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Laptops with the Longest Battery Life? 751

Posted by Cliff
from the built-to-last dept.
Yi Ding asks: "Recently, I have been investigating laptops for clients, and the majority of the complaints about current laptops is battery life. Most laptops just don't have enough juice to even finish a single DVD or write an article for 4-5 hours in an internet cafe. Of course, one can lug around extra battery packs, but it's a pain and often defeats the purpose of having a laptop in the first place, portability. What have your experiences with battery life been and where can I find the longest lasting, reasonably robust, laptop?"
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Laptops with the Longest Battery Life?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @06:26PM (#9872811)
    Are the ones that stay plugged into the wall.
    • well my Osborne 1 works great but you need to plug it in. CP/M though is a bit limiting. Lousy for wireless and the tables at Starbucks are a bit flimsy when I drop it on top...
  • Toshiba Satellite (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mokomull (630232) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @06:27PM (#9872820) Journal
    My Toshiba Satellite A45-S121 gets 4-5 hours of battery life on dim backlight.
    • by nocomment (239368) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @06:35PM (#9872948) Homepage Journal
      How about the new laptop from 3M? They've invented a method by which you use a stylus with an embedded graphite core which actually transposes the text onto a flat and flimsy surface manufactured with some sort of parchment-like material.

      Comes with a lot of games [google.com] too!
      • Lame (Score:5, Funny)

        by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @07:01PM (#9873243) Journal
        There are all sorts of problems with this approach. The manufacturers claim that the surface is rewritable but after just one write/erase cycle you're seeing degradation of fidelity. You can't buy a surface with a backlight (though I believe you can get a light attachment for some styli, at many times the price of the original equipment, though with a limited field of illumination). One good thing about this approach is that the data has a long lifetime. If you use a decent quality surface the lifetime is longer than you need to worry about. But connectivity is poor and don't even think about wireless. It's also worth noting that if you want color you need extra equipment, and if you want a wide color gamut this equipment may start getting bulky and incompatible with the erase feature.

        One nice thing is that nowadays this approach is quite interoperable with PCs and Macs. Tools to convert to the 3M format have been available for decades and now tools to convert from 3M to a digital format are almost as ubiquitous. On the down side there are some claims that the 3M approach can harm the environment, after all, it does grow on trees. On the other hand a high proportion of discarded equipment can be recovered and processed for reuse.

      • by abe ferlman (205607) <bgtrio.yahoo@com> on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @07:35PM (#9873626) Homepage Journal
        I gave it a try, but drawing frames for DVD playback was too slow, to say nothing of the CSS decryption algorithm you have to use with that thing.
    • Re:Toshiba Satellite (Score:3, Interesting)

      by NanoGator (522640)
      "My Toshiba Satellite A45-S121 gets 4-5 hours of battery life on dim backlight."

      I have a Toshiba M-200 and I enjoy similar luck. The difference is it is a Tablet PC. Damn I love this thing. No built in optical drive, though. Great for browsing from the couch and doodling. Basically what I bought it for. 1400 by 1050 screen to boot.
    • IBM X40 (Score:5, Informative)

      by mertner (90928) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @07:04PM (#9873272) Homepage
      My IBM X40 (it's a Pentium M, 1GHz) runs 7 hours on a charge of the 8-cell battery.

      Total weight is only 1.6kg with the battery, and the laptop is great for everything except graphics-intensive games. The downside is that there is no DVD drive except with a docking station, and it has only a 10.4" screen running 1024x768.

      It suits me perfectly for a transatlantic flight though and plays DivX very well for several hours :)
    • Re:Toshiba Satellite (Score:3, Informative)

      by bahamat (187909)
      My Apple iBook G4 gets 4-5 hours on full backlight, and close to 8 on dim.
    • The very best solution I've ever had for writing up all kinds of documents, taking meeting notes, and doing other basic things such as PIM, yet maintaining long battery life and low weight, is an HP Jornada 820 (WinCE). A real 8-10 hours on a full charge, a real, touch-typable keyboard (the only bug was a misplaced caps-lock key thanks to MS's strong-arming the initial H/PC keyboard layout), and a screen more than sufficient for writing draft and some final documents (640x480). Also meeting-friendly (no f
  • Beautiful OS, beautiful construction, loooooong battery life, light-weight... what else can one ask for?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I have the older 12" 1Ghz. I topped out at about 5 hours or so on dim light and no wireless. Did it a few times at conferences and on flights to the far east.
    • My 12" iBook rocks as well. Less power, less sexy, but I EASILY get 5 hours of batt. life and it was considerably cheaper than the powerbook. Runs cooler as well.
    • by Jeffrey Baker (6191) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @06:35PM (#9872960)
      The best part of the 12" is it has a DVD burner (or CD burner, depending) permanently installed, and it has the wireless and bluetooth built-in. On so many other compact laptops you either have a dongle-attached CD-ROM puck, or a CD-ROM in a device bay that you can swap out for a battery, but without the extra battery you get shitty battery life. The Powerbooks gets good life with the optical drive installed, and you don't need a lot of optional junk for wireless comms.

