day playing HeartGold. Well, maybe not a huge problem...

Token_Girl

#28

Token_Girl said:

If you know you're going to be out for a while:
Don't play with 3D
Turn down the backlight
Turn down the volume
Turn off wireless.

You'll probably be able to stretch significantly longer than the 5 hour mark if you do all of those things.

bro2dragons

#29

bro2dragons said:

You know... everybody is complaining about this battery life... but honestly? For the past year, my DS has been unable to hold a charge for more than 30 seconds when not plugged in. So whenever I play, be it on the road, or at home, I have it plugged into an outlet or car cigarette lighter to power it. And that hasn't stopped me playing the mess out of HeartGold or Super Scribblenauts or 999. I'm really not worried. Being able to play my console for 3 hours ANYWHERE amazes me. This makes me exactly 0% less excited for the 3DS. In fact, given that the 3 hours sounds like a lot to me, it makes me a hefty percentage more excited for it.

Take that, naysayers!

theblackdragonAdmin

#31

theblackdragon said:

@bro2dragons: two words -- "replacement battery". if you've been suffering for that long, it's your own fault, lol... no need for the excessive backlash against those of us who aren't thrilled about the battery life of the 3DS. :3

Glade

#33

Glade said:

Fun fact :)
the 3ds uses a dsi gharger so if you have a dis the charger won't be wasted :) so like get a car charger for it too :D

Doma

#34

Doma said:

I don't see a mention of the '3D' once here, so even less than 3 hours is a possibility if i'm not mistaken. Also factor in that a battery's performance wanes after so many charges.

I think you people are being way too complacent about it really, how can anyone brush this off as a non-issue?

Yasume

#35

Yasume said:

Who plays games 5 hours straight? I'm sorry, but I don't get why there are so many complaints about this matter.

eddypikachu

#36

eddypikachu said:

I always bring my charger with me in case im playing and it gets a red light, always, everywhere I bring ot with me

Arcanum

#37

Arcanum said:

I read that the brightest on the 3DS is about 3 hours long in battery life and 5 at the most with lowest brightness and some functions turned off.

KrazyKain

#38

KrazyKain said:

I rarely play for more then 2 hours straight,and if i'm not playing on it its charging, so no problem

Wesker

#39

Wesker said:

You just have to get used to charging it after everytime you use it. The good thing about the DS is that even if you don't charge it diligently, you know it's gonna work for you. On the other hand, with an Iphone if you forget to charge it at the end of the day that spells problems for the next day. It's gonna be the same for the 3DS.

shinesprite

#40

shinesprite said:

@Rift Right! The 3D slider actually adjusts the 3DS' focal point (like binoculars). Presumably if clicks into a 3D off position, turning half the screen completely off.

Personally, I'm not too upset over the battery life issue. It uses the same plugs as the DSi, and I've all-ready got a car and AC charger, so I'm fine. The only thing which worries me, is being on an airplane for several hours.

Sylverstone

#41

Sylverstone said:

I have no problem with the battery life, since I do carry around an adapter when I can, and I tend to charge a lot.

TKOWL

#43

TKOWL said:

I never carry a charger around unless I'm on LONG trips, but I also don't carry around my DS with me always, either.

MeloMan

#44

MeloMan said:

Since the DS Lite, I've had this case that that can hold the DS, a stylus, 3 DS games, 2 GBA games (shows you how long I've had it), and a compartment for the DS charge adapter, my earbuds, and cleaning cloth. carrying a charger is not even an issue w/ me, nor charging. I suggest to folks to get one of those unless you insist you carrying your 3DS and charger in your pockets, but having a case isn't really that bad...

NassaDane

#46

NassaDane said:

Who the Heck cares about battery life? If it gets low just charge it, no skin off my back. Half the time my DS is on the charger all the time, mostly when i'm playing it.

Ecto-1

#47

Ecto-1 said:

@uel
I doubt that turning off the 3D will have much of an effect on the battery life. Think of the 3D screen as two screens put together. While in 3D mode, the screens display slightly different images to each of the user's eyes, thus creating the illusion of 3D. In 2D mode, the screens will send identical images to each of the user's eyes. However, it is still displaying the image twice.

Therefore, regardless of the 3D settings, the system is always powering the equivalent of 3 screens (two for the 3D display and one touch screen). If there is any improvement in battery performance resulting from disabling the 3D, it will likely come from the system not having to process two different versions of each image, and not from the screens themselves.

Portista

#48

Portista said:

OK, I know a lot of you guys think that a battery life of 3-5 hours is very short, but after all, your not supposed to use the 3D effect for more than 30-45 minutes at a time. But, I do agree that on a long car trip, this could get annoying.

Capt_N

#49

Capt_N said:

I think the adjustable 3d slider will be done by simply reducing the horizontal/vertical scan lines, &/or pixel lines of the 3d screen. Like everyone is saying, it will still be in 3d mode, even @ it's lowest setting, except "off".

I wonder if Nintendo will officially offer replacement batteries(Edit: In Stores, or via send in for repair)? Actually, I'm sure this was probably done on purpose by the tech designers/team, to ensure @ least 1 feature of the 3DS can be upgraded in the 3DS successor, or more likely, the next family member in the 3DS family.

3-5hr.s is not a cool battery life.

JakobG

#50

JakobG said:

Won't be a problem as long as there's a cheap cigarette-lighter charger.

Peznaze

#52

Peznaze said:

That "Iwata Asks" was full of 3DS info. They did say that at max brightness, 3d vs. 2d was 25% different in battery life. And that wireless didn't tax the battery much, something like 10% if the game is transmitting a lot.

Also of note - no short term plans for a more compact redesign. So no 3DSLite, but they may jump straight to 3DS XL...

Angelic_Lapras_King

#53

Angelic_Lapras_King said:

Just play with the charger at home and if you runs out of juice outside, either bring the charger or something else to do, like read a book. :P

HanuKwanzMasBif

#54

HanuKwanzMasBif said:

I read that in the Iwata Asks interview something along the lines of if you're using the charging cradle, you have to use the AC Adapter with it. I'm assuming that means you plug the adapter into the cradle, then plop your system into the cradle.
Just thought that was interesting.
And where did everyone hear that the 3DS and DSi would have the same charger?

Ecto-1

#55

Ecto-1 said:

@Jumbif
There is an article somewhere one NL about the contents of the 3DS's box. The article has a piture of the system's charge cable. The cable in the picture appears to be the same as a DSi charger.

DarkKirby

#56

DarkKirby said:

Hopefully, a 3rd party developer will release an increased capacity 3DS battery. Many smartphones are actually sold with batteries that are of a lower capacity then they could be to cut down on costs and there are 3rd party developers who sell high capacity batteries for especially power heavy smartphone users, I suspect the 3DS is the same. There sure as heck will be a high demand for higher capacity 3DS batteries, it would be a wasted opportunity to not sell them.

Sakura_Moonlight2421

#58

Sakura_Moonlight2421 said:

Yup that's true @59. The most I can get out of my laptop battery even on power save is about 3 1/2 hours.

The remedy here would be to find a second battery pack (charged) on hand. If that's even possible...,;

Texaswes

#61

Texaswes said:

This is why we get the Charging Cradle that comes with it! I'm not sure if you can only charge it with the cradle when its in sleep mode, but I'm sure you can play it when its charging.

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