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Testing: Pre-Test Setup, Battery Life - BatteryEater Pro

5 Featherweight Powerhouse Ultraportables
By , Barry Gerber

Pre-Test Settings

Before beginning any tests, we:

  1. Install a fresh copy of Windows Vista Ultimate and Windows Vista Service Pack 1
  2. Update the graphics driver with the latest from the notebook manufacturer
  3. Install the actual benchmarking software and no other programs
  4. Set the screen resolution to 1024x768

Battery Life: BatteryEater Pro v2.70

BatteryEater Pro v2.70 does not test notebook batteries in real-life scenarios; rather, it beats up on a notebook’s battery, forcing it into submission usually long before it would die in normal situations. Additionally, when used on Windows Vista notebooks, BatteryEater cannot detect hard drives, and thus, does not run its hard drive stress test. All of this means that the numbers we present for battery life are useful for only comparison. You can compare BatteryEater Pro scores run on Windows Vista notebooks, but you should expect relatively longer battery lives for all tested notebooks in most real-world situations.

Our settings for BatteryEater Pro are relatively simple.

  1. Set BatteryEater Pro to a resolution of 1024x768. With the display and BatteryEater Pro set to the same resolution, the BatteryEater Pro test screen almost fully covers the display, preventing other windows or the Vista desktop from affecting battery discharge.
  2. Assure that the Windows Vista power scheme is set to Balanced
  3. Set both Turn off Display and Put the Computer to Sleep to Never both for On Battery and Plugged In
  4. Set Critical Battery Action > On Battery to Shutdown
  5. Turn off Low Battery Notification On Battery
  6. Set Screen Saver to None
  7. Disconnect all external drives and any USB devices

When BatteryEater Pro shows Battery Status to be High and the charged capacity is 100%, pulling the AC power connector starts the BatteryEater Pro test.

BatteryEater Pro Test Results

The following chart shows BatteryEater Pro scores for the five ultraportable notebooks included in this roundup.

Calculating The Battery Life Score for Each Notebook

In the discussion of each notebook, you’ll remember that we presented a score between 1 and 5 for each notebook’s battery life. To calculate this score, we gave a score of 5 to the notebook scoring the highest in the BatteryEater Pro tests, then set all other scores relative to the highest scoring notebook by dividing the runtime of each into the runtime of the winner. In this case, we gave a score of 5 for the highest performing notebook in the battery life tests, the Sony, then used its result of 207 minutes as the basis for the other scores. For example, for the Lenovo we divided its battery life score of 91 minutes into 207 and multiplied by 5, which resulted in a score of 2.20.

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  • 0 Hide
    enewmen , October 27, 2008 11:50 AM
    I like to read about these notebooks. They still exist and useful while other more exciting categories are around. (MID, UMPC, Netbook, and ultra gaming notebooks)
  • 0 Hide
    waffle911 , October 27, 2008 11:48 PM
    Quote:
    The unit’s dimensions are 10.8” wide by 7.7” deep, and 0.88” thick, which is thinner than the Apple MacBook Air.

    No it's not. The MBA is at no point thicker than 0.79", and Apple makes a point of it on the product design page.

    Otherwise, good article. But I think I'm not the target consumer for these products, so I'm going to be getting the new MacBook Pro. I need that extra performance for graphics-intensive applications. Then again, that would be a primary computer. If I had the extra cash, I would go for a MBA as a secondary, because I can't stand the smaller keyboards and screens but a laptop more portable than the MBP would be nice to have sometimes.

    Then again, I'm a Mac lover, so my views are undoubtedly skewed towards almost anything that runs OSX and has a giant Apple logo plastered on it. :p 
  • 0 Hide
    tim851 , October 28, 2008 7:55 AM
    This article is full of logical mishaps where the author contradicts herself, e.g.

    "I never felt this machine get warmer than room temperature, nor make any noise at all. That’s surprising given the U110 has a weak hard drive (only running at 4,200 RPM)"

    [a weak hard disk should make it NOT suprising]

    or

    "...the bottom can get hot. Some of the heat and noise can be attributed to the U2E’s underpowered CPU (...) With such a low-power processor, this machine is bound to stay pretty cool to the touch most of the time."

