When I first got my hands on a Nintendo 3DS XL, one of the most pressing questions was its battery life. This resulted in a family project with the kids to set up a 3DS XL battery test time-lapse video. We had a great time mucking around with cameras, tripods and various iPhone time-lapse applications.
Then the video hit the internet, and my kids could hardly believe that our little weekend project had 60,000 people watching it. With all those people came all sorts of comments, and the children got into a habit of answering them each day after school.
Lots of the commenters, who I have to say have been cordial and engaging in the main, asked why we didn’t include the Game Boy Color and original Game Boy Advance. So when we came across these two consoles in a second-hand store in town the children were eager to buy them — the implication being we would create a bigger, better battery test that included all the different Nintendo consoles.
The following week we set up our time-lapse equipment again. As you can see here it’s an iPhone with the StopMotion app running mounted on a Manfrotto tripod with a Glif clip. We set the app to take a picture every 90 seconds and fixed the White Balance and Exposure to capture the change of light through the day.
The app had improved somewhat since our previous time lapse, something that made changing settings and tracking progress much easier. I was also impressed that it didn’t flinch at stitching together the 1,725 photos into an HD video.
This time, our aim was to expand the list of consoles we would track. Our starting lineup was as follows: Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, the original front-lit GBA SP (two black-colored and one silver, of different ages), the “Brighter Screen” backlit GBA SP AGS-101 model, Game Boy Micro, Nintendo DS, DS Lite, DSi, DSi XL, original 3DS (with different battery expansions), 3DS XL, Sony’s PSP and PlayStation Vita, and iPod Touch (1st Gen and 3rd Gen).
We realized just before starting the time lapse that both the iPod Touch and the Vita seemed to have auto power-off features that we couldn’t turn off. With the clock ticking we didn’t spend a huge amount of time investigating so if there was a way to disable this, so let me know in the comments.
Having run this test previously the kids were ready for the patience required before they could see the results. The hours ticked by and one by one the different consoles slowly turned red and then switched off. As we hit the evening they reluctantly went off to bed, only to rush down the next morning to see which handhelds had survived the night. It felt a little like Christmas, albeit a Christmas without presents or turkey.
It was good to have a full complement of consoles in this 3DS battery test, along with some duplicates for comparisons of different battery ages. It was hard to figure out what games to have each console running. We decided to try to match each generation. The Game Boys each had an original Game Boy cart, the GBAs each had a GBA cart and the 3DS units each ran the StreetPass app.
Brightness was set to full on each of them, and any wireless communication and 3-D features were turned off.
Here are the results of our second test, in reverse order of battery time:
- Sony PSP: 3 hours, 45 minutes
- Nintendo 3DS: 3 hours, 55 minutes
- Nintendo DSi: 4 hours, 2 minutes
- Nintendo DS Lite (Silver): 4 hours, 30 minutes
- Nintendo 3DS XL: 4 hours, 32 minutes
- Nintendo DS Lite (Yellow): 4 hours, 38 minutes
- Game Boy Advance SP (Backlit): 4 hours, 50 minutes
- Game Boy Micro: 5 hours, 30 minutes
- Nintendo DSi XL: 5 hours, 45 minutes
- Nintendo DS: 6 hours, 1 minute
- Game Boy Advance SP (Frontlit, Black #1): 8 hours, 2 minutes
- Game Boy Advance SP (Frontlit, Black #2): 8 hours, 5 minutes
- Nintendo 3DS with Nyco battery pack: 9 hours, 11 minutes
- Game Boy Advance SP (Frontlit, Silver): 11 hours, 56 minutes
- Nintendo 3DS with Mugen battery pack: 13 hours, 50 minutes
- Game Boy: 15 hours, 30 minutes*
- Game Boy Advance: 29 hours, 32 minutes
- Game Boy Color: 35 hours, 45 minutes
*interference from child
All this made sense and matched our findings compared to last time except the untimely demise of the original Game Boy. For some reason, it only lasted around half the time it did on the first test.
I didn’t think all that much about it until I started editing and uploading the video. As viewers quickly saw, at the moment when the Game Boy’s battery runs out you see one of my children appear and then disappear, nudging the table. One viewer even created an animated GIF with the hard evidence.
Apart from this the 3DS with the Mugen battery still stands out as lasting an impressive amount of time. It’s still my preference for extending the 3DS life when I’m out and about — although the 3DS XL with some power saving options switched on also does the trick.
Having seen their younger brother’s misdemeanor, my older kids are keen to repeat the test for a pure set of results. As soon as I find the time to get all the consoles charged again we may well do that. But with this number of devices to power-up it can take quite some time. Watch this space.
There are a range of battery packs and expansions on Amazon to extend the life of your 3DS.