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Lies, Damn Lies, and Battery-Life Statistics

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the guilty-as-charged dept.

Portables 200

theodp writes "What if automakers measured gas mileage by rolling their cars downhill with their engines idling? They might, Newsweek's Daniel Lyons suggests, if they took inspiration from the MobileMark 2007 notebook battery-life benchmark test, the creation of a consortium called BAPCo, whose members are — surprise — computer makers and other tech companies. Laptops score big numbers, Lyons explains, because they're tested with screens dimmed to 20%-30% of full brightness, Wi-Fi turned off, and the main processor chip running at 7.5% of capacity. Professional reviewers see company-generated battery-life claims as a joke. 'The rule of thumb is that in real-world use you get about 50 percent of rated battery life,' says a Gizmodo associate editor. Leading the call for reform is the not-necessarily-altruistic AMD, who gripes that MM07 was created in Intel's labs and rigged so Intel chips would outscore AMD chips, which draw more power when idle."

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200 comments

Justifying piracy (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28403453)

Fellow pirates,

I implore you to continue your campaign on Slashdot to make me feel less guilty. I know that not paying someone for their work is wrong, but if Slashdot posts enough articles bashing the RIAA/MPAA/copyright law/whatever, it's easier for me to accept what I'm doing emotionally by visualizing someone else as the bad guy. Once on the forefront of relevant IT news, Slashdot is now a lame repository of mainstream pseudoscience links and pro-piracy articles to appease a dwindling readership. I am overjoyed.

Even though the open source community is about giving back as much as it is taking, I'm just going to take. I'm a human leech with self-serving beliefs and an inability to empathize with content creators who are trying to make a living.

I don't believe John Carmack should be paid for his work. I'm going to sit on my ass while he spends years coding the next advanced 3D engine from id Software. When their game comes out, I'm going to pirate it without giving a second thought about paying John Carmack for his work. I'm just so used to pirating things now that I take it for granted. If anyone mentions John Carmack to make me feel guilty, I'll look for Slashdot articles that bolster my viewpoint, such as this one [slashdot.org] , amusingly posted in the Your Rights Online section even though none of my rights are being violated.

According to that study, it's okay to not pay people for their work because there's some vague hope that they'll make up the difference in income through "concerts and speaking tours." Artists are now forced to take time out of doing what they want to do. John Carmack must stop programming in order to make money from programming. It's genius. The study does exactly what I need it to--make me feel less guilty when I pirate. We've managed to stretch the truth so far that we're actually telling ourselves that we're helping artists by not paying them for their work. Excellent job.

I look forward to Slashdot telling me everyday who the bad guys are. Even though Slashdot has sued websites in the past for copyright infringement, and they've pretended to care about plagiarism [slashdot.org] , we're supposed to go along with Slashdot's anti-copyright agenda. I'm okay with that hypocrisy because it serves me. It makes me feel less guilty when I pirate something. Remember, I'm not the bad guy--the RIAA/MPAA/whatever is. That makes it okay for me to not pay people for their work.

EULAs and copyright licenses are wrong, yet the GPL is good. Piracy isn't theft, yet GPL violations are referred to as "stolen GPL code." I accept all of these double-standards because it serves me. I pretend not to notice when someone points out that the GPL relies on copyright law, and if I want to get rid of copyright, my beloved open source code will no longer be protected by the GPL. I don't care, because I'm too busy concerning myself with what I want for free, not about the consequences. I want to get rid of copyrights because I've been told that copyrights are the bad guy, and they are an obstacle to my rampant piracy.

Fellow pirates, let us continue our selfish leeching. Let us paint others as the bad guys to absolve us of our emotional guilt. Our goal is to convince people that piracy is something the good guys are doing in a fight with the evil corporations. Making money is wrong, even though Slashdot displays ads, and it cost me money to buy the computer I'm using to pirate stuff.

Yours truly,
A fellow Slashbot

Re:Justifying piracy (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28403801)

Bravo, sir! I've never read a post here which captured the general attitude of the fickle shit-for-brains readership so poignantly! You can all go wank to Goatse and Last Resort on your iPhones, now.

Who did this study? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28403469)

Captain Obvious?

gas mialage (5, Funny)

He who knows (1376995) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403503)

They would need a really big hill.

Re:gas mialage (1)

Psychotic_Wrath (693928) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403527)

Like say a mountain...

Apple Don't (5, Interesting)

Space cowboy (13680) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403507)

Take a look at Anandtech's MBP review [anandtech.com] . The tagline 'Battery life to die for' sort of gives away the tale though.

Apple claim 5-8 hours. Anand got 4.92 (heavy downloading + XVid + Web browsing) to 8.13 hours (Wireless web browsing) with the screen at half-brightness ("completely useable") and no funny optimisations.

Maybe, just maybe, there's something to this "our batteries are better" thing they've got going; if someone comes out with a spare-battery-attached-to-a-magsafe-connector for those die-hards who absolutely *need* it, angels may sing in the treetops. Personally I've never needed to change the battery in my portable (whatever portable I've had) so it's no big deal to me. Yadda yadda, one datapoint not a trend...

Simon.

Re:Apple Don't (5, Informative)

wnknisely (51017) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403647)

For what it's worth, I'm seeing numbers comparable to these on my new Macbook pro. Perhaps Apple is using a different benchmark than the one in the article above?

Re:Apple Don't (4, Insightful)

arminw (717974) | more than 4 years ago | (#28404115)

...Perhaps Apple is using a different benchmark...

Perhaps Apple computers are able to manage power better because Apple is the only computer maker that engineers their hardware and software together and is thus able to optimize battery life.

Re:Apple Don't (1, Interesting)

slaker (53818) | more than 4 years ago | (#28404363)

Apple notebooks are manufactured by Asus. Don't you think that if there were some kind of significant gain in technology for battey life that it would show up in other Asus-manufactured products?