    [the second sentence is correct but (rightfully) contradicts the first one]

    Those two aren't the only ones. The article should be reworked.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , October 28, 2008 9:32 AM
    Pity not to see the very lovely Samsung Q210 in this list. I've gone for the Q310, simply out of preference for something a little more tangible, but the spec and build quality on both of these are super, not to mention the reasonable prices!
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , October 28, 2008 12:28 PM
    Finally, I was wondering when Tom's would review an Asus based laptop considering they've been around for years. I actually like Asus's designs and own an ancient Z33ae ultralight from years ago although recently I've begun to wonder if the leather in the new laptops isn't overkill. :)  Still considering the heavy use / abuse I've put my Asus laptop through while only suffering from a burnt out power button light, I have to admire it's durability. Sure they do cost a little more but the build quality is what makes up for it. My experience with Toshibas so far is that they're cheap and they work extremely well. Just don't expect anything special, they seem mass produced. Sony's I've had breakdown on me unfortunately. They have admirable design but it's something I'm reluctant to touch.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , October 28, 2008 1:27 PM
    The Thinkpad X200s and X200 should have been part of this review. They use the newer Centrino 2 Montevina platform with the faster X4500HD GPU that can run Blu-Ray and with the Intel 5300 WiFi.
    The X200s goes for about $2K but there will be sales. The X200 has already been on sale with a $1300 pricetag for a full config.

    X200s Review (with link to X200):
    http://www.laptopmag.com/review/laptops/lenovo-thinkpad-x200s.aspx


    X200s: 11 hours battery with WiFi LED backlit 1440x900 display 3.2 lbs 12" with full sized keyboard, same as in larger "T" series. Full sized 2.5" hard drive or SSD 64 GB or 128 GB. 1.86 GHz SL CPU

    X200: 8 hours battery with WiFi CCFL backlit 1280x800 display 3.6 lbs and same options as X200s. CPU 2.26 GHz or 2.4 GHz. Fast!

    Both laptops have two smaller battery options for less weight.
  • 0 Hide
    Tomsguiderachel , October 28, 2008 4:07 PM
    tim851This article is full of logical mishaps where the author contradicts herself, e.g."I never felt this machine get warmer than room temperature, nor make any noise at all. That’s surprising given the U110 has a weak hard drive (only running at 4,200 RPM)"[a weak hard disk should make it NOT suprising]or"...the bottom can get hot. Some of the heat and noise can be attributed to the U2E’s underpowered CPU (...) With such a low-power processor, this machine is bound to stay pretty cool to the touch most of the time."[the second sentence is correct but (rightfully) contradicts the first one]Those two aren't the only ones. The article should be reworked.

    Thanks for your comment, Tim851.
    Here's what I meant about the U110's weak hard drive. I've found that when a machine has a weak hard drive, the drive tends to spin almost constantly even during basic computing tasks. When this constant spinning occurs, the machine typically gets hot. But on the U110, even though the hard drive was only 4200rpm, the hard drive at least didn't cause the machine to get warm--it didn't seem to strain or spin constantly as one would expect. Does that make more sense? Yes, a lower powered processor would help to keep things cool, but a severely underpowered hard drive could make things hotter, too. Happy to discuss further.

    All the best,
    Rachel Rosmarin, Editor of Tom's Guide
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , October 28, 2008 9:03 PM
    The TZ series is still available for purchase. Possibly not that particular model but overall the recall did not kill the entire product line.
  • 0 Hide
    Tomsguiderachel , October 28, 2008 9:06 PM
    anon3265467The TZ series is still available for purchase. Possibly not that particular model but overall the recall did not kill the entire product line.

    Hi Anon,
    Can you provide a link to Sony's site showing a TZ available for purchase? If so, I'll amend the article. Thanks.

