Gaming accessories come in all shapes and sizes --- replacement controllers, portable console suitcases, specialized mice, control augmenting nubs, you name it. Whatever your niche, you can bet there's a product out there to fill it. Nyko, in particular, has made a bit of a habit of fulfilling a particular need: manufacturing third-party battery accessories for all those short-lived handhelds. The outfit has such a solid track record in the category, in fact, that we had little doubt its PlayStation Vita Power Grip ($25) would live up to its life-giving hype -- but we decided to put it to the test all the same.
Hardware and setup
The PlayStation Vita isn't exactly a pocketable device to begin with, but this thing makes the handheld downright unwieldy. A pair of soft, rubberized handles protrudes from the bottom of the accessory's device cradle, extending the Vita's breadth by nearly two-thirds. This makes a docked Vita far too awkward to slip into even a large jacket pocket, and it completely obliterates any chance of tucking it in a pair of loose jeans. Even so, the setup feels good in the hand, and lends the Vita a familiar DualShock-esque grip. Installation is a snap, too: just drop the console into the Vita-shaped outline on the Power Grip's face and slide its locking dock connector into place. Easy. The Grip does relocate the handheld's charging port slightly, but it doesn't lose any functionality in the move.
The accessory is built well, but its quality is marred by a few jarring design flaws. The Grip's top edge, for instance, covers the Vita's game card slot, requiring users to uninstall the device every time they want to play something new. The wide handles that make the accessory so comfortable can also be a small burden, pushing the player's hands farther from the console's side than normal, making it a bit more difficult to reach the center of the handheld's rear touchpad. These oddities aren't necessarily dealbreakers, but the obscured game slot, at least, is likely to annoy gamers who favor boxed titles over digital downloads.
The upshot to the Power Grip's sometimes-vexing design is that it does what it promises: adds way more game time. The company claims the device doubles the Vita's battery life, and we found that it did just that, offering twice as much longevity or more. Set to maximum screen brightness and volume settings, the Vita's standard three-hour runtime jumped to more than six. The four hours a dimmed-down and muted handheld can achieve doubled as well, dragging on for nearly eight and a half hours under the Power Grip's wing. Shifting into PSP mode prolongs the battery life even more, topping out at 11 hours at medium brightness -- more than enough to keep one occupied on a trip across the pond.
Tests and numbers boil underscore a more relaxing gaming experience, one in which gamers don't have to keep tabs on the Vita's charge level. In a practical test, the duo survived a week's worth of travel without a charge, entertaining us for two cross-country flights and through several intermittent sessions throughout the week. Imagine how far we could have gone if we paired it with Sony's official external battery.
Like we said, there's an accessory to fill every niche -- but the best peripherals address a fault the original hardware overlooked. Like the trio of 3DS accessories that came before it (not to mention a Kindle Fire case), the Nyko PlayStation Vita Power Grip does just this, easily meeting its promise to double your handheld's runtime. It adds to the bulk, sure, but the Vita is far from pocketable to begin with, and the grip's comfortable handholds make up for the extra space it'll take in your carry-on bag. Its card-slot-obscuring edges keep it from being a home run, but gamers on the go will find the added longevity worth the minor headache -- and at $25, it isn't a bad deal either.