The Nintendo 3DS marks many firsts for a Nintendo handheld. It's the first handheld to provide glasses-free 3D gaming. The first to function as a 3D camera. The first Nintendo handheld to feature analog control. And, unfortunately, the first Nintendo handheld to feature fairly lackluster battery life. The stock 3DS battery lasts around 3-5 hours, depending on settings like screen brightness and whether the 3D effect is on.
That's where Nyko comes in with the Power Pak+ which it claims will double the battery life of the 3DS. And while in my own experience "double" is a very generous estimate on Nyko's part, it certainly does make the 3DS battery life more tolerable.
Installing the Power Pak+ is about as simple as you could hope. The Power Pak+ comes with a tiny screwdriver, which is used to remove four small screws from the back of the 3DS system. Once the screws are loose, the back panel comes off rather easily, revealing the battery. None of the system's other innards are exposed, so there is very little risk of harming your 3DS in the process. Actually removing the 3DS battery is probably the most difficult part of the process, since it's fit in rather snugly, but once it's out the PowerPak+ fits easily into the battery slot and covers the entire back of the system. From there it's just a matter of tightening the four screws again, and voila. The whole process took about five minutes.
To be clear, I didn't perform a stress test on the Power Pak+. Instead, I went the more practical route, testing how long Nyko's battery lasted under my regular play conditions. "Regular play conditions" for me mean that the system brightness is set to 3, 3D effect is off, volume is low, wireless is on, and power-saving mode is on. I can usually get about 4-5 hours of play on a single charge, with the system put into sleep mode in-between play sessions. On average, I have to put my 3DS in its charging cradle every 2 days.
Using the Power Pak+ I got a little more ambitious and turned off power-saving mode, while keeping the other settings the same. After all, I was using a higher capacity battery so I should be able to get the most out of my system. I found that I was able to go a full four days without needing to recharge. While that sounds like the Nyko battery did as promised and doubled the system's battery life, upon inspection of my 3DS activity log I had played a little over six hours during that time. Perhaps if I had kept power-saving mode on the Power Pak+ would have lasted another hour, which would still be a significantly more than a 3DS normally can, though still not quite double the regular 3DS battery life.
I can't talk about the Power Pak+ without also mentioning the bulk it adds to the 3DS. The Power Pak+ is about 1/3 of the thickness of the 3DS, so attaching it significantly increases the size of the system. It makes the system less pocket-friendly, and the added weight was especially noticeable when playing games where the system is held in one hand and the stylus in the other, like Picross 3D. The added size also means that the 3DS will no longer fit into Nintendo's charging cradle, though you can still plug the power cord directly into the 3DS or buy the PowerPak+ with a Nyko charging cradle for $29.99.
The most critical issue, however, is that the 3DS battery indicator seems incapable of accurately displaying the charge level of the Power Pak+. I said that the Power Pak+ lasted for four days without needing a charge, but for the first three of those days the battery indicator told me the 3DS battery was full. Suddenly, on the fourth day, the battery was half depleted; and in the time that it took me to complete Ocarina of Time's fire temple I was already getting a notification that the battery was almost empty. I assume that this is because the 3DS battery indicator is only supposed to sense a charge level up to the stock battery's capacity, so any charge above that simply registers as a full battery. The result, however, is that the Power Pak+ does not give you an accurate reading of how much charge you have left until it is too late, causing me to be more paranoid about the system's battery when using the Power Pak+ than without.
The final odd quirk of the Power Pak+ is that removing the system battery seems to mess with the 3DS system settings, namely by resetting the time and date. There is a chance that this could alter or erase your Activity Log data, though in my experience setting the proper date after changing the battery restored everything. This isn't an issue specific to the Power Pak+, as it just seems to be something the 3DS does no matter when the battery is removed.
Ultimately, the Power Pak+ does what it sets out to do by extending the meager battery life of the 3DS. If you're someone who travels a lot, I can definitely see the appeal of the Power Pak+. However, due to the added size, weight, and lack of an accurate battery indicator, I can't say that I would recommend the PowerPak+ for everyday use. Installing the extra battery isn't difficult, so I'll likely bring it out for my next flight, but after only one week of the Power Pak+ I've already removed it and gone back to the stock 3DS battery.
The Nyko PowerPak+ is available for $19.99 on its own or $29.99 with a charging cradle. A PowerPak+ was provided by Nyko for purposes of this review. I used it for one week playing predominantly Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Picross 3D, Picdun, and Starship Defense. I played under my regular system settings - which are the system brightness set to 3, 3D effect off, volume low, and wireless on - with the exception of turning power-saver mode off whereas I normally have it on. The battery needed to be recharged twice total during that week.