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The Quest For An All-Day Battery



There is no doubt that all-day computing is peering around the corner.  The three questions about how fast it pops around the corner and jumps into our mobile tech lives relate to cost, appearance, and ease.  An Intel press release from 2004 provides a blast from the past, detailing how new industry standards and advancements set the goal of achieving eight-hour battery life by 2010.  With two years to go, there have been numerous advancements as we get closer to the goal of using our mobile devices without plugging into the wall.  Let’s look at the remaining barriers to reaching an all-day battery.

The cost of long-life batteries:

You’ve heard how there may be battery shortages because a manufacturer in South Korea burned to the ground.  Despite any short-term problems this may have created, machines sold with longer battery life will always cost more than those with with less.  Just as a car with extra features may cost more than the generic model, a laptop with longer battery life can generate stronger revenues for the companies that sell them.  Here are a few choices on the market now and the difference between 3 hours and 5-8 hours of use:

MSI Wind: $549.00 for 6-cell battery vs. $499.00 for 3-cell version.  Price difference: $50.00

Asus Eee PC 901/900: $599 for the 7.8 hour, 6-cell Intel Atom 901 vs.  $549 for the 4-cell non-Atom Eee PC 900.  Although there is a difference between these two machines, they will function pretty much the same for the novice/average user.  The major selling point becomes battery life rather than performance.  Price difference: $50.00

The appearance (and Mobility) of long-life batteries:

The problem with current larger-cell batteries is the appearance it brings to the machine.  Getting extra juice often means an additional row of cells and a battery that protrudes from the rear of the device.  Some fashion-conscience people struggle owning a laptop with an extra bulge coming out of the rear.  Despite the look, larger-cell batteries can create ergonomic problems.  Typing can become a chore because of the angle at which the machine sits when resting on a flat surface.  From a mobility standpoint, the extra battery capacity also adds weight.  Though it’s often not enough to bother most people, the goal of having a light-weight machine encounters problems with higher capacity batteries.

The ease of long-life battery solutions:

If you don’t want to wait until manufacturers come up with proven, all-day battery life products, there are numerous individuals who have come up with their own solutions.  This post at the forum details one person’s challenge of creating a 7400mAh battery for the MSI Wind.  This homebrew solution to upgrade the factory 3-cell battery is interesting, but how many people will actually take the steps to create their own battery solutions?  If the difference between a 3-hour battery and a 7-hour battery is $50.00, most folks will pull out the credit card and pay extra.

Another problem regarding the ease of long-life battery solutions relate to how these units are actually tested and rated.  Has anyone ever owned a laptop that actually met or exceeded the stated usage time?  I certainly have not.  An interesting video on YouTube puts the Acer Aspire One to real-life tests and evaluates how long the battery really lasts.  Until all-day computing gets here for the masses, here are some tips for extending your machine’s battery life.  There are also a few simple things you can do to maximize the hands-on time you have working when away from a socket.

Photo credit: Seb Payne, lloydi (flickr cc)

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