Here's another idea: Apple lies about battery life just like everyone else.

Really, now, which idea is more likely?

Re:Apple Don't (3, Insightful)

samkass (174571) | more than 4 years ago | (#28404611)

Asustek assembles the laptops, but certainly doesn't manufacture or supply the batteries. If you know who supplies those batteries, their controllers, or the controller software please share (and cite). I certainly couldn't find that information.

Here's another idea: Anandtech and the others who have tested the batteries and verified Apple's numbers don't have any reason to lie.

Really, now, which is more likely: everyone's lying from reporters to users and in some huge conspiracy, or Apple's batteries really meet the stated specs?

Re:Apple Don't (2, Informative)

arminw (717974) | more than 4 years ago | (#28404615)

...Apple lies about battery life just like everyone else...

I get about three and a half hours of battery life on my Macbook pro surfing the web with wireless turned on. Manufacturing a product and producing an integrated hardware and software design are two entirely different things. Asus along with all the other manufacturers of machines that get Windows installed on them, make only half of the computer and cannot possibly integrate the software including power management the way Apple does. It is the design, not the manufacturing that makes the difference.

Re:Apple Don't (0, Troll)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 4 years ago | (#28404207)

And on the 3-year-old Dell Dimension M610 which afflicts me at work, the thing cannot even complete booting Windows XP on its original battery. Mind you, it has to load a lot of corporate dross during startup, but it still seems crappy that it cannot even boot on battery power after 3 years of mostly running on AC in its docking station. A replacement laptop has been ordered, thankfully (with two batteries, of course).

Re:Apple Don't (4, Informative)

speculatrix (678524) | more than 4 years ago | (#28404349)

there's no point in ordering a *spare* battery when you buy a laptop; ordering a *second* battery because you're travelling a lot might make sense. this is because LiIon batteries age, and you can only slow down the ageing by keeping them 40% charged in a moderately cool place.

LiIon batteries also lose capacity after a number of charge/discharge cycles, the number varies according to how deep the cycles are and the temperatures you reach in the process. When the battery packs are particularly expensive - think Prius and other electric cars - the battery management electronics are crucial to protecting the investment, and the batteries are never run anywhere near flat and particularly are never fully charge to prevent some cells overcharging, and the charge/discharge controlled carefully to prevent temperature rises leading to premature ageing.

thus, in conclusion, keep your laptop battery cool, don't thrash its battery, don't deep cycle it, buy a good brand so you can buy a new battery *in*the*future*not*for*storage*.

I don't trust Apple's sealed-in batteries (5, Interesting)

argent (18001) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403667)

I will never buy a laptop with a non-removable battery even if it gets 8 hours playing MMOs at full resolution. I *have* a Macbook Pro, and if it had an "iBattery" my laptop would have been destroyed when the battery failed and swelled... instead of having the battery pop safely out of its compartment.

Better battery, great, but I'll take a laptop that's a millimeter thicker if that's what it takes to put a door on the battery compartment.

Apple doesn't trust other batteries (2, Informative)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403721)

I will never buy a laptop with a non-removable battery even if it gets 8 hours playing MMOs at full resolution. I *have* a Macbook Pro, and if it had an "iBattery" my laptop would have been destroyed when the battery failed and swelled.

But perhaps the battery would not have swelled had it been designed into the computer instead of being an Apple re-branded battery manufactured by someone else.

Perhaps Apple's move to all sealed batteries is because they got tired of the weakest link in the chain being overly cheap manufacturing processes from other companies bringing their own equipment down...

If for some reason the Apple laptop battery did swell and cause the system to fail, I'm not sure what the issue would be - you'd get a new laptop.

Re:Apple doesn't trust other batteries (2, Informative)

quanticle (843097) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403815)

If for some reason the Apple laptop battery did swell and cause the system to fail, I'm not sure what the issue would be - you'd get a new laptop.

Well, assuming the laptop was still under warranty, of course. If the laptop wasn't under warranty he'd have had to pay for a brand new laptop, rather than simply purchasing a replacement battery from eBay or something.

Re:Apple doesn't trust other batteries (3, Interesting)

Macman408 (1308925) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403985)

Apple, like many companies, is often rather fearful of power adapter and battery issues. If you have a power adapter that's sparking, or a battery that's bulging, or something that might pose a safety risk, they'll often choose to replace it for you (in warranty or not) rather than let you continue using it, risk getting hurt, and starting a lawsuit (or a recall).

Obviously, this varies a lot. A fraying power adapter cord is also likely to be caused abuse, and they'll figure that you're smart enough that if it's sparking, you probably shouldn't use it while sitting in a pool of gasoline (or at all, for that matter). And even a bulging battery might be called a consumable, and they'll just tell you to buy a new one. It depends on a lot of things - if you have/had AppleCare, the mood of whoever you're talking to, how much money you regularly throw at Apple for new products, how widespread the problem is, how many times you ask, etc.

Re:Apple doesn't trust other batteries (1)

derGoldstein (1494129) | more than 4 years ago | (#28404619)

Speaking of additional factors to throw into the mix:

While there's something to be said for knowing the exact hardware that your software will be running on, most reviews will comment on the very well-designed power management in Windows. In fact this is something that, from what I understand, is continually being patched through windows update. So there's a good chance that the laptop you bought 2 years ago, with the same version of windows, has a *longer* battery life, on average, than when you originally bought it. Honestly, if this information came *from* MS, I wouldn't believe them, but I've run into this particular power management anecdote in enough different articles that I tend to believe there's some truth to it.

This isn't to contradict the claim that Apple may be "lying less", but I think it's a consideration.

Re:Apple doesn't trust other batteries (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#28404161)

You don't seriously expect that the internal battery is any more "apple manufactured" than the removable battery was, do you?

