×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

AMD — "We're Not Entirely Honest" About Batteries

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the big-shocker-here dept.

Power 154

Slatterz writes "In an apparent attack of the bleeding-obvious, an AMD rep has come clean and admitted (on behalf of the industry) that notebook and phone battery life figures are completely unreliable. AMD's senior vice president Nigel Dessau says that 'we are not being entirely honest with users about what PC battery life they can expect to actually experience.' He says AMD will now use a combination of idle time (where the machine is left to sit idle, and timed to see how long it takes for the battery to go dead), and 3DMark06 to measure battery life. Great in theory but some of the industry already bases battery figures on a two-test measurement, and the results are still wildly inaccurate."

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

154 comments

Batteries not lasting long enough. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27210393)

Translation:

The hookers on Time Square complained that the vibrators weren't lasting long enough.

Anonymous Coward (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27210409)

"We're Not Entirely Honest" = We've been lying

Re:Anonymous Coward (5, Insightful)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 5 years ago | (#27210691)

No, that's the thing. Everything they've told you is technically true... under certain conditions. Possibly even the conditions that they've listed in a small-print disclaimer (available upon request, if you can arm-wrestle the tiger and win).

Re:Anonymous Coward (3, Insightful)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 5 years ago | (#27211277)

I wonder how much of it is that they don't test the actual wear that comes from the way that people use batteries. My laptop battery had at least 25% more capacity when I bought it a year ago and I've been careful to make sure that I follow the recommendations. That alone could account for most of the difference I've seen.

Re:Anonymous Coward (1)

cmdpwr (1366937) | more than 5 years ago | (#27211911)

This isn't new in the battery industry. As the joke goes . . . In the world of batteries, there are lies, damn lies, and data sheets.

Re:Anonymous Coward (5, Insightful)

Ghostworks (991012) | more than 5 years ago | (#27211335)

"We're Not Entirely Honest" = We've been lying

Actually, "We're Not Entirely Honest" = "We have no idea how to give you an accurate estimate." As someone whose found himself sucked into the battery/mobile power side of a project recently, I can understand why they'd face difficulties.

When it comes to batteries, there are really only three options for measuring how much power is stored: completely drain it over several cycles to see what you get (which is how the manufacturer confirms capacity, but isn't too useful in situ); test the voltage across the terminals and estimate absed on pre-measured battery curves (which is difficult because voltages don't change dramatically until they're nearly drained); or, in some chemistries, measure the temperature changes in the battery (which detects inreactions that don't happen until the battery is almost completely drained). In practice, all you can do is take the manufacturer-specified capacity, derate that based on conditions in your application, and test to see if you came close.

In general, pulling more current from a battery disproportionately decreases remaining capacity. In general, it's pretty difficult to respond to sudden surges and lulls in power consumption for a user's unknown power cycle needs without making your estimate jump all over the place. In general, the problem is just a pain in the neck. It's like ordering a margarita with margarita-flavored ice cubes from a waiter whose never seen you before, then demanding to know exactly how long before you'll need to refill it (regardless of whether you intended to chug it or nurse it).

I'm no expert, but you don't have to be to see it's not a trivial problem.

Not that big of a deal (1, Insightful)

x_IamSpartacus_x (1232932) | more than 5 years ago | (#27210437)

This happens in every industry. Every industry picks a low baseline to measure their product by and then shows how high their product scores over that. I really never assume that things like "battery life, sound clarity, brightness, etc" will be THAT accurate because the bottom line is the manufacturer wants to sell this to me and the better he makes his product sound the more likely I am to buy it. I don't hold any ill will towards people who do this. It's called marketing and it happens all the time.

Re:Not that big of a deal (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 5 years ago | (#27210585)

You may assume that, but there's people out there who are right now wondering how to make a class action case out of this.

Re:Not that big of a deal (3, Funny)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#27211169)

but there's lawyers out there who are right now wondering how to make a class action case out of this.

Fixed that for you ;)

Re:Not that big of a deal (1)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 5 years ago | (#27210599)

Can I get a car analogy here? MPG ratings, anyone?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Bueller?

On another note, careful customization of my power profile has allowed my shiny new HP dv4 to be useful for 2+ hours on a single charge. This is with the cheapest 6 cell battery. If I opted for a 12 cell, it would be much longer.

Re:Not that big of a deal (3, Funny)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 5 years ago | (#27210753)

You naughty boy, you read the article.

Re:Not that big of a deal (3, Funny)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 5 years ago | (#27210991)

That's the paradox. Nobody reads the articles, but the slashdot effect is still in full force.

Crazy eh?

FYI, I already read this a few days ago. That's why my comment was funny!

It was just a joke. A goddamned joke. Mother help me.

Re:Not that big of a deal (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 5 years ago | (#27211443)

That's the paradox. Nobody reads the articles, but the slashdot effect is still in full force.

By God, I think you're on to something there. Or maybe it's just quantum.

Re:Not that big of a deal (1)

Tetsujin (103070) | more than 5 years ago | (#27212149)

Well, just 'cause we don't read the article doesn't mean we don't load it...

(In fact, don't some web browsers pre-load the available links on a page to give a faster browsing experience?)

Re:Not that big of a deal (1)

mR.bRiGhTsId3 (1196765) | more than 5 years ago | (#27211107)

I've found MPG ratings are not entirely inaccurate. Sometimes I do worse than the marked, but this is counterbalanced that occasionally I actually do better than the listed MPG on the highway. YMMV depending on your make/model.