      I once watched "The Thin Red Line" DVD on a cross-country airplane trip, so I know the PowerBook gets at least three hours from the battery even with the optical drive, the backlight, and the sound running. Of course I had the wireless devices disabled and the CPU speed set to the minimum.

    • I should go asleep, but I really have to reply to this...

      My largest complaint about my non-DVI 12" PBook (1st generation, 867 MHz) is it's miserable battery life! When it was new, I got some 3,5 hours when the display was rather dimmed, wireless ifaces turned off and CPU usage remained low.

      Now, when it is year and two monts old, I no longer can get anything over two hours. Also recently the battery meter has gone really weird, jumping from low charges to full during charging, and falling suddenly from hig
      • Regarding the falling battery life and wonky power meter:
        You probably need to replace the battery with a new one. Li-Ion batteries have a specific number of charge cycles that they will last for, after which point they do not hold as much of a charge. Also, the output voltage will not remain as consistent as it once was, causing the battery meter to give inaccurate results.
    • Beautiful OS, beautiful construction, loooooong battery life, light-weight... what else can one ask for?

      A backlit keyboard, better video card and higher screen resolution ?

      The 12" PB has the potential to be a great machine, it's just a pity it's such a poor cousin to the other PBs. 9/10 times buyers would be just as well served with a 12" iBook.

    • by huchida (764848) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @07:48PM (#9873756)
      There's a few things I miss about my late, great Wallstreet Powerbook-- among them the superior keyboard-- but most of all, I miss the fact that you could swap out a drive for a second battery. With two fully charged batteries in there I could easier go for eight hours or more. It wouldn't make sense for the 12" models, but how about a second battery in the 15" or 17" Powerbooks? Yeah, you'd add a little weight, which for some reason is a huge taboo right now-- but the extra life would be well worth it.
  • by craenor (623901) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @06:27PM (#9872823) Homepage
    That if you leave it in suspend the whole time, or bettery yet HIBERNATE...you can get it to last for days.
    • that sleeping is a great way to stay active during the day.
    • by craenor (623901) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @06:39PM (#9873006) Homepage
      Fine...I'll bring this back on topic. With effective use of Suspend, dimming the LCD, having enough RAM (to keep hdd access down) and the like, you can get a much better battery life out of a system with already respectable battery life.

      Now...admittedly, there are systems that will play a full DVD on a single charge, but if this is a priority for you, then you should own two batteries anyway.

      In other words though...while the system certainly matters, how you use it can matter more. (Of course, nothing will save you if you get one of those portable systems that are all Desktop hardware shoe-horned into a portable chassis).
      • by Zordak (123132)
        Now...admittedly, there are systems that will play a full DVD on a single charge, but if this is a priority for you, then you should own two batteries anyway.
        Or you could just get a portable DVD player.
  • Trade off (Score:5, Insightful)

    by erick99 (743982) <homerun@gmail.com> on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @06:28PM (#9872833)
    Until a more advanced battery technology comes along , battery life is going to be a trade between how long you want the computer to run between recharging and how many features (DVD, etc) you want available. Eventually, some new technology such as fuel cell will enable us to have our cake (lotsa features) and eat it too (very long battery life).

    Cheers!

    Erick

    • Not quite ... (Score:5, Informative)

      by vlad_petric (94134) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @06:59PM (#9873223) Homepage
      The two main power "consumers" are the processor and LCD (they generally account for ~90% of a laptop's power consumption). Strangely enough, the hard drive, altough mechanical and spinning very fast, is not nearly as bad.

      Most "features" of a laptop don't really consume extra power if not utilized. For instance the DVD drive only consumes power if it's actually spinning (and mencoder can can take care of that).

      To reduce the power consumption of the cpu simply put it to the lowest frequency (speedstep). 600MHz is generally enough to play a movie (DVD or .avi). As far as the LCD screen is concerned - simply reduce its brightness.

      I'd personally recommend the Centrino processor line - good perfomance at reasonable power levels (as opposed to Pentium 4 Mobile).

      • Re:Nota Bene (Score:3, Insightful)

        by abb3w (696381)
        Most "features" of a laptop don't really consume extra power if not utilized.
        Note that wireless cards consume a decent chunk of power even if you aren't actively doing things with TCP/IP. Removing PCMCIA or USB adapters, or (for those that support such) switching off an internal wireless adapter when not in use will increase battery life by a decent fraction.

