Sunday, March 02, 2008

Battery Low-Down

What to know about Mac laptop batteries? Like most other battery-operated devices, the devices long outlast the batteries.

As a rule of thumb, batteries will last about a year and a half. Now that I've made a categorical statement, I will demolish it with the proverbial, YMMV-- Your Mileage May Vary.

The variance can be considerable. The principal factors in battery performance are: how many times it is cycled from high to low charge; age of the battery; how has it been used? Laptop batteries have finite power-cycle lives. They won't take a charge repeatedly forever. Shelf life is also limited. Even if you rarely use a rechargeable laptop battery, it will lose capacity over time. How you cycle the battery influences battery life.

Rechargeable batteries progressively lose the capacity to store energy. Rather than outright stop working, batteries asking for replacement lose the capacity to run a laptop for as long as it did new.

Some road warriors purchase spare batteries allowing them to swap batteries for additional battery-powered use.

Apple offers suggestions for battery use that can extend the life of Mac laptop batteries. The principle advice is to cycle the battery from full charge to dead at least once a month

Battery technology is changing. The current crop of lithium-ion batteries (LION) can power a Mac from two to four hours. Turning off unused power-grabbers such as Bluetooth and WiFi (when not in use), and turning down the screen brightness, will extend battery life. YMMV.

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