External Battery Roundup: Stay Away From The Wall Socket

Test Setup

Test Hardware
Intel Atom N450 (1.66 GHz)Intel Core i3-350M (Dual-Core, 2.26 GHz)
1 GB DDR2-667
4 GB DDR3-1066
Intel GMA 3150
Broadcom Crystal HD
Intel HD Graphics
Inspiron Mini 10 (1012)Dell Vostro 3300
Adobe Flash Player
Operating System
Windows 7 Starter
Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
Graphics Driver8.14.10.2117
8. 14.10.2226

There is a long back-story to the battery life benchmark used in this review, which we'll save for some other time. What you should know is that it is similar to BAPCo’s MobileMark, but it differs in a few ways. Like MobileMark, it is a workload-based benchmark, running processes through several programs. However, this is a benchmark that I have coded from scratch, so that is where the similarity ends.

We want to stress real-world usage, which is perhaps one of the biggest reasons we decided to have at an in-house-developed benchmark. This benchmark mimics what you should expect from everyday life. Right now, I have programmed the battery life metric to simulate a user typing at ~45 WPM and reading at ~200 WPM. So, this is a “Real Life Use” benchmark, hence the name: RLUMark (at least until I think of a better name).

Since we are testing netbooks, there is no need to include content creation programs like those from the Adobe CS5 suite. This limits benchmarking to the General Use Battery Workload.

This workload consists of the following programs

  • IE8
  • Excel 2010
  • Word 2010
  • Outlook 2010
  • WMP12

We will try and keep the benchmark as up to date as possible. Right now, everything has been made current up to 11/20/2010.

In addition, we are always going to benchmark systems as they ship, including their default battery profiles. There is no clean wipe of the OS. In real life, when you buy a notebook, system vendors rarely include a blank copy of Windows 7. Some of the included software is useless, such as trial software, but others programs are important for functionality, for example, ThinkVantage’s Power Manager.

Beyond turning down all the “special offers” when starting the system for the first time and installing Office 2010 Professional Plus, we do not disable or uninstall any software. Bloatware will naturally hog more system resources during the benchmark process, so we want to encourage manufacturers to cut down on this trend. I want to make a point that the time it takes to complete a benchmark workload is unaffected by included software.

Test Conditions for All Systems:

  • Windows 7, all patches updated to 11/20/2010
  • BIOS updates, current as of 11/20/2010
  • Master Audio Volume: 50%
  • System Drivers, current as of 11/20/2010
  • Graphic Drivers, current as of 11/20/2010
    • GMA 3150:
    • Intel HD Graphics: 8. 14.10.2226

Some vendors tweak their Windows 7 battery settings a bit in order to maximize battery life and longevity. There isn’t anything wrong with this. Every company has a different battery strategy that it believes is the best for its system. For example, some notebooks are hardwired to force hibernation at 5%. Other systems will let you go all the way to 0% and just die, no matter what you set in the battery profile. We are going to be testing at default shipping settings under the “Balanced” battery profile.

Some manufacturers have a different name for this profile, but this will always be the “Recommended” Windows 7 profile. To simulate the same visual experience, we only “untweak” the display settings to retail Window 7 settings. In addition, all displays have been set to maximum brightness, which is roughly 200 nits for both notebooks. I specifically choose max brightness over the standard 100 nits because most people tend to use the highest brightness setting. Our previous standard of 100 nits applies only to notebook reviews, because we need to standardize the brightness setting across multiple systems.

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  • sylvain
    Interesting read. Would it be possible to do a similar test for pure USB external batteries. Used for adding that extra bit of juice to an iPad, iPhone or similar devices?
  • Anonymous

    I am interested in using the battery for a DSLR video rig, i want to use the 12v to power the camera, then split the 5v to power both an asus wicast and a SDI to HDMI down convertor. both these last two devices take a 5v feed. would this be possible do you think?
  • Spanamana
    I purchased one of these batteries from a UK supplier and have to say I have never encountered such poor customer service in a long time. They claim that they supply one free tip a year. Rubbish! When you try to get one for a iPad 3 or later, they charge you $10 because they changed the name of it from "tip".

    After 8 months the battery started not keeping its charge. I tried to use the 2 year warranty to get it replaced and found out that although the unit is guaranteed for two years, the battery is only guaranteed for 6 months. Then I was told that it would cost too much to get it repaired as there is no UK repair centre and therefore there is a charge of $30 for a replacement.

    Having delivered the replacement battery, I have not received a VAT order for £21 for import duty from TNT. So a battery that cost me £50 has now cost me £95.

    Shonky product, useless service. Don't waste your money.