  • iBooks (Score:4, Informative)

    by tirefire (724526) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @06:28PM (#9872836)
    iBook G4's have a very long battery life. I have one, and it lasts a lot longer than any PC laptop I've encountered.
    • Re:iBooks (Score:5, Informative)

      by YetAnotherName (168064) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @07:05PM (#9873280) Homepage
      I have to concur ... I don't go mobile much, but my Apple [apple.com] iBook G4 12" just keeps going on and on and on. When I do travel, I don't even think about plugging in and recharging.

      Best of all, it's Unix under the hood. Glistening eye candy, and yet I can still fire up vi. Nice.
  • Apple iBook G4 (Score:5, Informative)

    by crimson_alligator (768283) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @06:28PM (#9872837)
    My G4-800 iBook has lasted at least six hours, perhaps longer.

    I'm a Linux user but Mac laptops are lovely, with excellent battery life. Too bad Airport Express (and power management?) isn't supported on Linux PPC.
    • Re:Apple iBook G4 (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Otter (3800) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @06:50PM (#9873144) Journal
      Actually, Linux provides the best TiBook battery life anecdote I can offer -- I booted into Yellow Dog, updated all of the KDE source tree from CVS and started compiling, not realizing that the power cord wasn't plugged in properly. It got through Qt, arts, kdelibs, kdeadmin, kdebase, kdegraphics, kdemultimedia and a few others before running out of power. And, as the alligator said, that's without Apple's power management!

      I've routinely done cross-US flights playing MP3s the whole way.

    • Re:Apple iBook G4 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by YetAnotherName (168064) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @07:11PM (#9873335) Homepage
      Yeah, but MacOS X is Unix anyway; I've been able to do a lot of my Linux application development on MacOS X with few problems.

      Besides,
      autoconf
      is a wonderful tool.
    • by ari_j (90255) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @07:38PM (#9873661)
      I'd have the miniature iBook or PowerBook if it had a better pointer device. I am more accurate and faster with an e-Clit (nipple stick, trackpoint, whatever you call it; I prefer the most politically incorrect term whenever possible), and they are more reliable and less in-the-way than trackpads to boot. Additionally, they require the least finger movement of any pointing device.

      And if you say anything about "just use an external mouse", that doesn't work when you're actually using it as a laptop, and it's inconvenient as hell. If I wanted a portable desktop, I'd get one. But I don't, I want a laptop computer that is entirely self-contained.
    • Re:Apple iBook G4 (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Alan Hicks (660661)

      My G4-800 iBook has lasted at least six hours, perhaps longer.

      While I won't go so far as to say that my iBook G4 lasts that long, it always lasts a minimum of 4 hours of continuous use on a single battery. I have the older 800 Mhz 12" model with 640 MB of RAM (fully loaded, keeps hard disk activity down). Things light as a feather, snappy, and rarely gives me any problems.

      Like the OP I'm a linux user (Slackware), but I love this little iBook. It does anything I need (I've got all my typical linux t

  • PowerBook (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sethb (9355) <bokelman@gmail.com> on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @06:29PM (#9872848) Homepage
    I've got to say, my new 12" 1.33Ghz G4 PowerBook really has some great battery life. Well over 3.5 hours with "normal" usage, even with the screen brightness cranked up. I haven't done any DVD playback testing though. You can probably get improved battery life for DVD playback by ripping the DVD to your hard drive, so you're not spinning the optical drive that whole time...
  • Electrovaya (Score:4, Informative)

    by Awperator (783768) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @06:29PM (#9872850)
    Werent they the ones that touted the longest battery life? Of course, they specialize in Tablet PC's (which are pimp - get a motion m1400VA... so nice) Back to topic... yeah I think electrovaya had the longest claims (9 hours), and the longest life (7-8 hours that people have been getting) - Awperator
    • Re:Electrovaya (Score:5, Informative)

      by mindriot (96208) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @07:02PM (#9873254)

      I'm most happy with my Fujitsu Lifebook P-2120 [members.shaw.ca] (runs Linux nicely [ngogeeks.com]). With the extended main battery and the drive bay battery, I get up to nine hours.

      Of course, the cpu is a bit outdated. And I only do work on it, if I were to watch DVDs or stuff I'd probably hook it up to A/C power anyway. But I like the small size, the light weight, and the fact that pretty much everything is in it.

      But I hated the fact that I had to order it from the US (I live in Germany) and it took me forever to find a retailer who would send it [laptopsinc.com], just because Fujitsu refuses to send them to Europe, and Fujitsu-Siemens in Germany doesn't even offer them.

      If you want something ultra-portable with everything in it that you want to use mostly for working, it's quite lovely. Unfortunately, it looks like it's not being sold anymore.

