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The Nintendo Switch has been on the market for a few days now. There are now millions of folks out there who are currently using the device. The general reaction has been pretty positive, but there are unsurprisingly some complaints. One of those is that a few users and a number of reviewers feel as though the Switch’s battery life is on the poorer side. While everyone is free to have their opinion, I can’t really agree with this one.
Being the world’s first hybrid system, the Switch is definitely in a very unique position. It’s not exactly the same as anything out there, including tablets—which its design is modeled after. Nintendo describes it as being a home console that you can carry with you wherever you go. With that in mind, right off the bat the Switch is given a much more complicated task than your standard portable system or mobile device.
Both the 3DS and Vita pale in comparison to the Switch’s capabilities. While the Vita did pump out some visually impressive titles, it’s not capable of HD visuals like the Switch is. 3DS titles are all 240p, making the gulf between it and the Switch as wide as the Pacific Ocean. Indeed, the Switch is in a whole other league when you compare it to the two current traditional portable systems. When it comes to comparisons with mobile devices, this turns into a whole other debacle. The Switch may look like a tablet, but it’s strictly a gaming device. Mobile devices on the other hand are basically miniature computers; they’re capable of doing all sorts of different tasks. With them, playing games is just another feature.
Having established all this, the first thing you need to do is take an objective look at the Switch. It’s more capable than traditional portables, and it’s also a dedicated device unlike tablets and smartphones. When looking at it that way, is the battery life really an issue?
The short answer is: “No”. First, let’s compare it to the 3DS and Vita. While these handhelds are nowhere near each other in the graphics department, they both feature a pretty similar average playtime. The 3DS XL sports a 1750 mAh battery that can last between 3.5 to 6.5 hours. Similarly, the PS Vita Slim can go for 4-6 hours with its 2200 mAh battery. The Switch is armed with a much bigger battery than either of those systems, coming in at 4310 mAh. Although it’s bigger, it has a similar range of 3-6 hours. This is interesting. When you consider that the Switch is running much more intensive games than either the 3DS or PS Vita, yet has a similar duration, you really have to give it to Nintendo. They managed to fit an amazing battery in such a small design, all while making sure it keeps up with what we’re used to. On top of that, it’s not the end of the world when the Switch’s battery runs out—just use a power bank and call it a day. Speaking of power banks, how does the Switch’s battery stack up when compared to mobile devices?
The Switch has a more complicated task than either the 3DS or Vita, yet it’s battery lasts just as long. That’s very impressive.
Again, mobile devices are very different beasts to the aforementioned consoles. Because they’re built to do all sorts of things, their battery performance depends on what tasks are being carried out. With that said, there aren’t that many super-intensive games on mobile platforms, but there are a few like Riptide GP 2 and Real Racing 3. Try playing these games or similar ones for more than a few minutes and let’s see how far your phone gets (not to mention the temperature). There is also the fact that your mileage will depend on the capacity of your device’s battery; there are millions out there, so this muddies the comparison to the Switch and 3DS/Vita even more.
So when you look at it objectively, the Switch is almost equal to the portable systems, all while being able to do a lot more. Comparing it to mobile devices is impractical, but when you consider the fact that these devices aren’t built to play intensive games for extended periods of time without being plugged in, the Switch once again reigns supreme.
Just for kicks, we can also compare the Switch’s battery to that of its somewhat spiritual predecessor, the Wii U Gamepad. The Gamepad was tethered to the main Wii U console, serving only as an external input and display device. It handled none of the processing whatsoever, and yet, it has an average battery life of about 3-4 hours. On the other hand, the Switch is a complete system; its battery has to power not just the screen, but also the processor and fan. This really makes you wonder why the Gamepad’s default battery couldn’t be better.
Not only is the Switch superior to mobile devices, but it also makes the Gamepad’s standard battery look all the more pitiful.
But you know, there’s something else that we haven’t compared the Switch to yet—gaming laptops. Since people have been comparing the Switch to other portable devices, it’s only fair that laptops get to join in on the party because they also fit into this category. Really, the outcome is very similar to that of mobile devices. While gaming laptops are obviously intended to play games, and very intensive ones at that, it’s not really a great experience if you’re ever away from a socket.
Although hardware manufacturers have looked for ways to make laptops more power efficient, as games get more demanding, the more important that plug becomes. You can run any game on battery power, but depending on how intensive it is, you can get maybe an hour or two, at most. But it also depends on what power plan the system is using. Cutting AC power results in the computer going into battery/power-saving mode, thus leading to decreased performance. If you keep everything on high performance mode, that’s going to result in your battery decreasing even more rapidly. Ultimately, the Switch pretty much wins here too. Because it’s a console, optimizations can be made to make the most out of the battery life. When it comes to laptops, it’s pretty much anything goes.
So then, what do you think now? Do you still consider the Switch’s battery life to be “poor”? It’s playtime is equal to the 3DS and Vita, all while being leaps-and-bounds more advanced. Mobile devices can’t hold a kindle to it at all, and gaming laptops don’t enjoy being away from a socket for too long. Not to mention the Wii U Gamepad is only a controller, and yet the Switch has better endurance. Nintendo did a great job at designing the Switch for portable play. It’s running games more advanced than what you’d ever see on iOS and Android, and has a leg-up over gaming laptops due to optimization. Ultimately, the Switch arguably the best portable gaming device to date.