    Rachel Rosmarin, Editor of Tom's Guide
  • 0 Hide
    Xajel , October 30, 2008 2:53 AM
    hell no, the first time I saw lenovo in the pics I thought ( when does Dell Studio becomes an Ultra portable notebook ? )

    Lenovo just copied Dell's design and made some changes !!
  • 0 Hide
    spiralsun1 , November 1, 2008 3:47 PM
    Here we go again... who would ever buy a notebook of any shape or size at any price with only 2-3 hours of battery life? That's basically UNUSEABLE. They talk like it's acceptable. A dead computer has NO performance, NO style, NO value! Cross country trips? what country -- Leichtenstein? WORTHLESS! I am still waiting -- please make a USEABLE portable device with at the very least 4-6 hours battery time, preferably 8-10 hours or more. I would like to be able to surf, show the kids a movie, do some work, play a game etc. on a trip and then watch another movie myself after that and show people pictures of my family. IF YOU MAKE IT, I WILL BUY IT IMMEDIATELY. I don't want to have to constantly watch and worry about the battery, and people use their computers for EVERYTHING these days -- THATS WHY WE WANT PORTABLE ONES NOW! Is my life supposed to stop in 2-3 hours? COME ON! I am getting upset about this, I KNOW I'm not the only one who feels this way. What's wrong with these people? Make a useable laptop that I can use all day (8-12 hours) and can plug in overnight. End of story.
  • 0 Hide
    Tomsguiderachel , November 1, 2008 4:55 PM
    spiralsun1Here we go again... who would ever buy a notebook of any shape or size at any price with only 2-3 hours of battery life? That's basically UNUSEABLE. They talk like it's acceptable. A dead computer has NO performance, NO style, NO value! Cross country trips? what country -- Leichtenstein? WORTHLESS! I am still waiting -- please make a USEABLE portable device with at the very least 4-6 hours battery time, preferably 8-10 hours or more. I would like to be able to surf, show the kids a movie, do some work, play a game etc. on a trip and then watch another movie myself after that and show people pictures of my family. IF YOU MAKE IT, I WILL BUY IT IMMEDIATELY. I don't want to have to constantly watch and worry about the battery, and people use their computers for EVERYTHING these days -- THATS WHY WE WANT PORTABLE ONES NOW! Is my life supposed to stop in 2-3 hours? COME ON! I am getting upset about this, I KNOW I'm not the only one who feels this way. What's wrong with these people? Make a useable laptop that I can use all day (8-12 hours) and can plug in overnight. End of story.

    Thanks for your comment, SpiralSun. Okay, you're right--there's no tiny computer that lasts 8-12 hours. We just aren't there yet, technologically speaking. But, most of the computers in our round up can easily last 4 hours, and the Sony will definitely last more than 6 hours. Keep in mind that our BatteryEater test maxes out a machine's power consumption. In normal use, all of these machines would last more than 2 hours.

    Thanks,
    Rachel Rosmairn
    Editor, Tom's Guide
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , November 2, 2008 5:33 PM
    Instead of considering these laptops, I'd rather go at BenQ X31. Extra inch on the display but monsterous graphics(8600GT) for a 13 inchers, and this means hell more performance and more plausible productivity. Have a look

    http://benq.com/products/joybook/?product=1302&page=specifications
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , November 5, 2008 6:04 PM
    I love the idea of an ultraportable, but Tom's Guide and I have different requirements. I'm old enough that a larger screen means more to me than a DVD drive. I'm more likely to work on the plane than I am to watch a DVD. I almost never use the optical drive on my laptop other than to load software. Most people would consider me a road warrior, but my computing needs are very simple: internet, Word Processing, simple spreadsheets, email and presentations. Light weight, long battery life and a screen big enough that I don't have to spend more time scrolling than reading. I've loved my Fujitsu Lifebook S-6231, but it's now a little long in the tooth. the only problems have been short battery life and it's 4 lb. weight.
  • 0 Hide
    hellwig , November 5, 2008 8:16 PM
    Couple things confused me. First, there's a button on the Sony that can launch multimedia without booting? Does this mean the machine can act like a DVD/MP3/MP4 player without booting into Windows? To me that would be an incredible Plus, watching videos on a plane without Windows running/eating up more power.

    Second, what does Windows Vista Business w/ XP Pro Recovery media mean? Makes it sound like the manufacturer put the wrong DVD in the packaging. Is this supposed to mean you can revert to WindowsXP with the media they included (in addition to restoring Vista if necessary)?
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