There have been more than a few third-party responses to the Nintendo 3DS' notably short battery life, from grips to clips, to full-on battery replacements. Despite their best efforts, these products still fall short of making the fledgling handheld international flight-ready, leaving globetrotting gamers with idle thumbs. Can't we do better? Nyko thinks so, and promises to triple the battery life of a standard 3DS with its latest accessory, the Nyko Power Grip. Other products have boasted double, but three times the play time? Now we're interested. We gave the Grip a run for its money -- read on if you want to know if it is worth yours.
Hardware and installation
Nyko's Power Grip is a lightweight backing covered in a soft faux-rubber grip. On its front lip there's a window for the console's headphone jack and a pair of tiny holes for the power and charging LEDs to shine through. The left and right sides of grip feature labeled cutaways for the handheld's volume and wireless controls, respectively, and the rear sports a slightly relocated charging port (now on the right side of the cartridge slot) covered in a rubberized flap. On the bottom, the grip has a pair of recessed grooves for the player's fingers (more on that later). The plastic lips that cradle the 3DS feel strong and immovable, and feels like they could take a beating in your backpack, or in a crowded accessory drawer.
Installation is a literal snap; simply drop the 3DS into place, push down slightly, and lock the handheld in. The Grip hugs the console tightly, latching on to a pair of small indentations on the handheld's back edge. The cradle shaped backing keeps the console in a death grip, in fact, we had to pry the rear latches off with our fingernails to pop out the 3DS at all. Just to the left of the cartridge slot, a rather bulky nub jets out where the Grip connects to the 3DS' charging contacts -- although it leaves the handheld's R button fully accessible, its raised surface can prove uncomfortable for gamers who use the edge as a finger rest.
Once installed, the grip makes the handheld about a third thicker, with its supersized back making the system feel a little less cramped for gamers with larger hands. The battery's actual "grips," the trench-like grooves on its underside, left us with the impression that the Power Grip wasn't made for our meaty mitts. We handed the 3DS to a smaller-fingered friend, and her digits slipped right in, naturally hooking into the recessed groove. Although our larger hands couldn't make use of the grip's contours, the soft-touch back was large enough that our normal 3DS death grip worked just fine.
Nyko's latest 3DS accessory can have all the soft-touch backs and finger grooves it wants, but it has to live by the promise on its packaging: "3X the playtime vs original." We pushed the battery backing through a number of tests at different settings, pitting it not only against the 3DS' stock battery, but Nyko's own Power Pak +. We used Super Street Fighter IV as our test game, setting the AI to continuously attack while in the game's training mode. Depending on the handheld's settings, the Grip either broke the 3X battery barrier, dented it, or outright missed it.
Our first test was the most brutal -- we cranked the 3DS' brightness to max, flipped off the console's power saving mode, enabled WiFi and turned up the handhelds 3D and Volume controls -- draining the Nyko Power Grip dead after a mere six hours and 34 minutes. This was still a cut above the stock battery's 2:59 runtime, and even a leg above the Power Pak+'s five and a quarter hour streak, but still fell pretty far from the triple playtime promise.
Our mid-range test got us quite a bit closer. Simply dropping the brightness down to medium got the Grip to nine hours and 26 minutes -- still about 90 minutes short of tripling the stock battery's three and a half hour runtime, but close enough to make us feel like we were getting somewhere. The Grip's real triumph came in the endurance test -- after switching WiFi and volume off, killing the extra dimension, dimming brightness down to minimum and flicking on the 3DS' power-saving mode, the Nyko Power Grip was pushing 14 hours of playtime. We ran the test twice to be sure, and each time the battery quit within ten minutes of the fourteenth hour. The original battery quit after four and a half hours, and the Power Pak + fell a quarter hour short of nine. Here, is where the Grip finally fulfilled its box's promise, lasting more than three times as long as the 3DS' original battery.
Unlike the Power Pak +, you won't get a reading from the 3DS as to how much charge the Nyko battery has, as long as the Grip isn't dead (and your 3DS is fully charged), the console's battery will read as full. While this isn't a major problem, it does make it difficult to tell how much juice the external battery has left. A red LED blinks when the Grip is reaching critical, and a green LED indicates a full charge, but that's all the notification you'll get. The console doesn't seem to dip into its own battery reserves until the Grip is stone dead, and when the external unit does call it quits, you can detach it and charge it independently of the 3DS itself.
Nyko's 3DS Power Grip won't universally triple your battery life, but it is defiantly capable of it when all the pieces are in place. Visual luxuries like the handheld's headlining three-dee feature and the screen's higher brightness settings will handicap the external power pack, but it will still give you enough juice to at least double your playtime. The battery's stylized grip grooves are a bit small for gamers with larger hands, and unit's bulk will definitely keep your portable out of your pocket. Are these flaws a deal breaker? Not at all. The Nyko Power Grip knows what it is -- a battery accessory, not a battery replacement. It's a durable, mostly comfortable, grippable power cradle that's tough enough to be idly tossed in a bag, and powerful enough to get you through your next long-haul flight.