Apple, like pretty much all the domestic PC brands, has little to no manufacturing capacity in-house. Possibly some prototyping, and likely some customization/assembly; but all the serious manufacturing is handled by a bunch of OEMs and their suppliers. The cells will be sourced from some third party in any case.

Re:Apple doesn't trust other batteries (4, Insightful)

derGoldstein (1494129) | more than 4 years ago | (#28404673)

How appropriate, then, that the one thing they *do* oversee in-house is the manufacturing processes for the *cases*. They've invested quite a bit in manufacturing process development and patenting, resulting in things like the "Unibody" laptops and those highly-resilient aluminum coating materials.

So many of their customers, after all, "judge a notebook by its cover"...

Re:I don't trust Apple's sealed-in batteries (1)

beelsebob (529313) | more than 4 years ago | (#28404211)

Except that the battery is *not* non removable. The battery is removable in the same way as your hard disk or your memory are -- you wouldn't do it every day, or even every week, but if you need to replace it, you can.

Re:Apple Don't (1, Informative)

LynnwoodRooster (966895) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403675)

I get 4-4.5 hours out of my 4 year old Dell D505. I leave the backlight at 50% - it's too bright otherwise. WiFi usually on, new battery from 1.5 years ago. Seems to last about what Dell claimed! Now, if I'm doing non-stop compiling or heavy-duty FEA then the battery life drops WAY down. But then I'm usually seated at a desk, where an outlet is just a few feet away. When I'm traveling and need the battery life, it's typically just web and e-mail and it lasts plenty long for that...

Already have that (4, Informative)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403687)

If someone comes out with a spare-battery-attached-to-a-magsafe-connector for those die-hards who absolutely *need* it, angels may sing in the treetops

This is exactly why I don't understand the fuss over non-removable batteries. You get better battery life, and if you need extra power you've always been able to buy external battery packs [batterygeek.net] . They have cable that attach to the Magsafe connector. You can get them in a range of sizes, including sizes that are not much larger than a spare battery would have been anyway...

Similarly there are tons of external packs for smaller devices like the iPhone/iPod (or anything usb charged).

I also have not often found the need for an second battery in a laptop if I can get at least three to four hours out of it. Basically the only time is an international flight, and for that the external batteries are perfect. Heck, until it broke the Solio [solio.com] solar powered recharger I had could even recharge itself in-flight as long as I was at a window!!

Re:Already have that (2, Insightful)

FrankieBaby1986 (1035596) | more than 4 years ago | (#28404117)

Wouldn't this manner of external battery be incredibly wasteful? Assuming the laptop does not have a way of detecting that it is an external battery and not a power adapter, then I would assume it would attempt to re-charge the internal battery. This would be very wasteful from a battery-life point of view, as charging a battery is not extremely efficient, and obviously, you would rather that energy be used to power the laptop. Or is an Apple computer smart enough not to charge the battery?

Re:Already have that (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#28404187)

The computer, apple or otherwise, would have no way to know(you could easily enough add a signal line, or even use one of the DC lines to carry a signal, to cover the situation; but neither apple nor anybody else has done so, to my knowledge).

If you are particularly concerned, the way to go would be to drain the external battery first, by running your fully charged laptop off of it, until the external pack was empty, and then run off the internal battery, charging both when you get to power. In practice, I suspect that most people don't care. It doesn't have to be optimally efficient, it just has to be "cross the atlantic" efficient.

Re:Already have that (2, Interesting)

hudsucker (676767) | more than 4 years ago | (#28404719)

Running off the external battery shouldn't attempt to charge the internal battery.

Consider running off of 15v aircraft adapters, which provide enough power to run the computer, but not enough to charge the battery.

Apple doesn't publish how the current MagSafe adapters are designed, but they do have a document [apple.com] that explains how power adapter sensing worked on the PowerBook. The power plug shell is used an "adapter sense" line to signal the adapter type to the computer's power management unit.

Re:Apple Don't (1)

Macman408 (1308925) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403929)

if someone comes out with a spare-battery-attached-to-a-magsafe-connector for those die-hards who absolutely *need* it, angels may sing in the treetops.

You mean like this [quickertek.com] , this [batterygeek.net] , or this [hyperdrive.com] ?

No endorsements from me here, mind you - just wanted to point out that there are indeed such products for sale. I, however, neither own a MacBook nor have ever had any desire for a second battery on my PowerBook.

Re:Apple Don't (2, Interesting)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403939)

What baffles me is how battery technology hasn't improved a whole bunch. I know there's no like, O'Vac's Law or something like Moore's Law, but why has it proven so difficult to improve battery life for laptops beyond 4-5 hours?

Re:Apple Doesn't (3, Insightful)

icebrain (944107) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403973)

Battery tech has improved, but the computer manufacturers use that extra ability to run more stuff. It's just like how computers don't seem to work any faster than they did ten years ago--advances in memory and processor power get eaten up by bloated software and additional "features". And 4-5 hours seems to be what most people consider acceptable; few are willing to trade off power, screen size/brightness, features, etc. for longer built-in battery life.

Re:Apple Doesn't (2, Interesting)

crmarvin42 (652893) | more than 4 years ago | (#28404107)

Exactly! I bought a new battery for my old powerbook about 4 years after I got it and the replacement batter had so much more juice that I actually got 2x the battery life out of it that the original battery gave me (when brand new).

The problem isn't that batteries aren't improving, but that battery improvements aren't keeping pace with hardware requirements. The recent shift toward performance/watt and Apple's larger, but not exteranlly accessable battery seem to be aimed at addressing this imbalance.

Weight (2, Interesting)

zogger (617870) | more than 4 years ago | (#28404453)

The number one selling feature for new laptops seems to be weight (and slimness). If "consumers" would be willing to carry the same weight they did some years ago, sure, you could have batteries that would last a long time, even with more modern processors and so on. but they don't, lightweight sells, and people believe the marketing crap about battery life, so there ya go.

