nintendo 3ds

Nintendo’s New 3DS XL promises 3.5 to 7 hours of battery life, which is quite a large range. These tips will help you get as much battery life as possible out of your 3DS, whether you’re gaming or it’s just sitting in your pocket.

This advice applies to all models of Nintendo 3DS — New 3DS XL, New 3DS, 3DS XL, 3DS, and even the 2DS. The New 3DS models have better battery life than the original 3DS models.

Disable 3D

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The 3D feature uses quite a bit of battery power — when it’s enabled, the 3DS has to create and display two separate images on the top screen. On the New 3DS, the “super-stable 3D” feature uses your device’s camera to track your eyes and adjust the 3D image. This means that your 3DS has to provide power to the camera while 3D is enabled, too.

You should see another hour or more of battery life if you disable it. To disable it, just slide the 3D depth slider at the right side of the top display all the way to the bottom. When you want to prolong your battery life as much as possible, this is the feature to disable.

nintendo 3ds 3d slider

Lower Your Screen Brightness

As with any portable device, the 3DS will use more power when its screen brightness is higher. You can lower your screen brightness to save power and extend your battery life.

To do this, visit the home screen, tap the settings icon at the top-left corner, and choose a lower brightness level under “Screen Brightness.”

The New 3DS models offer “Auto-Brightness,” which is enabled by default — they’ll automatically lower screen brightness levels when necessary by monitoring how bright it is in your environment. Older models will require you lower screen brightness manually.

Activate Power-Saving Mode

You’ll also find a “Power-Saving Mode” option in the settings menu accessible from the home screen. When this option is enabled, Nintendo says you’ll get 10-20 percent more battery life from your 3DS:

“Employing a technology called ‘active backlight,’ this feature ‘precisely controls the brightness of the backlight according to the brightness of the screen being displayed,'” Umezu explained. “When the screen as a whole is dark, the backlight itself gets darker, which saves power.”

You should notice the difference after you enable this feature. The contrast will be lower and colors will be adjusted — whites become a bit more yellowish. Essentially, you’re getting worse picture quality and longer battery life when this feature is enabled.

Disable Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi also uses battery life. You need to use Wi-Fi when performing a system update, accessing the eShop, or playing multiplayer games. It’s also used for StreetPass, which automatically detects and exchanges data with other 3DS systems as you walk around with it in your pocket or bag. But you may not care about those features. If you’re just playing single-player games and don’t care about StreetPass, you don’t need Wi-FI on all the time.

To disable Wi-Fi, visit the home screen, tap the Settings icon in the top-left corner, and set “Wireless Communication” to Off. You can re-enable it whenever you want to use a feature that requires Internet access.

Avoid Using Suspend and Sleep Mode

Suspend and sleep mode are useful features. Just closing your 3DS’s screen will put it into sleep mode, and you can quickly resume by opening the device’s screen. If you close your 3DS while you’re playing a game — or after hitting the Home button to return to the home screen without closing the game — that game will stay suspended in the background.

These features use up more battery life. In particular, some games — especially ones that use wireless multiplayer features — won’t fully suspend in the background and will continue running and draining battery power. If you won’t be coming back to the 3DS soon, you may want to at least close the game you were playing before putting the console into sleep mode.

If you plan on getting back to your 3DS soon, sleep mode can be helpful. On the other hand, if you’re putting your 3DS in a bag for a few days or you won’t be using it for another 12 hours, you can save some battery life by holding the power button down to fully shut down the 3DS.

Disable Sound

If you’re really hard up, disabling sound by sliding the volume slider all the way down will also allow you to squeeze a little more battery life out of your console.

Get a USB Cable and External Battery for Easier Recharging

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Nintendo uses a proprietary charger for the 3DS. However, you can actually charge your 3DS over USB — Nintendo just doesn’t recommend it and doesn’t provide a cable for doing so. To do this, you’ll just need to buy a third-party USB charging cable for the Nintendo 3DS, like this one.

This cable will charge your 3DS slower than the dedicated charger brick, but it gives you flexibility. You can charge it anywhere USB power plugs are available, whether that’s in an airport, on an airplane, or even from any laptop. If you purchase an external battery pack that offers a USB port, you can even charge your 3DS from that portable battery like you’d charge your smartphone or any other USB-charging device. It’ll let you top up your battery if you’ll be away from power outlets for a while.

Some companies develop third-party, unofficial extended batteries for the Nintendo 3DS. These replace the existing batteries in your device with ones with a larger capacity, allowing you to game for longer between charges. We haven’t tested these and can’t necessarily recommend them — be sure to do your research when going for this option. Aftermarket batteries don’t always work properly. And, if you do, be sure to buy an extended battery designed specifically for your model of 3DS.

Image Credit: Minh Hoang on Flickr, 55Laney69 on Flickr

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Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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