      I know this doesn't quite answer your request, but it might still be a good idea to check Portable One [laptopsinc.com] (they used to be called Global Computers when I ordered from them).

      Don't know about the new Fujitsu P series anymore. And, I have to say, I still hold a grudge against laptop manufacturers and computer magazines, because practically all of them advertize performance, never battery life. Most laptop tests I see do performance benchmarks, and stuff like Quake III benchmarks and all that bullshit. WTF? No one really seems to want to make an effort in constructing a laptop with long battery life. Quite frustrating, that. I don't wanna play games for half an hour. I wanna use the thing for work, preferably nine or more hours before having to recharge.

  • IBM makes some great laptops, but the battery life has always sucked rocks. But according
    to this article [pcmag.com] it looks like the latest model has gotten up to a six hour plus lifespan. Of course, it still costs a bundle.

    I live on my laptop and it's an older IBM model, so the battery life is pretty rotten. My solution has just been to find a plug. If I'm on the road, I keep a power converter [shop.com] in the car and plug the laptop in so I can run at a full charge. It's also good for keeping the three-year-old entertai [thomastoybox.com]

  • by mrgreenfur (685860) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @06:29PM (#9872854)
    I have an IBM X31 and the standard battery. With the low power settings on (you're just writing an article, right?), wifi on, and the dock at home, it lasts just under 5 hours.

    If you want to burn cd's, bring the base and put a batter in it and it'll last another 3 or so hours.

    If you want ultra long battery life, get the super extended batter that clips onto the bottom, just like a base. It'll give you almost 9 hours!

    This laptop is incredible. I highly suggest it for anyone who doesn't want to lug around a 6lb laptop.
    • Thinkpads (Score:4, Interesting)

      by swillden (191260) * <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @09:02PM (#9874423) Homepage Journal

      I can't recommend the IBM Thinkpads too highly. They're not the cheapest laptops around, but they're really well-made. I have a T40 with an extended-life battery, and I can get nearly eight hours out of it if I'm careful (dim the screen, turn down the CPU clock, use Linux 2.6 laptop mode to keep the disk spun down as much as possible) and around six if I'm not (watching movies on DVD).

      Beyond battery life, my T40 is built like a rock, a fact my head can attest to. I was in the passenger seat of my car a couple of months ago, with my T40 on my lap, when my wife fell asleep and went off the road, rolling the car four times starting at about 70 mph. The laptop bounced off my face, beating the hell out of it (my face, not the laptop) and was then ejected through the window. I'm not sure if the laptop broke the window or if it was already broken. The T40 was picked up from where it landed in the dirt about 100 feet from where the car stopped. Damage? Well, one of the USB ports was damaged (the one that had my mouse plugged into it -- we never found the mouse), the lid latch kind of sticks when you try to close the top, and the case has a couple of minor scratches.

      I've had three previous Thinkpads, too, and they've all been excellent, well-built and well-designed machines. Some of the others didn't have great battery life, though.

      IMO, if you want a really good x86-based laptop, buy a Thinkpad. If you want the best possible laptop, and don't need to run Windows, buy a Powerbook.

      Disclosure: I work for IBM, and own IBM stock (and Apple stock, and Dell stock) but I don't think those facts affect my opinion. If you don't believe me, ask me about some other IBM products, like, say, Lotus Notes.

  • Do your research (Score:3, Insightful)

    by winkydink (650484) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @06:29PM (#9872855) Homepage Journal
    On IBM's web site, for instance, they state what power-saving settings they use to get the battery life specs they claim (hint, if you need the screen more than 1/2 illuminated, you're screwed).

    One man's long life is goign to be another man's power hog. It all depends on how you use the machine and how you set up the power saving features.

  • Apple (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @06:29PM (#9872857)
    I have a two year old battery in my Powerbook and it still lasts about 4.5 hours. The damn thing goes forever. Just keep the screen brightness down. Besides, they look pretty and all the girls in the coffee shops come up to you!
  • I forget which site did the review, but I think it was Anandtech. Anyways, Electrovaya notebooks would seem to get almost unbelievable battery life. They're not THAT much more expensive, either, IIRC.

    -Erwos
  • Centrino Based (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DrAegoon (738446) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @06:30PM (#9872866)
    I've been very happy with my Thinkpad R40. It has a 1.4 GHz Pentium M. As long as I use low power settings I usually get about 6 hours of life. I've heard of better, but they're usually ultraportables with tiny screens.

    One problem, you won't be gaming or doing anything really CPU intensive if you want to save power. On power conserving settings, the processor runs much slower than the normal speed and the screen is not as bright, but that's going to be the case for any laptop to get the battery life it claims.
  • I recently purchased a Dell Inspiron which gives me nearly six hours use between charges. This does weigh-in at about 3.7kg, though.