  An extra pound or two of battery would do wonders, but they can't hide that extra pound or two in the specs, while they can fudge about battery longevity.

  Batteries have gotten better, from sealed lead acid to NiMH to LiIon in laptops, but still, if they keep reducing size and weight, your amp hours of storage will never get much better. You can maybe maintain parity, but it won't get better.

I think there would be a market for it, but obviously no laptop manufacturer wants to take a chance on that, they all seem to be on the lighter is always better schtick.(same with cellphones, lighter and teeny tinier) Personally, I think laptops got "light enough to not suck" several years ago, but obviously most people just don't want to carry anything heavy anymore like they did even five years ago. Example, you can get pretty decent notebooks now at around 3 lbs. Add 2 lbs of extra battery, still at five pounds, what was considered really lightweight not that long ago. You'd have pretty good all day long battery then..but would they sell?

Re:Apple Don't (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 4 years ago | (#28404011)

I've had 2 laptops, both of which were plugged in 98% of the time. The first I replaced before the battery died. The second... towards the end, the battery was lucky to last 15 minutes. However, by that point it had for more serious problems (fan needed replacing, screen flopped around like larry king's dick without viagra, CDROM was flaky, had drive had bad sectors) and so I replaced it with a desktop machine.

I know there are some people who carry an extra battery and swap out, but many don't. For them (the majority, I suspect) the extra battery life is worth the inability to change it.

If you can't win, change the game. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28403509)

Intel may twist the numbers, but they are clearly ahead of AMD in most areas.
They were behind in P4 times but the got their act together.

AMD better produces some better processors before they are out of the game.
Crying out loud dosen't help even a tiny bit.

Does anyone pay attention to battery life anymore? (3, Interesting)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403517)

Most people expect 2.5 hours of "good use" out of a laptop battery when new. This number hasn't really changed since 1998 or so. I can't remember the last time I used battery life when evaluating a laptop - if you NEED more than 2.5 hours of battery life, you just buy a second battery. People assume half the life stated as rule of thumb the same way I assume real world gas mileage as (EPA gas mileage * 0.8) for cars I drive.
 
The correct title for this article is "Does anyone still pay attention to marketing hype about batteries, or, how I learned to stop caring and ignore the marketing hype".

Re:Does anyone pay attention to battery life anymo (4, Insightful)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403573)

People "expect" that just because they don't really realize it can be better. Put it another way: they don't expect that at all, they just accept it.

Re:Does anyone pay attention to battery life anymo (3, Interesting)

marc.andrysco (1173073) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403575)

My latest laptop advertised 2.5 hours of battery life, which I would've been fine with. It's enough to last through two classes, after which I can normally find a power outlet.

I wasn't very careful looking at the battery life, and, to my dismay, I took it home to find out it could only hold a charge for 1.5 hours. This is even on pretty conservative settings with the screen dimmed as low as possible. Now that it's starting to age, I'm down to about 1 hour of battery, which doesn't even last through my 75 minute classes.

Most people expect 2.5 hours of "good use" out of a laptop battery when new. This number hasn't really changed since 1998 or so. I can't remember the last time I used battery life when evaluating a laptop - if you NEED more than 2.5 hours of battery life, you just buy a second battery.

Oh, how I wish that were the case.

Re:Does anyone pay attention to battery life anymo (2, Interesting)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 4 years ago | (#28404591)

What OS are you running? Even though I am primarily a Windows guy (Quite happy with XP x64) I've found that the ultra small Linux distros can squeeze more life out of a battery. I would try DSL, DSL-N, or Puppy, going from least juice to most.

I have had customers bring in laptops in the same predicament and after telling them how much a new battery would cost (and hoping they don't have a coronary) I show them DSL and Puppy and tell them that running one of these instead of Windows could extend their battery life. Depending on the model some have doubled the amount of time they get and they are all quite happy. After all, it is a laptop. you are using it to take notes and read emails, not run Bioshock.

So give them a try. There are plenty of Puplets you can choose from if you need something customized, but for best battery life I would try DSL and DSL-N first. IIRC DSL-N has Abiword included which is fine for note taking in class. Both DSL and Puppy have easy to use instructions for putting them on a USB stick if you are talking about a Netbook or for whatever reason can't use a CD. All it will take is a couple of hours of your time, a few blank CDs and a few hundred MB of bandwidth to give it a go. And if you are down to an hour of time left on a full charge, what have you got to lose?

Re:Does anyone pay attention to battery life anymo (2, Informative)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403577)

Hasn't changed? The hell it hasn't. My new Dell Studio 15, with the standard battery (6-cell, I think), gets three hours and forty-five minutes under regular usage (i.e., not playing Dwarf Fortress or doing something graphically intensive). It'd get more with Aero Glass off.

Re:Does anyone pay attention to battery life anymo (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28403613)

2.5 hours? Really? What's the point? My two and a half year old Thinkpad T60 gets 5 hours on a bad day. My friend with a similarly spec'd Thinkpad (a bit older) claims to have gotten 9 hours with wifi off and more like 7 hours in reasonable usage (his is tweaked a bit better). Both of us have just the extended battery (there is also space for a second, smaller battery instead of an optical drive).

Re:Does anyone pay attention to battery life anymo (2, Interesting)

slaker (53818) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403665)

I get seven to eight hours of normal use on a 14" T61 with the nine cell primary and the ultrabay battery, using an Intel SSD. I really CAN run my system all day off batteries, if I need to, but given the number of cells I'm using, that's something I really expect to be able to do.

Re:Does anyone pay attention to battery life anymo (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#28404237)

SSD's consume a lot less power than HDD's, couple your expanded battery capacity with aggressive power management and you might even be able to get more out of it.

