Why Are Notebook Battery Figures So Misleading?

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News Posted: Sat, Mar 14 2009 9:37 AM

So, here's a thought. You know how vehicles sold in America have a "city" and "highway" MPG rating? And you know how cellphone companies rate their devices with a "standby time" and "talk time?" Why don't notebook makers follow suit? That terrific talking point is coming at you courtesy of AMD's senior vice president and chief marketing officer Nigel Dessau, who just recently wrote up a blog post on the subject.

Today, users are given one single notebook battery life figure, and every single one of us consumers understands that said number isn't apt to be accurate in most situations. It's something we've all just learned to deal with rather than attempt to change. For instance, Asus claims that its Eee PC 1000HE can get 9.5 hours of battery life. There's no "maximum" or "minimum," it's just 9.5 hours. When we tested it and discovered that it only lasted around 6.5 hours, we were elated. Isn't it a bit odd that we were stoked about a metric actually being far less than advertised? In reality, we were just happy that the 1000HE came that close to meeting the ridiculous sounding claim of 9.5 hours, but Mr. Dessau doesn't think that's the best way to go about things. And truthfully, now that our eyes have been opened, neither do we.

In essence, consumers aren't specifically told what the battery life figure on a laptop means. We all assume it's under "light to normal" circumstances, but really, what goes on in testing to get those numbers? How long does the machine sit idle? How long does it crunch calculations? Does it ever fall to sleep? Nigel points out that most industry battery benchmarks are determined by using MobileMark 2007, which is a rating of battery life when the PC is running on average less than 5 percent utilized, or as he calls it, "fundamentally idle." Most PC makers don't even bother activating Wi-Fi while testing. Seriously, how often do you keep your laptop at under 5 percent utilization with no Wi-Fi? Firing up Microsoft Word just once is likely to push that Atom CPU over the 5 percent mark -- just imagine how those benchmarks would change if a few YouTube videos were watched along the way.

Nigel also points out that most MM07 battery numbers really are "best case scenarios," which usually doesn't translate to "real-world scenarios." The MM07 number is certainly useful, but we agree in the belief that laptop makers need to provide another figure on the low-end in order to provide guide rails about battery life. Consumers deserve to know what average low and average high to expect, not just the latter. It's time for change in the battery measurement arena -- the question is, will we ever see it?

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I guess they are SO misleading because the manufaturers always use optimum conditions when testing them producing optimum statistics to feed their customers with. They probably use completely new batteries which have been fully charged, underclock the CPU and GPU, and put the screen on 10% brightness..LOL Wink

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who replied on Sat, Mar 14 2009 7:52 PM

Well, that is why there is BAPCO where AMD is a active member in the Mobilemark commity. MobileMark is something that Intel, AMD, nVidia and all the BAPCO members agreed on. BAPCO is open for discussion, if AMD has an issue, since they are member, they can bring it to the table anytime. Each voices are equal ...

I think they are trying to play the Kalimero :)




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krnlpanic replied on Sat, Mar 14 2009 8:22 PM

BAPCO? Seriously? Attend a meeting some time and see the b.s. Intel throws at the rest of the industry to make sure only benchmarks that benefit them are used.

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who replied on Sat, Mar 14 2009 9:04 PM

well, you are not being fair, those meeting happen, and there are votes.

Do you attend meeting?

If so, who do you represent? If you have issues, feel free to bring them up to the meetings.

at the launch date of mobilemark2007, Current BAPCo membership includes: AMD, Apple, ARCintuition, Atheros Communications, CNET, Compal, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Lenovo, Microsoft, NVIDIA, Toshiba, VIA Technologies, VNU Business Publications Limited (UK), ZDNet and Ziff Davis Media. THEY ALL HAVE ONE EQUAL VOTE.

(I do not participate to those meeting, but i know the people who do, and they are pretty fair and nice)



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AjayD replied on Sat, Mar 14 2009 11:31 PM

Hopefully with the near future implementation of fuel cells for portable electronics, dismal battery life will be a thing of the past.


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3vi1 replied on Sat, Mar 14 2009 11:55 PM

Half of me hopes to god you are right...

The other half is not so sure how I stand on fuel cells for laptops... the most probable successful implementations seems to be a step in the wrong direction... and I'm not too sure how the airline's going to like me trying to step on the plane with that much methanol anyway.

Of course, if it were using hydrogen generated by solar power... I would be 100% behind it.

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rapid1 replied on Sun, Mar 15 2009 12:18 AM

Right you know there gonna go for ethanol, hydro cells will cost at least 300% more than ethanol cells......................

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ice91785 replied on Sun, Mar 15 2009 1:47 AM

Back on track: I feel that its only fair these OEMs start to advertise 100% idle life and 100% load life.

I couldn't personally care less that battery life can be "up to xxx hrs" just like I don't care that my car can get "up to xxx mpg" Its just a ridiculous way to advertise.

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dizowned replied on Mon, Mar 16 2009 7:46 PM

I would add that I think it would be fair to say if they start doing something like a 100% idle and 100% load, in either case all the internal devices should be activated when they test. Under load the benchmark should also take into account the power that the mouse pad would consume if it was active the whole time and all the power saving features disabled. Just my 2c.

It's not custom unless your the only one who can boot it.

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