Connect with top gaming leaders in Los Angeles at GamesBeat Summit 2023 this May 22-23. Register here.

If you are thinking about buying the Nintendo Switch, I don’t think it’s battery life should play a big factor in your final determination.

Nintendo’s new console can play Zelda on battery power for about 3 hours, and that’s long enough for me so far. The $300 hybrid handheld/home system launches March 3, and maybe you’re thinking that 3 hours doesn’t sound like a long time. And maybe you have a lengthy daily commute or you fly across the country a lot. In those situations, 3 hours of Zelda isn’t enough. But even if those are the times you plan to play games the most, I don’t think the battery is the biggest concern.

I’ve already detailed some of the early problems I’ve spotted with the Switch, and I didn’t include the battery life among those issues. That’s because, in reality, three hours of game time on a portable device is not shockingly low. Maybe you’re thinking that your iPhone lasts all day with battery to spare, but I urge you to see the results if you tried to play a game nonstop on your phone. Did you play Pokémon Go over the summer? Remember how that ate through your battery in a couple of hours? It’s the same thing with the Switch, only Breath of the Wild uses much more power to run those high-def visuals and more complicated actions than Pokémon Go does for its limited gameplay. And if you put your Switch in sleep mode, it would last a couple of days.

Let’s get some perspective. Here’s a look at how long Nintendo and Sony have said that their respective portable systems last on a full charge:


GamesBeat Summit 2023

Join the GamesBeat community in Los Angeles this May 22-23. You’ll hear from the brightest minds within the gaming industry to share their updates on the latest developments.

Register Here
  • Nintendo Switch: 2.5 hours-to-6 hours
  • Nintendo 3DS: 3 hours-to-5 hours
  • New Nintendo 3DS: 3.5 hours-to-6 hours
  • New Nintendo 3DS XL: 3.5 hours-to-7 hours
  • PlayStation Vita: 3 hours-to-5 hours

Switch sits comfortably alongside all of those devices in terms of battery life, and the results I’ve seen in real-world use reflect that. Playing Zelda from a full charge until the system died doesn’t feel all that different from wearing down the battery on my New 3DS XL.

In my tests, I got over 3 hours of use playing Zelda on the Switch at the lowest brightness setting. On auto-brightness, where the system adjusts automatically based on the ambient lighting in the room, I ended up closer to 2.75 hours. But it’s important to remember that Zelda started its life on the Wii U, and a lot of the games that are going to rub up against the 2.5-hour side of the spectrum are the ones that weren’t made with the unique capabilities of this hardware in mind. In the future, Nintendo may find a way to make games that look as impressive but are better at optimizing the Switch’s power.

Finally, if 3 hours won’t do it for you no matter what, I would guess that 5 hours wouldn’t make you that much happier. It’s unlikely that any device — whether it’s a laptop, smartphone, or tablet — could last for 5 hours while running a modern 3D game at 720p on a battery charge. That means the answer here is to take advantage of the Nintendo Switch’s USB-C port, which will accept a charge from a portable power bank. While I doubt you’ll use it often, you’ll still have the battery power when you need it in those rare circumstances.

But maybe I’m biased because I’m relieved that 3 hours is just enough to cover most of my trips to the bathroom.

GamesBeat's creed when covering the game industry is "where passion meets business." What does this mean? We want to tell you how the news matters to you -- not just as a decision-maker at a game studio, but also as a fan of games. Whether you read our articles, listen to our podcasts, or watch our videos, GamesBeat will help you learn about the industry and enjoy engaging with it. Discover our Briefings.