WiFi is probably the next huge power sink after the hard drive, turning that off with the physical switch when you aren't actively browsing would squeeze more juice out of your laptop.

Re:Does anyone pay attention to battery life anymo (1)

slaker (53818) | more than 4 years ago | (#28404401)

Yes and no. SSDs use less power, but make it a lot easier to keep the CPU fed, and the CPU uses tons of power on its own.

In my case, "normal use" means having 802.11 running. I'm sure I could get more out of what I have but not at the cost of the utility of having that machine to begin with.

Re:Does anyone pay attention to battery life anymo (2, Interesting)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403977)

I would surmise that this has to do with the fact that Thinkpads seemed to be geared more towards the businessman - there would be hell and a half to pay if your laptop couldn't last for a flight on a plane. Their customers needed long battery life and they got it.

A lot of my friends who have laptops rarely actually have them untethered - they can take them around conveniently, but they always plug it into whatever open socket happens to be nearby.

Re:Does anyone pay attention to battery life anymo (2, Insightful)

Sorny (521429) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403711)

2.5 hours? Maybe the norm for non-Apple notebooks, but decidedly below par for a good laptop. Then again, I have a MacBook that gets 4.5 hours, and that is with the keyboard illumination turned on. Apple notebooks may be pricey, but you get quality and long battery life from them.

Re:Does anyone pay attention to battery life anymo (1)

Chrigi (1581379) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403737)

I totally agree. I like my battery to last long and I can understand when 2h are just not enough but when you buy a Laptop the power consumption is not in the focus. Most end users won't even look at the numbers and expect about 2h. I think this will only change when the majority of Laptop batteries last for 5h+. Give it 2 years after that and the masses will expect 5h. Right now it's still 2h. I'm always watching the battery status and feel sad for every % I lose but that's just my paranoia and most users won't even think something's odd when the advertised 100000h battery time is not met. They just don't care...

Re:Does anyone pay attention to battery life anymo (2, Informative)

quanticle (843097) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403879)

I suppose it depends on what you consider to be "good use". I personally get at least 4.5 hours of use out of my Toshiba A305 while coding and web browsing. Good thing, too, since I'm often not able to find a free power outlet while I'm at school.

Re:Does anyone pay attention to battery life anymo (2, Insightful)

Splab (574204) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403981)

"People expect 2.5 hours", speak for yourself. I expect at least 7-10 hours of battery time from a laptop, I usually don't need a laptop, but when I do I'm away from a usable outlet for quite some time. Having an additional battery is of course possible, but those can easily weigh in at 1 kg+, I got enough to log around as it is.

Hate to sound like a Mac whore (4, Interesting)

twistedcubic (577194) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403529)

but I get five hours of battery life on a Macbook (last year's model), so I think Apple doesn't lie about its stats (because they don't have to?). Despite all the claims that Macs are overpriced, I think these are among the cheapest non-netbooks you can get with great battery life. IMO, laptops which last only 2.5 hours on a battery should not be sold.

Re:Hate to sound like a Mac whore (4, Informative)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403657)

I got my Macbook because it makes a pretty decent Linux box (although I now dual-boot OSX because Apple has slowly wormed its way into my life), and the lowest end Macbook is pretty affordable. Comparable in price and specs to a mid-range laptop. And yes it does get good battery life (the battery life is better in OSX than in Linux though)

If you use computers the way I do, the you can really get those 4 hours that those cheap PC laptops claim. I use it in the dark(so screen dimmed), no WiFi, command-line only running a text editor for Vi. Occasionally kicking on the CPU to compile a .c to a .o and link the .o's (using 'make' saves a tremendous amount of battery life). My Macbook got a little over 5.5 hours for me on a flight before it had to shut down(just writing code and reading man pages). If I would have sprung for the Macbook Pro it would have been more like 7-8 hours though.

Re:Hate to sound like a Mac whore (1)

ThePhilips (752041) | more than 4 years ago | (#28404049)

... command-line only running a text editor for Vi.

Since I presume that you really mean "VIM", then I have an information which might be interesting to you.

VIM, in its default configuration creates and maintains the "..swp" file. By default it is stored in the same directory were file being edited is. Everything you do in VIM from :w to :w is constantly sent to the .swp file to allow for recover after crash. (File is deleted when you end editing session.) That obviously has an impact on battery life - if you edit file from hard drive. Hard drive will never sleep, because the updates sent to .swp file would keep it spinning.

":help swapfile" for tips how to change that.

In other words, what you do isn't light on battery. In default configuration, the operations are quite expensive.

Try "pidstat -d 10" for more fun and revelations. Some people also recommended "iotop", though I haven't used it yet.

P.S. But that of course doesn't change the fact that Mac OS X has superior power management compared to Linux or Windows. Apple shamelessly takes advantage of its vertical model: they control everything from hardware to firmware to OS to software. Optimizing for notebooks is natural for them as Apple seen for past three years surge in notebook demand now surpassing half of all Macs shipped. Linux on other side is still deep in always-on-so-do-not-care-about-power-consumption server/beige-box mode. Kernel and drivers are there, but it all make little difference since high-level desktop software doesn't care about it. I consistently get ~3.5-4 hours on my PB12 under Mac OS X 10.4 and measly 1.5 hours on default setup of Xubuntu. After two weeks of tinkering with the setup the time went up to 2.5 hours, what is still far from 4 hours I get with the same workload under Mac OS X.

Re:Hate to sound like a Mac whore (1)

arminw (717974) | more than 4 years ago | (#28404841)

...what is still far from 4 hours I get with the same workload under Mac OS X....

That is easy to explain. Apple designs the hardware and the software together as a unit. They are able to do the power management exactly to the hardware they have in the machine. Neither Windows or Linux are able to know exactly what kind of power management system for manufacturer designed into the machine.

Re:Hate to sound like a Mac whore (1)

DreamsAreOkToo (1414963) | more than 4 years ago | (#28404141)

Well, your opinion, like most people's opinions, does not apply to everyone.