Exactly like MPG estimates (5, Insightful)

JonTurner (178845) | more than 5 years ago | (#27210873)

>>This happens in every industry

This is a bit different from a breakfast cereal saying "now even tastier" or a soap promising "more suds!" The first is subjective (personal preference) but the second is objective -- it can be quantified and proven/disproven.

In this case with batteries, rather than taking an actual measurement of performance, the industry is building an estimate from a combination of measured behavior + a calculation based on a performance variable. It's no different than the automobile industry stating "EPA Estimated MPG city/highway" which is not based on a dynamometer test or actual performance measurement but instead is calculated based on the amount of CO2 which exits the exhaust pipe of the car! Is it any wonder, then, that hybrid cars which shut off their gasoline engine when stopped and at low speed/light acceleration, would give grossly inflated figures? Well, they did (and do), which explains why real-world MPG is often far less than this calculated (not even simulated) performance.
In short, they're both lying and it's obvious. Yet companies wonder why consumers are so cynical and therefore difficult to reach with advertising.

What is needed is real-world testing -- dynamometer ("rolling test track") testing for autos where the wind resistance, temperature, barometric pressure, etc. can all be carefully controlled. Similarly with computers, a pure performance-based measurement is needed which should account for idle time, network activity, etc. Just as an automobile is not tested at full-throttle for 3 hours, neither should a PC, but instead a variety of benchmarks (gaming, web browsing, spreadsheet, word processing, ???) could show performance figures for various activities.

In short, manufacturers, we want real numbers free of hype.

Re:Exactly like MPG estimates (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#27211541)

This is a bit different from a breakfast cereal saying "now even tastier" or a soap promising "more suds!" The first is subjective (personal preference) but the second is objective -- it can be quantified and proven/disproven.

Yes, but "more suds" than what? Its earlier incarnation, or its worst competetitor? Tastier than what, dog shit?

I've always been amused by Kellogg's Raison Bran commercials' "two scoops of raisons". Pretty damned meaningless, how tiny are the scoops?

Re:Exactly like MPG estimates (3, Insightful)

msgtomatt (1147195) | more than 5 years ago | (#27212147)

You only half understand what you are talking about. The fuel economy estimates and CO2 emissions for cars are measured on a dyno. These are two separate measurements from one test procedure. One is telling you the amount of fuel you would use and the other tells you the amount of CO2 produced. Both are measured assuming you were to drive in a specified way.

The problem with fuel economy and battery life measurements is that in the real world you do not drive same as when the vehicle was tested on a dyno. The dyno test specifies how fast to drive, how quickly to accelerate, the number of stop lights, and how far to drive. Your daily commute will be different for each one of these parameters which changes your actual fuel economy. Even on your daily commute, your average speed will even change from day to day. So, even though your destination is the same, your fuel consumption will be different on a daily basis.

The problem with fuel economy testing is that it attempts to specify a driving cycle that represents that average for all Americans. As you know the way people driving in Los Angles is completely different that the way people drive in rural Wyoming. So, people in LA get completely different fuel economy than people in Wyoming

The same problem exists with predicting battery life. You simply don't know how the machine is going to be used. How can you predict the future? If you are using the optical drive you will use more power, which shortens your battery life. The best you can do is to try and predict life based on some average statistics for a given machine. Standardized tests will help, but you will never be able to provide precise number because of the variations on power consumption.

The other problem with battery life is that as the battery ages, the capacity of the battery decreases, which further shortens your battery life. In order to accurately predict battery life you need to model the aging properties of the battery. Having a background in batteries, I can say that this is not simple.

Re:Not that big of a deal (1)

Spatial (1235392) | more than 5 years ago | (#27211955)

I don't hold any ill will towards people who do this. It's called marketing and it happens all the time.

You don't hold any ill will towards people who lie to you constantly, blatantly, in order to con you into buying their crap? Can't say I feel the same.

Sounds familiar.. (0, Troll)

itomato (91092) | more than 5 years ago | (#27210461)

AMD: "We're not being entirely honest about our processor speeds... We're decided to use an external scale against which to measure our /actual/ CPU performance. ...(AMD) will market our new processors as having a "Performance Rating", which are not equal to, nor based directly upon the /physical/ oscillations of the chip itself. Instead we intend to include such factors as idle time (cut - Ed.)"

This is a concoction. My story, and their plan. Why, AMD?

Re:Sounds familiar.. (4, Insightful)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 5 years ago | (#27210701)

If you recall, AMD's performance rating was an important step forward for the CPU manufacturer industry at that time. Intel was pushing for higher and higher clock frequencies with longer and longer pipelines - something that made little sense.

Performance ratings allowed consumers to effectively compare AMD and Intel chips side by side in ways that are useful.

Re:Sounds familiar.. (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 5 years ago | (#27211271)

The problem with laptop battery life is that there isn't really any benchmark available that gives realistic results. No-one turns on a laptop and leaves it idle, and most people don't play games when running on battery. I'd hazard a guess that the most common tasks are browsing the web/email and editing documents.

It shouldn't be hard to come up with a benchmark for those two things. Turn on wifi, load some preset pages in Firefox and repeat every 30 seconds or so. Load up OpenOffice.org, simulate some keyboard input. Play a DVD or high-def video from the HDD.