    If you want long battery life then you're going to have to accept something a little heavier. There's a limiting factor called power density, which is a measure of Ah/g (or Wh/g) you can extract from a power cell. This is improving with newer cell technologies like Li-Poly (Lithium Polymer), but Li-Po's have some interesting charging requirements which make me *not* want to ha
  • Centrino (Score:5, Informative)

    by PCM2 (4486) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @06:31PM (#9872877) Homepage
    Not to sound like an Intel commercial, but that's largely what Intel's Centrino platform is all about. It's designed as a mix of processor and chipset that allows the system to maximize battery life.

    I have a Fujitsu Lifebook 5010 that reliably gets me just under 5 hours battery life, maybe more like 4 hours if I have wireless enabled (and there's a hardware switch on the case). Something like playing a DVD is going to suck even more battery, because of the need to spin the drive motor, but I'd wager I have enough juice for that most times.

    Centrino isn't a blindingly huge advantage, though. Fujitsu makes a non-Centrino version of the same laptop that comes with 802.11g, and I understand it only gets marginally shorter battery life, and that's all from anecdotal accounts. Centrino does a good job, but a big reason this model's battery lasts so long is because it's 900MHz (so doesn't run as hot, so doesn't need as much energy to run the fan) and it only has a 10 inch screen.
  • Centrino-based ThinkPads have great battery lives... six hours and upwards, depending on usage patterns. The Centrino chipset makes a big difference in power consumption!
  • 15" iBook (Score:3, Informative)

    by gellenburg (61212) <george@ellenburg.org> on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @06:31PM (#9872881) Homepage Journal
    My 15" iBook G4 regularly gets 7 hours+ worth of battery life if I'm not playing any DVDs (backlight dim, and in auto-power conservation mode). If I'm playing a DVDs or doing heavy disk I/O then I usualy get 5 hours. Maybe 6.
  • Centrino (Score:3, Informative)

    by Robotdog (669611) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @06:31PM (#9872887)
    Look for a laptop with Centrino processor/mobo/wifi. The processor is either an older Banias (still good) or a great Dothan core. These are Intel processors designed for laptops, so they put power consumption at a minimum. You can also choose a slower spinning hard drive for longer battery life, and the cost of some performance.
  • Extra Battery (Score:3, Informative)

    by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @06:32PM (#9872895) Homepage
    I understand your complaint about carying around extra batteries, but many laptops let you put an extra battery in a bay where a floppy/CD drive goes. Mine does. I use that to double my battery life. It does make the laptop heavier, and it's not an option on small notebooks, but many larger ones allow you do this. On top of that, my laptop is "3 spindle" which means I have room for two batteries while still having the integrated optical drive in my laptop. I don't lose my CD/DVD drive. The only time I every take a battery out of my laptop is the rare occation I need to use a floppy disk.

    Other than that things like forcing the laptop to stay in ultra-conservative power miser mode, or getting a laptop based on a low power processor (Pentium M, Transmeta Crusoe, etc) can help. Also, if you are willing to pay for it, see if there is an extra battery for the laptop you are buying that has a higher capacity than the one that ships standard. Replace the stock with the high capacity, and you've got more battery life.

  • My experience (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @06:32PM (#9872899)
    You'd be surprised how easy it is to go to the 'net cafe owner behind the counter and ask politely if you can plug into that wall socket there...

    Honestly it works. I work regularly in cafes for entire days. It just takes looking like a fool for a minute, asking permission, then pluging my stuff and setting up my "office" in front of everybody, I can stay there for the whole day. And also, if you go through enough cups of coffee, I guarantee you the owner won't ever ask you to get lost, because what he earns on you certainly outweighs what he loses in electricity.
  • by Carbonate (13973) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @06:32PM (#9872900)
    My Dell can get about 8 hours of battery life under minimal load. Of course it does have a spare battery in the media bay.
  • by HeelToe (615905) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @06:33PM (#9872915) Homepage
    I have one of these for work.

    I can watch TWO DVD movies on a plane with it on a single charge.

    When I bring it home and work on it in the evening, it can sit on until I go to bed with its WiFi card on full power and not run out.

    I typically get 5h+
  • by pritchma (169341) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @06:34PM (#9872938)
    but my laptop seriously rocks.

    I work as a developer and requested an IBM R50p with 1Gb RAM, which is plenty to handle Tomcat + IntelliJ + Firefox + Outlook + other crud.

