Staying Mobile Longer
Shopping for a notebook involves a delicate balance between battery life, performance, usability, and price. No two users share the exact same criteria for what they consider the right blend. That’s why we try to evaluate mobile platforms based on their perceived strengths. Take last year's Netbook Buyer’s Guide as an example. We considered the fact that some buyers are willing to spend more for battery life and forgo a bit of performance. Others are willing to pay an extra $100 or $150 to get both. Another group cares more about usability. The list of ways to break even this one specific market into tiny pieces goes on and on.
If battery life is your number one priority, shopping choices are limited. Clearly, there are notebooks designed for those on the move. But what if you don't want to sacrifice elsewhere to get that mobility? Maybe you just need another hour of run time to get your current notebook through the day. If that's the case, a brand new system doesn't make much sense.
Even if you already own a notebook that delivers ample battery life, we're certain that there are travel days when even a power-sipping system just doesn't have enough juice to last through closing time. If you spend a lot of time on the road, layovers don’t provide enough time at an AC jack to get you back to 100%. That might mean your in-flight entertainment gets interrupted right before the big climax. Sleeping, talking to unwilling neighbors, and hitting on flight attendants only eats so much time. What other options are there?
There is a solution, though. Check out an extended laptop battery, which comes in the form of an even larger installed battery pack compatible with your existing system. There is a big catch. These batteries (often denser six-cell or nine-cell) weigh down your machine, altering its mobile profile. These batteries stick out the backside of your notebook like a sore thumb, and can turn a sleek thin and light notebook into a clunky desktop replacement.
Fortunately, there is another option, too: universal extended batteries. These batteries don’t plug into your system directly. Instead, they function similar to uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), which we often associate with safeguarding desktops. They are always external units, but often have a small profile that makes them easier to pack for travel, offering higher densities than extended batteries can't provide. And if that wasn't enough, you generally get the ability to charge your cell phone, iPod, and camera from them as well.
After we published our Netbook Buyer’s Guide, one reader posed a question about mobility in the comments. So, during the past two months, we hunted down just about every available solution capable of extending the battery life of your notebook. If you're on the go, this story is for you.