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The Nintendo 3DS is capable of three-dimension visuals that don't require glasses to view. While visually impressive, such a feat puts a real drain on the battery.
Nintendo announced the hardware specs for the 3DS and it seems the handheld's got a much shorter battery life than other DS models. It can play 3DS games for 3-5 hours and DS games for about 5-8. It'll need to stay in the charger dock for about 3 and a half hours to get back up to full charge.
The 5-8 hour estimate for DS games doesn't stack up too favorably with other iterations of the system. The DSi, previously the model with the shortest battery life, can still run for 9-14 hours. The DS Lite can last for 15-19.
The 3-5 hour figure for 3DS games isn't so damaging because, well, you can't play those games on any other model. At the end of the day, three-dimensional games are the main selling point for the 3DS. Its success depends on how excited people are for 3D gaming. Nintendo's not going to stop selling the other DS models anytime soon so if you're just interested in playing regular DS games, the older iterations of the system are going to still be attractive purchases.