Idle and 3DMark are both pretty useless as performance metrics.

Re:Sounds familiar.. (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 5 years ago | (#27212111)

The performance ratings were based on the speed compared to a "baseline" AMD chip, most recently the Thunderbird [wikipedia.org] core. They were never officially intended to compare a P4 to an Athlon, even though AMD did nothing to dispel that myth.

Isn't this simple? (5, Interesting)

AlterRNow (1215236) | more than 5 years ago | (#27210465)

1) Fully load the machine
2) Time until battery death
3) Advertise "minimum" battery life

What is wrong with that? Then I can expect at least 40 minutes of battery life and anything more than that is nice. You will generally not be fully loading the machine so it will always be more than 40 minutes anyway..

Re:Isn't this simple? (1)

thrillseeker (518224) | more than 5 years ago | (#27210571)

This would be the most honest approach - everyone could apply their own estimate of improvement over that. However, marketing demands a, shall we say, more nuanced description of capability.

Re:Isn't this simple? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27211605)

This would be the most honest approach - everyone could apply their own estimate of improvement over that. However, marketing demands a, shall we say, more nuanced description of reality .

Fixed that for ya!

Re:Isn't this simple? (0)

Leafheart (1120885) | more than 5 years ago | (#27210603)

3) Advertise "minimum" battery life

Do that and noone will buy your products. See, it doesn't matter what you actually do, but what can be expected to be done from you. That's the cruxis and the worst of advertising, a costumer will see both you and your competitor, you saying minimum 40min and he saying average 2h. He will buy his, not yours.

Re:Isn't this simple? (2, Insightful)

je ne sais quoi (987177) | more than 5 years ago | (#27210845)

Precisely. It's the same thing with contrast ratios on monitors, they're relatively meaningless because they advertise them in completely different ways. Dell or LG might advertise the best contrast ratio possible, whereas Apple is usually more conservative about their estimates. Apple gets slammed because their prices are higher and the contrast ratio stats look worse unless you read on how the contrast ratios are calculated. Yet, having used equivalent Dell and Apple monitors on the same computer, I've found the Apple ones are actually the better display (in part because there were some of the first ones to use S-IPS [pchardwarehelp.com] panels).

What's needed is are some regulations regarding how computer parts are advertised, but that would require a federal government that takes an interest in protecting the consumer, not protecting corporate profit.

Re:Isn't this simple? (5, Interesting)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 5 years ago | (#27210621)

No it won't... not all batteries are exactly the same, no matter how good the quality assurance may be, and same goes for the hardware itself, every transistor, capacitor, resistor, transformer, etc all have varying degrees of quality/conduction/capacity.

It could even come down to a single resistor that measures the battery output, could be slightly faulty, and turn the PC off sooner.

They could still say "40 minutes" but it would be more like "32 to 48"... other things come into play as well, such as the temperature/altitude/humidity... how much dust is in/on the heatsinks/vents, or possibly a fault in the charger... the list goes on...

Re:Isn't this simple? (1)

AlterRNow (1215236) | more than 5 years ago | (#27211097)

It could even come down to a single resistor that measures the battery output, could be slightly faulty, and turn the PC off sooner.

Then the laptop is defective and should be sent in for repair/replacement :) I know that there is some variance ( there always is ) but isn't the metric simply more reliable because of the universal way of testing it ( loading the machine/battery fully ) then some "average" which differs depending on how the manufacturer determines "average"? After all, if you suspend-to-ram, the battery life averages in the tens of hours and on average, that might be the state the laptop is in.

Re:Isn't this simple? (1)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 5 years ago | (#27211929)

...then some "average" which differs depending on how the manufacturer determines "average"?

Isn't that what AMD has been doing? "...depending on how the manufacturer determines"... in this case, determining it to be longer than it actually is.

You could even test, and then claim for each individual battery, and put a sticker on it "[This battery lasted 3.798 Hours in our test]" and chances are very high that when that user uses it, they won't see the same time span, maybe 3.274 hours... you could test every battery, in every computer, which would be more accurate, but still have variance, for instance the test alone may change the batteries composition enough to knock off a few minutes... same goes for normal use, batteries (especially PC/phone/etc batteries) tend to wear out pretty quickly till they reach a sort of "normal shitty duration" you can expect.

I've got all sorts of rechargeable batteries, ones that used to run for days on end (headphones) but now only last about 8 hours at best, and that dropping started with the very first charge.

Re:Isn't this simple? (1)

Altreus (1492723) | more than 5 years ago | (#27210629)

Or, hum, hey, how about leave it idle and advertise *maximum* battery life?

Just an extra word to sate the masses' appetites for accuracy.

Re:Isn't this simple? (1)

AlterRNow (1215236) | more than 5 years ago | (#27210931)

Is it? To me it is about knowing what I am going to get.

In a choice between knowing I *will* get at least 40 minutes working time or I *might* get the 3 hour "maximum" battery life if I suspend the machine to RAM, I'll take the 40 minutes.

Re:Isn't this simple? (1)

RoFLKOPTr (1294290) | more than 5 years ago | (#27211219)

Or, hum, hey, how about leave it idle and advertise *maximum* battery life?

Umm... that's kind of what they already do.

Re:Isn't this simple? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27210673)

What is wrong with that?

