Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Rise and Fall of Handheld Console Battery Life: A Modern Tragedy

After hearing the news about the Playstation Vita's 2012 U.S. release date, I again began to debate whether this handheld is worth waiting for, or if I should just take the plunge and buy a 3DS.  Inevitably I decided to compare the reported battery lives of the two handhelds, and the results were not too satisfying.  Both the Vita and the 3DS have an approximate battery life of 3-5 hours, meaning you'll be spending a lot of time with your good friend Mr. AC Adapter.  Apparently I'm not the only one upset about this.  Whatever happened to the good old days of handheld gaming?  Remember when changing batteries in your original Gameboy seemed like a rare occurrence?

With that in mind, I decided it would be interesting to look at the battery lives of some of the more popular handheld gaming consoles over the years.   Let's graph these suckers:

Click to expand.
Well you can thank the Sega Game Gear (3 hour battery life!) for ruining my hypothesis that battery life had improved up until a certain point, after which there would be a steep drop.  But still, look at that 30 hour battery life of the Gameboy Color then compare it to the approximately 4 hours of the 3DS.  Portable gaming just isn't so portable anymore.  Until battery technology catches up with modern hardware, we will still end up tethered to a power outlet most of the time.


  1. It is pretty lame that the handheld market can't hold as much battery life. On the plus side you don't have to buy batteries though!

  2. Definitely, it's great that the modern handhelds all come with rechargeable battery packs, otherwise Duracell would be making a huge profit!

  3. Heh, my Chinese MP3 player has a battery life of 30 minutes, no joke. I'd personally go with the 3DS instead of the Vita.

  4. 30 minute battery life?! That's painful, it makes these handhelds seem to last an eternity in comparison. I'm leaning towards the 3DS as well, Nintendo's first-party games can't be topped, and feature-wise the 3DS is more interesting.

  5. Gameboy Color for life!