    On the occasions where I have to go to meetings all day, I've got 8+ hours out of the battery (taking notes, wireless network etc). Admittedly, this is the extended battery (hangs a little out of the back), but with a DVD writer, 60Gb and IBM sturdiness, its definitely the best laptop I've used.
  • iBook G3 (Score:5, Informative)

    by bedouin (248624) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @06:35PM (#9872958)
    Mine regularly lasts close to 6 hours on the battery, at least while doing non-intensive tasks and keeping the brightness at a reasonable level. Not to mention it never heats up to an unbearable level, even on a summer day; I've heard its fan come on maybe 5 or 6 times since I've owned it, and its usually been when I had it on a heat conductive surface (like a blanket or thick carpet).

    Nothing beats Apple laptops in my opinion, especially in the low-end. Something comparable to a 12" iBook in size, weight, and battery life, ends up costing $1500 in the PC world (at least when I checked out the Thinkpads).
  • by BobWeiner (83404) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @06:36PM (#9872964) Homepage Journal
    Okay, so everyone's got great battery life with their laptop has posted in. What I'd like to know is: which laptop's have the shortest battery life? Was battery life a major factor in your laptop purchase? How many people here use their laptop as their desktop (i.e. plugged into the wall socket regularly)?
  • by switcha (551514) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @06:36PM (#9872966)
    Of course, one can lug around extra battery packs, but it's a pain and often defeats the purpose of having a laptop in the first place, portability.

    Oh, come off it. The handful of ounces a battery weighs pales in comparison to most of the other accouterments a mobile fellow or gals carries around.

    Besides, for most laptops, two batteries worth will far outlast any "long-life" laptop's single charge life. I'm not saying it's the ultimate in convenience, but if long life is really, really important to you, get the machine you really want and will be productive on, and then cough up for another battery.

  • apple (Score:3, Interesting)

    by austad (22163) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @06:37PM (#9872985) Homepage
    I get 5-6 hours out of my ibook if I turn the screen brightness down. If it's doing nothing but playing mp3's with the screen blanked, it lasts for about 10.

    Apple laptops aren't much, if any, more expensive than a PC laptop, and the battery life issue alone makes it worth the investment. Toss Virtual PC on it if you need windows stuff, but I've found that it does everything that my PC did, only better. Except for one thing, Visio VSD files. Hassle the Omni group to add VSD functionality. They already support VSX, but Visio saves in VSD by default, so you won't be able to read/edit pre-existing visio docs.

  • by tezzer (558085) <terry@NOspAM.chiastic.net> on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @06:38PM (#9872999) Homepage
    My Fujitsu Lifebook P-5020 [designtechnica.com] claims to have 11 hours of battery life, but I've never gotten more than 8. Of course, this is with the built in wireless on, so I'm sure if I turned off the wireless and dimmed the screen I'd get more.

    It's a small laptop with a slower chip (~1Ghz), which is exactly what I was looking for. The laptop almost fits in a 1-gallon freezer bag, but remains fully useful. I carry it around in the front pocket of my backpack or a thin leather valise. It plays DVDs just fine, burns CDs just quickly enough, has excellent wireless antennae, and the long battery life and portable size make it fit my needs for a non-desktop-replacement portable computing machine. Apparently you can get it to dual boot your favorite distro, but I haven't had the motivation to tackle that yet.

    Incidentally, I bought the machine from Portable One [portableone.com] in San Jose, and I recommend them- good customer service and good selection, with reasonable prices.
  • by jelwell (2152) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @06:38PM (#9873001)
    My old Titanium powerbook stood up to the DVD test. Right before the second Matrix movie came out I sat down and tested the length of the battery. I put the powerbook in "DVD Playback" mode in the Energy Saving system panel - which means "NO ENERGY SAVING" (brightness all the way up, no spinning down of hard drives). Anyways, the Titanium 15" powerbook was able to display the whole movie beginning to end. Which was great for waiting in line.

    My newer Aluminum 15" (firewire 800) Powerbook can NOT do this. I can NOT play an entire DVD from start to finish with sound and everything running at full tilt. It's possible with some fudging of settings I could get a whole movie to work -but I haven't tried.

    I imagine the two biggest consumers of power during DVD playback are
    1) DVD drive spinning
    - this could probably be mitigated by ripping the movie into quicktime and playing off your hard drive (which I believe consumes less power than the DVD drive)
    2)Powering the speakers.
    - Someone clue me in here, but I imagine you'd save power if you plugged your headphones in rather than powering the onboard speaker. And you'd get a better experience plugging the sound output into an entertainment center too. ;)

    Joseph Elwell.
    • Under my 12" PB, "DVD Playback" most certainly spins down the hard drive, and it's been that way on other Apple products as long as I can remember. Now, everything else is cranked up(including the processor, oddly enough), but the hard drive is turned down, which is what allows it to run the DVD drive without such a large power hit.
    • Don't use the DVD playback mode, simply enough :)

      You don't need an Albook running at full speed to play a DVD, whereas on an old Tibook that was a possibility (although I can run mine in low processor speed for it fine).