Then they won't bother optimizing battery life for near-idle scenarios, and you'll end up with 40 min of battery even when idle. And to increase the number they'll build computers with lousy peak performance.

Re:Isn't this simple? (1)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 5 years ago | (#27210783)

I'd prefer to see min and max times. Max being light productivity app usage and min being playing a game that utilizes the GPU heavily.

Consumers will see the 2 numbers and can quickly decide if the performance meets their needs based on how they intend to use the laptop. Consumers are smarter than the average monkey. If they see a laptop advertised as "Battery Life: 45 Minutes - 2.5 Hours", they can guess what might affect battery consumption.

Re:Isn't this simple? (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 5 years ago | (#27212187)

You don't know many consumers, do you? The vast majority of consumers think that brighter and more saturated colors on a TV means that it's a better picture. Just like the recent study of people preferring the sound of mp3's to CD's. The squashed, over-loud sound of an mp3 is not "better" in any metric than a CD, but it's what people are used to, and people don't like change.

Re:Isn't this simple? (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 5 years ago | (#27210857)

Now try that with every battery off your line, and you have the minimum that you'll advertise. 6 months after selling those machines, the minimum will be even lower because batteries degrade. So maybe you advertise that figure?

And of course, that figure will be something like 10 minutes, which still doesn't give you any kind of an idea of how much time I can reasonably expect my laptop to work off of battery power doing reasonable things.

To be honest, I think they key thing should be that it's standardize. I would think most of the point is being able to compare when you're shopping. If one laptop is offering 2 hours of life and another is offering 4, I think it's fine if it's not exactly 2 and 4 hours, respectively, when you put it to a test. But ideally the "4 hour" laptop battery should give you twice the life of a "2 hour".

Re:Isn't this simple? (5, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#27210865)

3) Advertise "minimum" battery life

What is wrong with that? Then I can expect at least 40 minutes of battery life and anything more than that is nice.

What's wrong with that? What's wrong is that you're telling the customer a number that by and large they aren't interested in. What they want to know is if they can watch a full DVD without recharging. If they can work on their Excel spreadsheet for the entire 6-hour cross-country flight if the plane doesn't have plugs. You tell them "minimum 40 minutes" and they say "Whoa! That's not long enough to do anything!" and you say "Well it's just the minimum, under typical usage conditions it will last much longer," and then they ask "And how long is typical? Long enough to watch Casino Royale on BluRay?"

What's your answer? Hypothetically you should be able to actually say whether it'll last long enough to watch the movie, but how do you answer that question in general? What is "typical"? That's what people really want to know, the minimum number doesn't really do them much good except to say that if they really load down the laptop, it won't last long. Which makes the product look bad, and is still by and large not that helpful.

It's not an easy question, more difficult in many ways than talking about performance. Considering that power has only become a major concern for commodity chip makers in recent times, I'm not surprised that their battery life estimates aren't very accurate. Of course, whatever estimate they do use, no matter how accurate, will be measured in a way that makes their parts look good. That won't change, ever. I'm sure that's part of your motivation for the minimum time metric -- there are far fewer ways to screw with it. Which is nice, but not sufficient by itself.

Re:Isn't this simple? (1)

AlterRNow (1215236) | more than 5 years ago | (#27211257)

"Well it's just the minimum, under typical usage conditions it will last much longer"

Incorrect. I would respond, "That is the minimum time under the heaviest possible load it can be put under."

Typical - Hard to pin down because everyone's usage differs for various reasons ( operating system, time of day, intended usage )
Fully loaded - Nearly constant

I'd like to kindly point you to my initial post where I quite clearly said "fully load" and not "typical load"..

Re:Isn't this simple? (3, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#27211643)

Incorrect. I would respond, "That is the minimum time under the heaviest possible load it can be put under."

And they'd say "Okay, is playing a DVD the heaviest possible load, so I couldn't even play half of one movie? Or will I be able to play my movie? What about working on my earnings report?" and then you either have to refuse to give them any other number and lose the sale, or start talking about "typical" usage.

I'd like to kindly point you to my initial post where I quite clearly said "fully load" and not "typical load"..

Yes, I noticed, and I'd like to point you to my post where I clearly understood what you are talking about and said "That isn't very useful to the customer". Just because the minimum battery life has the useful property of being easier to quantify without hand-waving and assumptions doesn't mean it's actually the more useful number. Customers want to know if their lap top will last on a cross-country flight doing what it is they usually do.

Re:Isn't this simple? (1)

AlterRNow (1215236) | more than 5 years ago | (#27211773)

I fully load my machine during cross-country flights, you insensitive clod!

Ahem, meme's aside..

1) If a customer doesn't know how much load playing a DVD is, they don't care about advertised battery life.
2) Minimum is a more useful number because it always applies. Typical usage figures can be plucked out of thin air because it varies too much.

Re:Isn't this simple? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27211755)

You may clearly say, but you don't clearly read.

Re:Isn't this simple? (1)

AlterRNow (1215236) | more than 5 years ago | (#27211803)

Very true, I completely missed the last paragraph of the grand-parent. My apologies to him.

Re:Isn't this simple? (1)

AlterRNow (1215236) | more than 5 years ago | (#27211841)

Scratch that ( I'm obviously not paying attention today, maybe I'll just shut up ), I meant I apologise to 'Chris Burke', not myself.

