November 23, 2004 10:25 AM PST

Batteries better, but are they still guilty as charged?

During the holiday season, many wish for greater understanding between people and nations. Others just want better batteries.

Although electronics manufacturers have made substantial strides in getting their devices to eke more life out of a battery charge, one of the chief complaints among consumers remains the perceived short run time of audio players, notebooks and other devices.

"You can never be too rich, too thin or have enough battery life," said Stephen Baker, an analyst at NPD Techworld. "While everyone is focused on improving battery life, we still have a long way to go."

In many ways, it's a Sisyphean task. On the one hand, technologies deployed over the past few years--deep sleep states, screens made of organic light-emitting diodes, chips that can regulate their speeds and energy-efficient software--have dramatically reduced power consumption and thereby extended battery life on a variety of devices.

Batteries in notebooks, which five years ago typically lasted only two hours, now can run up to five or more hours.

The Logitech MX 1000 cordless mouse, meanwhile, can run 21 days on a full charge, thanks to a wide variety of tweaks to virtually all of the internal components that use electricity, the company says.

"We are about three times longer than when we started the cordless-mouse category," said Ashish Arora, director of product marketing at Logitech. "It is a major component of the cordless experience."

What's more, the Swiss-U.S. company incorporated features that seek to eliminate some of the frustrations common with battery-powered devices. Ten minutes in the charger gives the mouse enough energy to run a full day, while a full charge only takes about 3 hours. Surveys taken by the company also show that customers will pay a $10 premium in some cases for better battery life.

"Almost across the board, every device you can buy this year is more efficient than last year's by 10 to 20 percent," said Richard Doherty, an analyst at The Envisioneering Group. Apple Computer's latest iPod, for example, which has a color screen, can run longer than earlier black-and-white versions, he said.

On the other hand, devices are getting more complex and requiring more power. Wireless connectivity and 15-inch screens, baroque excesses less than four years ago, are now standard notebook features. Customers also expect companies to live up to their claims.

"Bottom line is, I really like my iPod Mini, but drawbacks on the iPod Mini for me are first, memory limitations, and second, battery life," said Allen Latta, director of business development at VenCap International. "On the battery, I'm getting about six hours on a charge, not the full eight."

The effort to reduce energy consumption, which started in earnest in the late '90s with notebooks, has become pervasive throughout the industry and touches nearly all the components that go into electronic devices.

Page 1 | 2


Join the conversation!
Add your comment
Now make them more durable
My laptop has Lithium Ion batteries which now only hold a 15
minute charge. When it was new they would last for 5 hours.

They want $149 for a replacement.

I wish they could at least make the replacements cheaper, or
make it so that the local battery place can replace the cells.
Posted by Que.Ball (29 comments )
Reply Link Flag
No incentive
Corporations, generally speaking, are very self serving and arrogant. The only reason we don't have better batteries is because they will make less money. They do not care about the impact on cutomers or the enviroment. The only thing that will reign them in is government intervention, but since corporations own the US government, that is unlikely to ever happen.

It is a shame that money rules everything, even common sence and decency. I wonder what good all that money will do for those people once the earth is rendered uninhabitable.
Posted by (40 comments )
Link Flag
Best Possible Rechargeable Battery Improvement
the single best rechargeable battery improvement is the one that the mfg's aren't selling us: a standard-size, user-replaceable battery!!!!! i'd GLADLY pay an extra $10 to not have to buy an outrageously priced, proprietary battery; especially if that battery could only be replaced by the mfg (or, worse yet, was a "lifetime" battery in a sealed unit that meant the entire device had to be replaced!).

think about it: wouldn't it be nice to have one or two chargers for all your rechargeable batteries? that would mean you don't have to buy (ie PAY!) for a battery charger with every new product you get--a real cost savings. and wouldn't it be nice to be able to pull your "darn it just died!" battery from your cell phone and replace it with the one in your digital camera to make that important, deal-closing telephone call? or how about the battery in your old cell phone that's now so much trash still fits that digital camera that's worth keeping?

come on mfg's, quit with the excuses and give us a rechargeable batteries standard!!!

mark d.
Posted by markdoiron (1138 comments )
Reply Link Flag
ipod the worst
cnet forgot to mention how the ipod (any of them) all have the worst battery times than any other harddrive based music players. Even the video/music/photo players that came out long before apples new music/photo player has a much longer battery life. Up to 80%! What's the deal with that?

Pay more for less = apple.
Posted by (28 comments )
Reply Link Flag

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot



RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.