When it comes to portable gaming, nothing is as important as battery life. The Nintendo DS Lite has done a great job of maximizing the length of time you get on a single charge, and the Sony PSP's lifespan on a charge leaves room for improvement (although the device's battery life was improved with the PSP Slim). But if you find your play time coming up short on either handheld, the Turbo Charge TC2 Portable Game Charger promises to extend your battery life--so long as you have access to a good supply of AA batteries.
Measuring in at 3.2 inches by 1.5 inches by 0.75 inch, the Turbo Charge is no bigger than a pack of Tic Tacs. Its rubberized grip feels solid in your hand, and the AA battery door is easily accessible. Two wired adapters accompany the charger, one for the Sony PSP (it works equally well with the original PSP 1000 and the newer, slimmer PSP 2000), and one dual-tipped adapter for the original DS, DS Lite, and Game Boy Advance SP. Turbo Charge advertises the Portable Game Charger as a power solution for the Game Boy Micro as well, however, the included adapters do not work with the Micro at all. (A nearly identical product, the Turbo Charge TC2 Portable Cell Phone Charger, uses the same battery pack to juice up cell phones instead.)
Operating the Turbo Charge Portable Game Charger is a breeze. With two AA batteries installed, simply attach the appropriate wired adapter and either continue playing or set it aside for charging. Three blue LEDs light up letting you know that charging has begun, and they will disappear one by one as the AAs lose their strength. Once they disappear, the AA batteries have been exhausted and it's time to swap them out with fresh ones. The switch on the device has three settings: charge (on), off, and flashlight. Yes, the device actually doubles as a bright LED flashlight that uses barely any power whatsoever. In fact, even when our Game Charger displayed an empty power meter, the LED flashlight continued to work perfectly.
While the Portable Game Charger does keep you gaming, the claims on the product's packaging are quite deceiving. We've already told you about the lack of support for the Game Boy Micro (which is printed all over the box), but there's also some claims about additional playtime that need to be addressed. Turbo Charge says that two fresh AAs will give you an additional 5 hours of game time with the PSP--however we found that 3 hours is more accurate. We would imagine performance for the PSP Slim would be better, but probably not two hours better. Turbo Charge says that the DS Lite will benefit with up to seven and a half hours of playtime which was a more accurate assessment--our Turbo Charge was able to give our DS Lite almost seven hours of added gameplay.
While we enjoyed the extra game time we were getting with the Portable Game Charger, we wish Turbo Charge included longer wire adapters for the device. Because of their relative shortness, the wired adapters dangled the charger when we weren't sitting calmly at a desk or on a couch. Since this is designed for portable devices, a longer wire--perhaps long enough to reach into a backpack--would have been more suitable here.
As far as alternatives go, serious PSP users can invest in the Blue Raven PSP 15 Hour Extended Battery ($65) or Sony's own PSP Extended Life Battery Kit ($45), though both still require eventual AC connections for recharging. No such easy option exists for Nintendo's portables, which lack the PSP's snap-out batteries--but given their marathon-like power management, it's far less of an issue.
In the final analysis, the Turbo Charge TC2 Portable Game Charger largely delivers on its promise of keeping you gaming after your portable system dies out, even if there's not a power outlet in sight. Priced at $20 to $30, it's affordable enough even for the most causal portable gamer--just remember you're going to need to invest in an ample supply of AA batteries.