Re:Isn't this simple? (1)

Arthurio (1392181) | more than 5 years ago | (#27212039)

Well right now they're advertising the 'maximum' time without explicitly saying that this is the maximum you might get out of your battery if you turn your speakers off, brightness low and don't move the mouse at all, better yet don't even log into the os. The 'minimum' could be a much more usable term. 'h of full screen video' could in theory be even better but we're never going to get there.

Re:Isn't this simple? (1)

Dishevel (1105119) | more than 5 years ago | (#27210935)

No.

Better than that lets do this.

Pick 10 or 15 standard tasks. Do those tasks over and over till the battery dies.

Tell us how many repetitions the system can do with the battery.

Because the real issue is how much can I get done on one charge.

Re:Isn't this simple? (1)

ThrowAwaySociety (1351793) | more than 5 years ago | (#27210961)

1) Fully load the machine

How? You've got, at a minimum, CPU, GPU, display, and disk. How do you continuously load the CPU so that all execution units are constantly working at their utmost? Same thing with the GPU. As for disk, are you reading, writing, seeking, or switching from one to the other?

Even if you could come up with such a worst-case scheme, it'd probably get so hot that the hardware would either throttle itslf back, or melt.

Re:Isn't this simple? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27211159)

"Even if you could come up with such a worst-case schem"

you're not running Vista are you? :)

yeah I know.. using vista64 my self and it works great but I could think of another OS that would make the joke work.. so yeah

Re:Isn't this simple? (1)

AlterRNow (1215236) | more than 5 years ago | (#27211353)

Even if you could come up with such a worst-case scheme, it'd probably get so hot that the hardware would either throttle itslf back, or melt.

Then it isn't really fit for use as a computer, let alone a laptop, is it?

Re:Isn't this simple? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27211529)

You are being a tad bit obtuse eh? There are tons of benchmarking utilities out there, pick one and roll with it. I'm dead sure that you know what a benchmark utility is and you are just being crabby ;).

Re:Isn't this simple? (1)

JonTurner (178845) | more than 5 years ago | (#27211035)

What is wrong is that doesn't tell the whole story because it fails to measure real-world performance except for one rare edge-case -- Max CPU duration.

It would be like automobile MPG being estimated based on full-throttle driving on a race track -- it doesn't mirror how the product is actually used. Instead we have city/highway ratings which attempt to mimic two use cases.

The difficulty with automobile engines is that they must operate efficiently across a variety of RPM ranges and trade-offs must be made to strike the best balance. If EPA tests were only at full throttle we'd soon see products tweaked for the test -- very, very efficient engines at high RPMs which are nearly unusable at lower speeds.

Unless they're in a server farm, PCs typically aren't run @ 100% except in short bursts. Most of the time, they're idling while the user reads a webpage or waits for an IM. Gaming is a bit of an exception in that it's more demanding. The idling of a CPU is an immensely important part of the power efficiency profile for a PC since it takes advantage of (frequent) opportunities to conserve, but your recommendation would ignore it.

Re:Isn't this simple? (3, Insightful)

Tom (822) | more than 5 years ago | (#27211117)

What is wrong with that?

It gives me, the customer, absolutely nothing to work with. There's a reason we don't calculate "miles per gallon" (or km/l over here) for the "pedal to the metal" case.

In an ideal world (you know, where everyone knows basic math and nobody is fooled by politicians' campaign promises) you'd have a bunch of measurements at various loads and simply print a curve that tells me what I need to know because I have a somewhat good feeling for where my average use scenario is on the curve.

Re:Isn't this simple? (3, Interesting)

AlterRNow (1215236) | more than 5 years ago | (#27211399)

That is a much better and useful idea actually.

Unfortunately, most metrics seemed to be measured with only one value but I would really like to see a 'battery life curve'.

Re:Isn't this simple? (1)

sunderland56 (621843) | more than 5 years ago | (#27211431)

So, you're happy with your car being rated at 6 miles per gallon? Because getting anything more than a race driver flogging it around a track with the throttle pinned is nice?

Re:Isn't this simple? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#27211441)

I thought I was the only one to think that way, considering EPA mileage estimates on cars (yes, the dreaded slashdot car analogy). People say that EPA mileage estimates should be changed to "consider people's driving habits" which must have changed over the decades -- people are getting stupider? They sure seem to drive stupider. Maybe I'm just getting old.

At any rate, the EPA highway estimate for my car is 35 MPG, but if I set the cruise control to 50 mph I get 36, as reported by the car's onboard computer.

A "you will get AT LEAST this much battery life or AT MAX this much highway mileage seems more rational to me. With cars, the minimum mileage is meaningless. Fill any car and let it idle until it runs out of fuel, and you've gotten zero MPG. But with batteries, running it full tilt until the battery dies gives you a better indication of battery life.

Re:Isn't this simple? (1)

socketwiz (792252) | more than 5 years ago | (#27211701)

1) Fully load the machine

Just install Vista...even at idle it nearly loads the machine to full.

Re:Isn't this simple? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27212065)

What is wrong with that? Then I can expect at least 40 minutes of battery life and anything more than that is nice. You will generally not be fully loading the machine so it will always be more than 40 minutes anyway..

Well, it means they will have to do that test for every single possible laptop configuration, or the results won't match.

Consumer usage will also play a major factor.

A better system needs to be developed. For example, laptops should be assigned a couple ratings for power draw, including standby draw, normal operation draw, and operation with peripherals like video cards, hard drives, CD/DVD players/burners, etc.
Then batteries could be rated for their overall output & longevity, and let the consumer do the math.