      What's really sucking your battery, though, is that lovely 15" screen. My personal experience: watching a dvd with screen at full brightness gets a little under 3 hours of life. Watching at half brightness (an almost unnoticeable difference unless you're in direct sunlight or something) gi
  • by jridley (9305) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @06:42PM (#9873045)
    I'm sort of toying with selling my Dell "desktop replacement" laptop, as that didn't work out (I wound up getting a desktop anyway) and instead going for a lightweight. The Sony Picturebooks with 600-800 MHz transmeta processors are commonly available on eBay for $1000. you only need 700 MHz to play DVDs smoothly, and a friend has one of these with a little add-on battery pack that snaps onto the bottom and gives him 6+ hours. It raises the keyboard into a nice typing angle and the whole thing is still well under 2 KG.

    A 700 MHz or so machine with a nice screen, that was very small, would be nice. I've got a Dell monster now and I never take it anywhere because it's too damn heavy.
  • Look at subnotebooks (Score:3, Informative)

    by Michalson (638911) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @06:45PM (#9873086)
    A lot of sub notebooks, which are designed for travel (i.e. Sony VAIOs, ASUS M5000 and S5000, some Fujitsus) have reasonable battery life, but also have the option of using higher capacity batteries without increasing the overall weight or size beyond an ordinary (usually they remain much less). These larger batteries boost the life of the laptop into the 8-12 hour range (or even more if you look at those powered by Crusoe or other exotic power savers).
  • by Nachtwind (686907) * on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @06:49PM (#9873135)
    Got a Thinkpad R40 for about a year now, Pentium-M 1.3Ghz, 512MB RAM. Battery life is about 5-6 hours with battery saving options (screen blanker, turning off hard drive etc).
    If I let it go into standby mode when not in use I never need the AC adapter the whole day. Just wonderful to go into a meeting and watch everyone else with their P4-2.6Ghz laptops (more like "portables") scramble for the one power socket in the room while I just sit back and smile ;)
    I sometimes watch DVDs on battery power while relaxing on my bed, doesn't really drain the battery as well. Imho there is no way around a Pentium-M if you want serious processing power combined with extended battery life.
  • Battery saving tips (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dan East (318230) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @06:52PM (#9873163) Homepage Journal
    There are several things you can do to get more out of your battery.

    If you have a variable speed CPU like the AMD Ahtlon XP-M then you can use SpeedSwitchXP [diefer.de] (or similar) to force it to run at the slowest speed. For the tasks you mention 500 MHz is plenty of power.

    Rip your DVD to the HDD and play it from there.

    Disable WiFi and Bluetooth even if they aren't actually connected. They will continously ping looking for other devices, which does hurt battery life. Most notebooks have a keyboard shortcut to disable it.

    One of the most useful utils is MobileMeter [cmu.edu]. This app will show the amount of current your notebook is currently consuming, so you can play with various settings (like backlight intensity) and see the exact affect it has on power consumption.

    Finally, what's wrong with using a spare battery? Modern notebooks can hibernate and resume in less than a minute, which is trivial downtime to swap batteries.

    Dan East
  • P-M (Score:5, Informative)

    by magarity (164372) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @06:52PM (#9873165)
    The complaints you cite are slightly behind the curve. Brand new Pentium-M based laptops claim to, and really do, have amazing battery life times. My friend has a Compaq based P-M laptop with a 15" widescreen and his battery lasts 6 hours. One with a smaller screen should run even longer. Beware Pentium-4 mobiles which do suck down battery power; get the 'M' series.
  • by ElForesto (763160) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {otserofle}> on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @06:57PM (#9873213) Homepage
    I saw an ad for this [n-chargepower.com] in an airline magazine, and have entertained the thought of getting one. I have no idea how well it works.
  • by texspeed (726961) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @07:01PM (#9873240)
    When new, easily 8+ hours at work (networking, email, docs and code) with a battery in both bays. Until one battery recently failed (6+ years old!) it still regularly gave 6 - 7 hours of effort. This is by far the best I've ever seen from a laptop.
  • by Mike Rotch (71447) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @07:03PM (#9873258)
    For the x86 side, use laptops with Pentium M cpus for the battery/perf. The whole Centrino marketing thing is based on using this cpu with other intel hardware to maximize battery life. I have a x1000 compaq with 15.4" screen and it has lasted a little over 4 hours. I think it could have gone a bit more if I employed more power saving features. I even watched FOTR on battery. I had the dvd ripped to the HD so the dvd drive was not it use. I am not sure if it would have lasted with constantly spinning the disc. But basically if you really wants lots of battery life, use laptops with smaller screens (10" or 12") and keep 'em dimmed. Also minimize the use of the HD.

