Why We Need Mobile Device Battery Standards

msi-wind-batteryNot getting the run-time that reviewers all got with a mobile device? You might want to check that battery capacity if you can. jkkmobile checked his Dell Mini 9 battery and found that it only had 24 Whr of capacity, while it should have 32 Whr of juice. That would explain why his 3-cell unit sees around three-hours of run-time while reviewer got four-hours.

Sadly, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened. When the Asus Eee PC 900 hit the streets in some countries, it came with a 4400 mAh battery while reviewer units had a higher-capacity 5800 mAh power pack. Asus eventually offered a trade-up style program for unhappy customers. That’s all well and good, but it’s not the solution here from a consumer standpoint.

Making matters more confusing is when a device maker offers both 3- and 6-cell batteries. You’d think that a 6-cell has twice as much capacity and therefore you’ll see twice as much run-time over a 3-cell battery. That’s not always the case because we’ve seen some devices with lower-capacity 3-cell units. The 3-cell for the MSI Wind is 2200 mAh, for example, so you’d think the 6-cell has a 4400 mAh capacity right? Some do, but others like mine offer 5200 mAh in the same form factor, so you’ll see nearly 20% more run-time with the latter, all things being equal.

Here’s what I’d like to see: clear and common language used to describe the battery and the device’s range of power usage in a given hour. And this should be industry-wide as well, i.e.: some standard. Today it’s all too common to see a netbook battery described as a 3-cell or 6-cell unit, for example. What does that really tell a consumer? It show how many battery cell components make up the inside of the single battery pack. Alone, it doesn’t specify how much capacity the cells have, and therefore the capacity of the battery itself. Better would be two additional units of measurement: the number of Whr or hours the battery can provide one Watt of power, coupled with a range of (or the maximum of) the wattage requirements for the device itself.

My MSI Wind netbook might use up to 10 or 11 Watts when running under normal usage, i.e.: backlight set to 50%, WiFi on, etc… While this number can vary based on my usage needs or power settings, it offers me a baseline power requirement. If a manufacturer told me that a 6-cell device battery has a 52 Whr capacity, simple math tells me that I can expect roughly 5 hours of use, give or take. I’m not looking for an exact run-time because that will wildly vary based on an individual’s usage of the device. I’m simply looking for useful, basic information that’s commonly used across all device choices, regardless of manufacturer.

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