I generally get about 10x longer battery life than other family members who use the same exact laptop. Why? Well for starters I don't use the DVD drive, especially not to burn discs, my family does. I put movies/music to mp3, etc. for listening/watching, they load them off the disc.
They use lots of fancy extras like webcams, external drives, etc. that don't have their own power sources, and play graphically-intense video games. I use basic peripherals, self-powered when needed, and rarely push my video card.

All in all, depending largely on what I do with a laptop, my battery life is somewhere between 1/2 hour and 6 hours.
That's just not easy to put into a single number for marketing purposes.

Why average them? (1)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 5 years ago | (#27210523)

They say they let it site idle, then do an intensive test, and average the two times to get some inaccurate number. Why not just present both numbers, and let users decide what that translates to for their usage? As the article even refers to, cars report two mileage numbers, so the idea isn't new.

Re:Why average them? (1)

kannibal_klown (531544) | more than 5 years ago | (#27210745)

Well, I'm an IT guy and I like facts. I'd personally like to know that I can get "between 45 minutes to 2 hours of battery life, depending on usage," particularly if it's a fairly accurate number.

After all, then I'd know that reading a PDF and/or listening to MP3s might give me around 2.5 and doing heaving dev work w/ an installed Oracle DB and using wireless networking might give me the 45 minutes.

That being said, an average isn't that bad for Joe Sixpack so long as they realize it's an estimate and that what they do will reflect the time. After all, I'd imagine the basic user is not in the far-ends of the spectrum unless they are playing games of watching DVDs. The average user probably taxes the system in phases that almost make an average.

battery runtime doesn't concern me as much as (5, Informative)

bensafrickingenius (828123) | more than 5 years ago | (#27210527)

battery lifetime. I maintain about 200 laptops, and the damn batteries are usually completely useless after about a year. Oh, and of course, the laptop has a 3 year warranty, and the batteries have 1 year warranties. You can extend that to two years -- it'll only cost you about as much as a second battery would to do so.

Re:battery runtime doesn't concern me as much as (2, Informative)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 5 years ago | (#27210749)

New zinc/silver batteries are well in development. One company (http://www.zpowerbattery.com/ [zpowerbattery.com]) is planning on a business model that although the initial cost is much higher, the batteries can be recycled, so by exchanging old for new you come out ahead, and the batteries have more recharges than Li batteries. Some students in a class I took last quarter did a poster on these batteries, and I'm looking forward to replacing my current battery that took a year to cut charge life from 2 hours to 20 minutes with something other than another Li battery. No, I'm not a shill, I just hate the current batteries like the average /.'er loves to hate M$.

Re:battery runtime doesn't concern me as much as (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27211281)

battery lifetime. I maintain about 200 laptops, and the damn batteries are usually completely useless after about a year. Oh, and of course, the laptop has a 3 year warranty, and the batteries have 1 year warranties. You can extend that to two years -- it'll only cost you about as much as a second battery would to do so.

That has also been my exact experience with the 100 or so laptops that I maintain.

Re:battery runtime doesn't concern me as much as (2, Informative)

Dan Ost (415913) | more than 5 years ago | (#27211647)

My experience has been that a new battery that gives 3 hours up uptime gives 2 hours after a year and less than an hour after 3 years. Of course, our laptops are used mostly when docked, so we don't cycle our batteries as often as we could.

Not much different than EPA ratings on cars (3, Insightful)

cabjf (710106) | more than 5 years ago | (#27210545)

It's only really useful in comparison with other models. Your actual mileage (or battery time) can and will vary depending on usage and maintenance.

Re:Not much different than EPA ratings on cars (2, Insightful)

sunderland56 (621843) | more than 5 years ago | (#27210637)

At least with cars, the government - not the manufacturer - selects the test metric, runs the test, and publishes the results. If each laptop maker uses a different battery life test then you can't compare them at all.

3DMark06?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27210563)

Good luck running 3DMark06 on anything else than a Windows-based computer. No Linux, no Mac, no phones, etc.

Anyone that claims "We're Not Entirely Honest" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27210573)

Is being entirely honest.

Won't matter soon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27210661)

Once I can recharge my battery in 4.5 seconds will it matter?

Nope.

Re:Won't matter soon (3, Insightful)

robthebloke (1308483) | more than 5 years ago | (#27210861)

It's all well and good being able to charge a battery in 4.5 second, but it's not going to help you when your battery has run out and it's at least 2 hours until you're near a plug socket again.....

Re:Won't matter soon (0, Offtopic)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | more than 5 years ago | (#27210977)

Once I can recharge my battery in 4.5 seconds will it matter?

Nope.

That won't be happening anytime soon, and yes, I know about the article you're basing this on. Expect 10-20 years before that's a possibility.

This just In: Getting lied to is nothing new. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27210665)

Exaggeration when concerning any companys Product Isnt anything revolutionary. It kind of comes with the whole "buisiness" Career.

WWJD (1)

qoncept (599709) | more than 5 years ago | (#27210709)

That's great, a clearly hostile post on how crappy AMD's battery tests were and will continue to be. Only there is no alternative suggested, or even a hint that the poster thinks there is an effective alternative. Battery life depends on usage and there is no good test. Get over it.