I bought my laptop, with an advertised battery life of 1 hour. That was fine with me, I wasn't ever going to use my laptop someplace there wasn't a power outlet, but I planned on moving my computer a lot.

Re:Hate to sound like a Mac whore (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 4 years ago | (#28404649)

Dude, I just gotta know: What kind of laptop actually advertises only having a fricking hour of battery life? An Alienware? The only one here at the shop I've ever seen that got those kinds of lousy battery numbers new was one of those cheapo "Staples Black Friday" laptops that came with a desktop P4 Celeron stuffed into a laptop. Boy you could fry some bacon with that sucker! Thing got so hot even running on AC I kept a fan blowing on it the entire time I was working on it so I wouldn't end up with the thing melting down on me.

Oh really? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28403563)

I've never had that probl***Battery Empty: Shutting down**

Re:Oh really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28403651)

I've never had that probl***Battery Empty: Shutting down**

It looks like you are using a laptop that Candlejack [urbandictionary.com] gave to

Lenovo here (3, Informative)

SchizoStatic (1413201) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403585)

I have a cheap lenovo from last year and if I am on 50% brightness with wifi on and just browsing web with some videos I can go 3 hours. The battery is rated for 3. *shrug*

Re:Lenovo here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28403831)

I easily get 5 to 6 without doing anything special with a Lenovo X60s with the extended battery. Set the screen a bit dimmer and set it to "power saver" mode (which turns off aero and sets the processor not to go over 50%) and 8 to 10 hours is possible. Very nice machine.

my old Panasonic Toughbook CF-72 (1)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403587)

i timed how long i get out of battery power and how long it takes to full recharge, one hour each, one hour and the alarm says its time to recharge or die, and one hour to charge back up. its an old laptop i bought used to use because my big desktop generates too much heat for summertime use, it makes my office room too hot and the laptop only generates a small fraction of the heat.

Instead of complaining... (3, Insightful)

rampant mac (561036) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403615)

"Leading the call for reform is the not-necessarily-altruistic AMD, who gripes that MM07 was created in Intel's labs and rigged so Intel chips would outscore AMD chips, which draw more power when idle."

Instead of complaining that the test is rigged, maybe creating processors that draw less power when idle would be a good idea?

Re:Instead of complaining... (1)

Sparr0 (451780) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403787)

Why? How often is the processor in your laptop idle? When my laptop is turned on, I am doing things. When I stop doing things, I turn it off.

Re:Instead of complaining... (1)

podwich (766178) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403983)

My processor is idle all of the time. It sits in single digit percentage of usage most of the time when I'm browsing the web, using Word, etc.

Re:Instead of complaining... (1)

Sparr0 (451780) | more than 4 years ago | (#28404025)

I would suggest scaling down the cpu speed then. Significant power savings. My 1.6GHz Atom runs at 800MHz most of the time, and I am trying to find a way to run it slower.

Re:Instead of complaining... (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#28404359)

It is well established that the most efficient use of the processor is "bursting" - heavy usage for short periods followed by long periods of idle. This is, in fact how most OS's work, or at least try to.

Furthermore, unless when you say "doing things" you mean video encoding and compression, or something similarly intensive, you are probably not normally going much above idle for any extended period of time. If your CPU is pegged at 100% for long periods of time, it is an indication of a problem.

Take a look at your running processes in Task Manager or your OSX or Linux equivalent to see what I mean. You'll see the CPU at 1% for the majority of the time, with it occasionally jumping up.

Because of the amount of time the OS idles, the key to battery life is minimizing power consumption at idle and maximizing the speed it completes tasks (to get it back to idle as fast as possible).

The perfect system would not be noticeably different in power from a wasteful system, yet would have significant battery life.

Re:Instead of complaining... (1)

node 3 (115640) | more than 4 years ago | (#28404563)

Why? How often is the processor in your laptop idle? When my laptop is turned on, I am doing things. When I stop doing things, I turn it off.

Idle doesn't mean you don't have tasks running, it means time *while* those tasks are running (from your point of view) that they don't have anything to do. It's a whole collections of milliseconds here and there. Take the case of decoding an HD video. Your computer has to decode a frame, and when it's done, the video decoder has nothing to do until that frame is displayed and it's time to move onto the next one. That time is considered idle even though from your point of view, your computer is continuously decoding the video.

The only reason they don't appear idle is that we don't experience life at billions of actions per second. In fact, if you think of a clock cycle in a computer as the perceptual equivalent of a second to a human (clearly there are differences, but just for some sort of reference), what we experience as a second, a 3.2GHz cpu would "experience" as 100 years.

Common Sense (1)

Robo210 (548438) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403661)

When I bought my EEE I did so because the website said I would get 7 hours of battery life from it. If this article is to be believed I should be getting about 3 hours of life out of each charge, yet in reality I regularly see 7 hours of battery life from it. Sure, I do keep the screen rather dim (but its still plenty bright to read slashdot) and don't peg the CPU at 100% the whole time, but it seems like common sense that if I did then the battery life would suffer. I can even keep the wireless turned on the whole time.

The summary seems to focus strongly on the setup of the laptops in these tests as optimized for battery life and yet somehow unfair. Meanwhile the article itself spends most of text playing up the bickering between Intel and AMD and in the end isn't really saying anything at all.

Everybody uses their laptops differently; some people use them as portable access to slashdot while others use them as portable desktops. These people are obviously going to see differing battery lifetimes. Instead of trying to come up with a realistic range or average battery lifetime for these different workloads it only makes sense to give the consumer the absolute maximum the battery will last and let common sense tell them that pegging the CPU or bumping the screen up to 11 will give lower times.