    I also have iBook 12" and I have used it for over 5 hours on battery. I stopped using it after 5 hours so I am not sure how much more it would have gone for.
  • Fujitsu!... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Chordonblue (585047) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @07:13PM (#9873354) Journal
    I recently had to purchase a lightweight laptop for my boss. His requirements? That it be lightweight, long battery life, and have a few bells and whistles (DVD playback, wireless, etc.)

    Well, we ended up getting this one:

    http://webshop.fujitsupc.com/fpc/Ecommerce/build se riesbean.do?series=P7

    The Fujitsu 7000 series has a hell of a lot of bang for the buck and if you are interested in long battery life - it's hard to beat this. Fujitsu claims that the 7000 series can run for up to 11 HOURS on battery power. This is, of course, using the modular bay for a battery.

    Nonetheless, it seems he's able to get over 5 hours on just the single stock battery for non-DVD use. Centrino-based laptops are very well designed and when used with the ultra-low voltage processors are unbeatable, IMHO.

    Finding a dealer though... That's the REAL challenge...

  • Get Thinkpad T4xp (Score:3, Informative)

    by janoc (699997) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @07:20PM (#9873439)
    My T41p (T42 is out already) lasts 4-4.5 hours going full speed with the larger (9 cell) battery. With power management on (lower backlight, CPU throttling etc), it last cca 6 hours without problem. Should be more than enough for your needs. Another plus - the HW is completely Linux friendly, everything is supported and works.
  • by Hackeron (704093) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @07:56PM (#9873833) Journal
    I own the Fujitsu P2110 - 866mhz Transmeta Crusoe + 512Mb ram, and 60Gb drive (updated).

    I have the extended + modular batteries, each give over 7 battery life, and I managed to squeeze over 18 hours from light to average usage (with pcmcia powered down, battery management set to performance and screen brightness on just under medium).

    The laptop itself is a little slow, but seems to be perfect for reading books, watching movies/dvds and programming (with distcc). High bitrate divx play perfect, and even certain games like warcraft3 can be made playable under wine. (ATI Rage Mobility 8mb, with accelerated gatos drivers).

    Also great linux support, and works pretty much out of box with everything. Sound card has hardware mixing (amazing that nforce2 and many via chips dont). There is also an optical out to plug to your hifi at no loss of quality!

    Overall, highly recommended laptop that I had for around 2 years now that can be gotten dirt cheap. Slight show of tear like headphone jack has bad contact now (only if you touch the plug though, so not dramatic). Cant see me replacing it anytime soon though.

    There are newer transmeta based laptops as well, and if battery and portability is your goal, they beat centrinos in every possible way (centrino requiring 2-3 times more power, bigger heavier batteries to provide similar battery life at the gain of performance).

    Anyway, just my opinion, yours might differ, but over 15 hour battery life impressive by any standard.
  • by worldcitizen (130185) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @07:57PM (#9873843)

    With the transmeta long-run utility set to max savings, low display brightnes and no wireless I was reading an e-book during a transatlantic flight and it still had a significant amount of spare juice in the battery at the end of the flight (well, it wasn't exactly the entire flight, I did power it down during takeoff and landing ':)

    This machine doesn't have a dvd-drive so I can't comment on that (I guess I could get a decrypter and copy a movie to the hard disk but I haven't tried that)

    They're very lightweight and you can find them on ebay at reasonable prices

    Application startup performance is quite bad though :(

  • by tstoneman (589372) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @09:02PM (#9874421)
    Not only is this laptop so damn beautiful, but on the regular batteries, I can get over 5 hours. I bought it specifically for things like long plane flights so I can play nethack and kill time.

    It has a killer sharp widescreen, and comes with basically everything you need.

    With the larger battery, you can get 7-10 hours.

    I was going to get the Dell 300m, until I found out that it doesn't come with a DVD player built-in. Who the hell wants to deal with a modular DVD player on a plane? Hell no!

    I love the Sony TR3.
  • by major.morgan (696734) on Wednesday August 04, 2004 @02:30AM (#9876334) Homepage
    I make it through 6 hour flights while watching movies constantly and still have enough left over to check my email when I get off the plane.

    I use a Dell C600 (PIII-1000-Speedstep)
    First I pack the ROM drive away and replace it with the second battery. I also carry a 3rd batt just in case. Second I also RIP my DVD's (DVDDecrypter) to the hard drive - spinning the harddrive takes far less juice than spinning a DVD. Lastly I use a hardware & user profile that has any extraneous devices, apps, utilities disabled.

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