Howbout this? (4, Interesting)

alta (1263) | more than 5 years ago | (#27210715)

I can see more variance in cellphones because those are devices that are on 24 hours on battery and usage patterns are reflective of how many minutes a person has. So someone with 1000 minutes and unlimited sms/data is going to use theirs a lot faster than I, with 550 shared minutes and no data.

On laptops, I think we can get a little more predictability. First of all, I'd venture to say that at least 80% of the time, if the laptop is on battery, it's being used. I don't know of too many people who fire up a laptop and walk off. However the variance is in the type of use. A photoshopper or developer is going to put a lot more stress on the battery than a Word/IE user. A teen is going to stress it more than a octogenarian. And a gamer is going to beat it down more than anyway. Well, maybe not as someone folding@home.

I think the solution for this is for someone with enough clout to develop a standard test that cycles through heavy/light load every 20 minutes. Let it run until it powers off. I think this should be a 'measurement company' such as futuremark. HP/Apple/Dell are never going to agree on a test, but if futuremark creats 'wattmark' and it becomes standard, they'll all use it.

At that point the consumer can say, "Ok, this machine gets 6 hours on wattmark, I'm a LIGHT user, and I usually get 20% more than wattmark" or "I'm a gamer, and I only get half what wattmark says"

But with the vendors publishing their own magic numbers, and consumer has NO idea what THEY can expect out of that machine/battery.

what? (4, Funny)

TheCreeep (794716) | more than 5 years ago | (#27210719)

I'm shocked! SHOCKED I tell you! You mean the phones/laptops don't run as long as advertised? I can't believe this! It's impossible! Next you'll tell me a 8GB pendrive/SSD holds less than 2^33 bytes.

Re:what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27211875)

Next you'll tell me a 8GB pendrive/SSD holds less than 2^33 bytes.

I would be shocked if it holds anything when I buy it.

Drive capacity measurement (1)

Tetsujin (103070) | more than 5 years ago | (#27212335)

I'm shocked! SHOCKED I tell you! You mean the phones/laptops don't run as long as advertised? I can't believe this! It's impossible! Next you'll tell me a 8GB pendrive/SSD holds less than 2^33 bytes.

Yeah, well they did something a little sneaky there - which is they don't use the same definition for "Gigabyte" as computer scientists often do...

Specifically, in this case, they made each byte only 7.45 bits instead of the full 8 bits. Hence, when you boot up your OS and check the drive capacity, it'll say 7.45 GB instead of 8GB.

This is actually easy to figure out.... (3, Interesting)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 5 years ago | (#27210781)

Most folks are not going to tap their machines to run 100% on battery, like the 3dmark tests do, but they sure as hell won't leave it sitting idle. So what is the answer? Simple, what DO most folks do while they are on their laptop? Well, from what I have seen that is web browsing, webmail, IM, and document creation/editing.

It really shouldn't be hard to simulate those uses. Since you can get an Open Source app to do each of these jobs you could just build a testing suite consisting of FF3,OO.o, and pidgin and run it, having those apps fed some simulated work(a document fo Writer,a few tabs for FF3, and some basic chat for Pidgin) and see how long the batteries last. I don't know about you but I would rather have a number based on "average Joe" usage than the crap numbers they pushed before or the even more pointless numbers they will be pushing now. Then I would have a real rough estimate of what to expect and could shop accordingly.

Certainly seems like a better way IMHO than some 50/50 split between 3dmark and idle, don't you think?

Re:This is actually easy to figure out.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27211131)

I personally rather know the maximum and minimum life personally. There is a big difference between watching a movie and running an office application and knowing both the max and min can be more useful in determining how long it will last under certain conditions. I don't see why they need to take an median, why not do like cars and cell phones by providing two numbers (idle and performance time) to inform the buyers.

Re:This is actually easy to figure out.... (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 5 years ago | (#27211699)

Well I agree BUT, well as they say "knowledge is power" so, why can't we have both? The min and max numbers, along with an "average Joe" number that would give us some real world experience to go by? Because this "half idle, half 3dmark" idea to me is frankly just as useless as the numbers they had before. After all we are talking battery life. Most folks aren't going to be compiling code or trying to play Crysis on a battery....that is what outlets are for. Folks also aren't going to switch a laptop on and have it sit there doing nothing until the battery runs out.

So maybe the combo approach? Have your "min and max" idea along with my "real world" idea to give us a better handle on what we are looking at, how about that? Because as it is now if I want a laptop for myself or a customer I have to wait until it has been out a few weeks and then hit the forums and see what the users are saying, because frankly the numbers as they stand now are pretty useless IMHO. I would rather know what to expect when I go out with the thing than some 3dmark test which I frankly am never going to run. So why not both?

Re:This is actually easy to figure out.... (1)

Morty (32057) | more than 5 years ago | (#27211687)

Some percentage of people "surf" CPU-intensive websites, such as hulu, while others read news. Some save their work frequently, requiring the drive to spin up, while others save less often. Some like to watch DVDs in background, requiring a spinning optical drive and CPU- or GPU-intensive decoding, while others don't. Even naive users will have different power utilization profiles. There is no "average joe".

Also from the "bleeding obvious" department: (1)

kheldan (1460303) | more than 5 years ago | (#27211019)

Um, stupid idea, I know, but: Why not just gather voluntary data from actual users, preferably thousands of them, and use that?