A Challenege For AMD (2)

RoFLKOPTr (1294290) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403685)

Hey AMD, I have a challenge for you. Instead of bitching about Intel rigging their battery life testing mechanisms, why not design your chips to beat Intel at those very same tests?

Also, frankly, I don't want a CPU that uses a noticeable amount more electricity than others when it's IDLING. So at this point, just for this reason, I'm glad my computer has an Intel chip in it. But if you can beat those tests of Intel's that you say are "unfair", and you win the battery life tests that you say are rigged against you, then you definitely have a one-up on Intel in that rite.

Re:A Challenege For AMD (4, Insightful)

Celeste R (1002377) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403821)

This challenge can be equally turned around.

For the sake of devil's advocacy:

Hey Intel, I have a challenge for you. Instead of rigging your battery life testing mechanisms, why not run your tests like real-world usage would do?

Also, frankly, I don't want a laptop that is unusable out of suspend mode, I want to be able to use my laptop while it's near idling. Yes, I use WIFI, and I also use my laptop to see things I want to see. So at this point, just for this reason, I'm glad my laptop has an Intel chip in it, and I'm glad I get those 2.5 hours of battery life (I'd be interested in after-market quality batteries fyi) I can't see how hard it would be to prove your measurements inaccurate.

Re:A Challenege For AMD (1)

ThePhilips (752041) | more than 4 years ago | (#28404125)

Low voltage AMD CPUs (EE, BE series) consume less power than comparable Intel CPUs. Intel produces LV/ULV CPUs, but they are treated generally as higher-end parts which are present in some truly high-end subnotebooks and rarely found in commonly sold notebooks.

But AMD is simply weak in laptop market - they can't compete now with Intel's grip on market.

Lies, damn lies, and hard drive life stats (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28403719)

I know it's off-topic, but it's costing me far more $ and time. Even the manufacturers admit they're seeing tons of failures. Is it just cost-cutting price competition that has gone too far? Will any electronics manufacturer please offer guaranteed higher quality- for a few more $? I will pay- gladly. Just please truly make it better.

Re:Lies, damn lies, and hard drive life stats (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28403743)

and people wonder why there is an Apple tax.

Re:Lies, damn lies, and hard drive life stats (1)

ThePhilips (752041) | more than 4 years ago | (#28404151)

Apple.

Avoid buying new, just-released model - buy models which are on market for 6+ month. They are generally bug-free.

Though like with any OEM, "shit happens" in Apple's wonderland too: nVidia 8600m debacle, swollen batteries, etc. But their service is quite good - especially compared to what rest of industry provides to private buyers.

Standards (4, Interesting)

fermion (181285) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403727)

As long as everyone is using the same standard, it is not that big of a problem. If we go before cars, to horses, we can see why this is. The story is that James Watt used the term horsepower to market the steam engine, for instance, the ROI might be related to the number of horses you did not have to maintain. The story also is that he did not make his horses work very hard. As today, the ROI was well overstated, but as the relationship became less about horse and more about steam engines, the standard became more useful.

We saw the same issue with clock cycles. People misinterpreted, and the marketing drones were more than happy to let them do so, clocking as measure of work. A faster processor did not mean that more work would get done, but the consumer did not know that, so they would pay more for fantasy benefits.

In terms of fuel consumption, and battery life, the reality is more of the horsepower that the gigahertz. As long as one is running comparable tests, then one can assume that a car rated at 20 mpg will run longer than a car rated at 10 mpg, just like a computer that is rated for 4 hours will run longer than a computer rated at 2 hours. The problem, like the horse, is related the terms horse, hour, and mpg to actual physical quantities. We know that the physical performance is actual 20% or so less in real life.

As mentioned elsewhere, what messes life up is companies like Apple that advertise 3 hours of battery life, and, under normal use, actually get it.

The Model 100 (3, Insightful)

ZosX (517789) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403761)

20 hours of rugged computing on the go. (Ok...rugged text entry.....) I want a netbook that captures the spirit of the Model 100.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TRS-80_Model_100_line [wikipedia.org]

People are still using them (much less, unfortunately) today. I'd say there is a market for a long lasting computing device that is rugged.

Three Numbers (3, Interesting)

Octorian (14086) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403765)

In my own experience, I've found there are 3 different battery life numbers you run into with any laptops. These numbers are always significantly different.

1. The life the manufacturer tells you that you'll get
2. The life every reviewer (and some /. readers) swear you'll actually get
3. The life you actually do get

Regardless of 1 or 2, I've found that 2.5 hrs is a good ballpark for 3 when the laptop is new. (ok, for Apple, the newest one I've used is a bit over 2 years old, but was in that ballpark when new. My newer HP w/o the add-on battery is a little better than that, but same ballpark)

Re:Three Numbers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28403877)

That's a lot of ballparks, buddy.

Re:Three Numbers (1)

Macman408 (1308925) | more than 4 years ago | (#28404081)

In my own experience, I've found there are 3 different battery life numbers you run into with any laptops. These numbers are always significantly different.

That's because the chips in the laptops actually vary quite a bit. Given two "identical" chips (CPU and GPU are the biggest power consuming chips, so the most likely to influence the battery life), one might draw a few more watts than the other at both peak and idle consumption. The chips will be sold with a spec of what their maximum consumption is, and they're guaranteed to be below that. I doubt most manufacturers test with a worst-case CPU and worst-case GPU and a worst-case battery (whose capacity is slightly lower for whatever reason). More likely, they test on a number of different machines, and report a typical number. The reviewer and every other individual will only have one sample to work with, and are likely to see something completely different from each other.

Not to mention, usage patterns vary hugely. I tend to use my laptop with the screen on the absolute dimmest setting. Most people don't. I keep a CPU monitor on the screen so I know when a particular web page or application is chowing down on power. Most people don't. For these and other reasons, I tend to get pretty decent battery life on my laptop, even though it's 6 years old (with a battery replacement after 3 years. Obviously however, battery life is not as good as it once was; but it's enough for my occasional usage.).