I always wondered this about... (1)

One Brave Prune (1470115) | more than 5 years ago | (#27211087)

Portable CD players. The maximum battery life hours on the box never mentioned if the tests had anti-shock turned on, how often the device was turned on and off, or the volume settings used (equalizers, bass boost, & volume). The reason for the ignorance for these details is the portability of AA batteries. Now that we live in an age of more fuel cell technology than we know what what to do with, shouldn't we save ourselves a headache and atleast make some standardized benchmark tests?

Give us synthetic and real-world benchmarks (2, Insightful)

davidwr (791652) | more than 5 years ago | (#27211101)

Give us "real" numbers like how long the battery will last sitting in a drawer or under "full load" in a particular device, and how long the battery will last under a variety of scenarios.

An "emergency" phone user is more interested in how long they can leave their phone in their glove compartment before recharging.

"Light" users want to know standby time and how many minutes of standby time they lose for every minute they talk.

"Heavy" users are more interested in talk time and how much "talk time" they lose if they leave their phone on but not charging overnight.

It's not just batteries (4, Informative)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 5 years ago | (#27211241)

I wrote a battery driver for a Windows CE device once. Here's how we did that.

There is an A/D line on the AC97 codec that we use as a measurement probe to the battery. Used that to determine the actual voltage being seen. Charged the device 24 hours, and ran a program that dumped that output to a file until it died.

Then fit a third order polynomial to the data. We use that to predict where you're at percentage-wise on the draining curve. Then we made the mistake of looking at the metrics for other batteries we got from the manufacturer.

As it turns out, the characteristics from one battery to the next varied wildly. Even after you average a dozen or so batteries you'd still get better results throwing darts at a dartboard.

In short, that 3DMark06 test is probably reading battery capacity from something similar. That would be worth looking at for another source of possibly bogus readings.

fudging at least since James Watt (0, Redundant)

fermion (181285) | more than 5 years ago | (#27211497)

Part of the problem is lack of a educated person. For instance, electricity and plugs are nothing new, but many people are still going to buy the 'iphone compatible' headphones rather than a unmarked pair, even though there is no difference. And just listen to the commercials on certain AM talk radio stations. It is like the conservation of mass and energy never existed. One can magically get rid of debt. One can magically get rid of weight. One can magically increase cell phone reception with a piece of plastic. One can magically get infinite energy out of a finite reserve. There is no reason for an normal adult not to understand these things.

And fudging number has been around since the beginning of the industrial revolution. The story goes that James Watt wanted to sell his steam engine based on the number of horses replace, or equivalent. So he measured the amount or work horses could do over a period of time. The story goes he did not make his horses work very hard, and came out with a very low power. I am sure his reasoning was 'sustained work' was what was important. In any case, he was forced to up this number, but is was still considered low. But this is number we have. The horsepower is the amount of a work a unmotivated tired weak horse can do. The battery life is the maximum one can expect when on is not using the device for anything. The rated miles per gallon on a car is valid if one is driving around a parking lot at a constant speed with no accesories on and no one, not even the driver, in the car.

Any number listed in advertising copy is solely for advertising purposes. That is the rule. If everyone uses the same basis, no matter how flawed, such as horsepower, it is a fair relative comparison. Though the exact number might not make any sense, it is useful for ordering. In a educated society, therefore, we would use a scaled number rather than a fixed number that implies some level or precision and accuracy. But, as stated, we are not even educated enough to understand there is nothing magical about an set of headphones. Thank the gods for that, otherwise many companies would be out business and we would be in greater trouble than we are.

uhh, here's an idea (1)

DragonTHC (208439) | more than 5 years ago | (#27211515)

base your battery life figures on full consumption specification of all the components at operating temperatures.

simple math which instantly gives you the worst case scenario, which is probably more reliable than current methods.

also provide a scaled estimate based on battery age from an average number of charges.

What we really need... (1)

solios (53048) | more than 5 years ago | (#27211971)

... isn't some developer's idea of benchmarks, but estimates based on actual Real World Use.

For example - my laptop* will last a day or two unplugged in sleep mode. There's one metric for you - how long will it last if you stick it in your bag and forget about it?

My laptop will last maybe an hour - if that - running Photoshop. That stresses the disk, the ram, pegs the processor, etc.

It might last through a DVD if I'm not doing anything else. Optical drive is the big drain here - newer machines can handle the rest while barely ticking over.

Slurping a bigass (4+ gig) video file off of a thumb drive through a USB1 port completely drained the battery. That's sustained, heavy use of ports and disk.

Ultimately, I don't care how long the laptop battery lasts with "average use." I care about how well it holds up to the very extremes - extreme neglect (how long can it sleep on a full or moderate charge?), regular-for-me use (fullbore photoshop until the charge meter hits red), and Worst Case Scenario (I'm in the middle of the country trying to get all of my critical files copied onto my ipod or other laptop-powered USB drive).

Apple's battery monitoring software gives a fairly accurate, frequently updated guesstimate of battery time remaining and charge time remaining - and you're only going to get those figures through stressing the machine the way you'll be using it - not through skimming the interwebs for benchmarks that care deeply about ways you'll never use the hardware.

In my opinion, it may be easier to develop better battery monitors than it will be to develop and publish accurate test suites.

* An old 12" Powerbook G4 that's way past its prime. Newer lappies will get longer life for these scenarios but I think they stand as ballpark figures.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...