Re:Three Numbers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28404177)

My iBook G4 was rated at 4 hours and I usually get 5 or 6... My aspire one is rated at 2.5-3 and I get 2.75 .... perhaps it depends on how your use compares to what they expected when they rated it.

If you want long battery life... (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403773)

Get a voltage regulator and a couple deep cycle marine batteries. You'd be amazed what fifty pounds of battery can accomplish. -_- Maybe the problem here is "Battery life" is a poor measurement in the first place. There's no frame of reference, for one, and for two, it varies by how you use it. Miles per Gallon is also affected by your driving style. Why do people assume statistics for computers would somehow be more objective?

In other news, people use laptops in places without a wall outlet? Inconceivable! I've never seen such madness... ;)

Re:If you want long battery life... (1)

atarione (601740) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403887)

Dear God:

Please don't let me get stuck behind this guy at the Airport security checkpoint

Thanx.

Fifty pounds? (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403967)

I have 300, and I can run the refrigerator, my netbook, the toilet, the central heating and the lights for 48 hours before I have to run the engine to recharge. However, carrying around ten tons of steel hulled boat somewhat defeats the portability of a netbook.

Re:Fifty pounds? (1)

rthille (8526) | more than 4 years ago | (#28404099)

You've got an electric toilet? Weird, you from Japan or something?

Re:Fifty pounds? (1)

The Archon V2.0 (782634) | more than 4 years ago | (#28404625)

You've got an electric toilet? Weird, you from Japan or something?

Heaven help him if he gets a short. I imagine water, no pants and surprise electricity is a bad combination.

Well, the machine IS mostly idle (1)

somenickname (1270442) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403785)

For most users, the machine is probably at a CPU load of less than 7.5% the vast majority of the time. I don't think it's unreasonable at all to rate battery life on the assumption that the machine will almost always be at the lowest P and C states. The wifi and brightness settings are a bit dubious but, they vendors aren't claiming that this what users will actually get. They are just claiming that this is what the machine is capable of. And it is.

Think of this in terms of benchmarking other things. If a CPU vendor says a chip is capable of 10Gflops based on numbers from their highly tuned LINPACK numbers and you are able to compute that your application is only getting 5Gflops do you feel cheated? Of course not. If you care enough, you analyze your application and tweak it until you start getting closer to the theoretical peak of 10Gflops. If you don't care, you simply don't do anything.

As a side note, these vendors could probably claim higher numbers than they already do if they benchmarked on linux and understood all the power savings features available. Most linux distros come with most or all of the power savings features turned off but, with aggressive tuning, it's entirely possible to actually exceed the vendors "trumped up" numbers under casual but real world usage. Unfortunately, most see linux as a poor platform for power savings because to get right on linux, it needs to be done by hand rather than coming pre-configured that way.

Re:Well, the machine IS mostly idle (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 4 years ago | (#28404741)

"What if automakers measured gas mileage by rolling their cars downhill with their engines idling?"

What an unfortunate example.

Where battery life matters, on a long flight, 50% brightness, mostly idle and no wifi isn't unreasonable at all.

Gas mileage measurements are generally made on a treadmill inside a building, aren't they? I don't know about you, but I've never driven my car on a treadmill (no wind resistance) and I really don't care what kind of mileage it gets in such circumstances.

Gas milage (1)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403835)

What if automakers measured gas mileage by rolling their cars downhill with their engines idling?

While they don't do that, what they do is almost as bad.

They tune the car perfectly and esentially put it on a rollers in a room. No road, no wind, no hills, just the car sitting in a room under perfect driving conditions.

AMD: is idle power important or not? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28403901)

Curiously, AMD likes to boast about its IDLE power in servers (which are less likely to be idle), but complains when idle power is used to rate laptops (which are likely to remain idle)?

http://www.amd.com/us-en/Corporate/VirtualPressRoom/0,,51_104_543~130026,00.html

Battery are the bane of portables (1)

physburn (1095481) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403917)

If the not catching fire and burning user crotches (SONY), there leaking and destroying equipment (any zinc carbide+other), poisoning the environment (Nickel Cadmium). Compared to all that, lies about battery life, seem lucky. Hope the get batteries that work as specified, sometime. If the battery problem was easily solved, we would have all been driving electric cars, some ten years ago.

----

NetBooks [feeddistiller.com] @ Feed Distiller [feeddistiller.com]

This article is hype (1)

pubwvj (1045960) | more than 4 years ago | (#28403963)

So? My processor is running at 12%, my screen is dimmed to 40%, that's normal. I got longer than advertised battery time for years. (My battery is now old so not surprisingly it is getting less time per charge.) If I want to do hard work I plug in to wall power but if I'm running off battery I'm thankful that the machine tones down it's power consumption. That's good power management. Frankly, this was a whiny say-nothing article.

Quit begging and start barking (1)

hyades1 (1149581) | more than 4 years ago | (#28404169)

If the trade publications weren't such complete and utter whores, they would have developed a legitimate, real-world test of battery life that would drive the industry version into the toilet, where it belongs.

sex =with a 4omo (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28404277)

Give otAher peo1ple dim. If *BSD is with THOUSANDS of turned over to yet [nero-online.org].

iPod (1)

pizzach (1011925) | more than 4 years ago | (#28404305)

I don't know how things are now or if it relates to laptops/iphone. But I heard that iPods usually get over the rated battery life on the box.

one guess on long battery life on macbooks (3, Interesting)

jaclu (66513) | more than 4 years ago | (#28404765)

Just a guess, but since they typically dont run an antivirus app in the background, both cpu and disk can idle more.

Not trying to be a macista, but I can only note that I still get around 4h wifi surfing at medium brightness out of my two year old macbook, so apple definitely do give reasonably honest battery estimates.

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