More Power to You
Learn how to keep your tech tools charged while on the road.
There you are, stuck in
traffic, calling your client to explain, and your cell phone dies.
While waiting for a weather-delayed flight, you catch up on e-mail
correspondence - until your notebook nods off. Working in a restaurant
between two client appointments, your personal digital assistant poops
out. What's a weary road warrior to do?
now can fit your office into a briefcase and work anywhere - or so
technology marketers would like you to believe. But before taking your
show on the road, make sure you know where to find your next watt.
The Facts of Battery Life
Freedom is finite in the mobile computing world. No matter if you've
got the latest tablet PC or smart phone, you're only as good as your
last charge. Rechargeable lithium ion, or Li-Ion, batteries power most
of today's portable computers, cell phones, and PDAs. They are lighter
and last longer than the nickel metal hydride, or NiMH, batteries that
older laptops may use.
If you recently
upgraded to a new notebook that uses Li-Ion instead of NiMH batteries,
you should be aware of two differences. First, Li-Ion batteries last
longer if they have 10 percent to 20 percent capacity remaining when
recharged, unlike NiMH batteries, which must be totally discharged. So
if you're in the habit of using your notebook until it dies, stop and
Second, you can only
fully charge NiMH batteries with your laptop turned off, but you can
charge Li-Ion batteries while using your computer.
degrade from the moment they come off the production line, and Li-Ion
batteries are more susceptible to aging than other types. Don't stock
up unless you're going to use them regularly, and don't buy batteries
too far from their manufacture date.
and charge level greatly affect a battery's life, so don't leave a
fully charged spare battery in a hot car. (The same is true for
computers, cell phones, and PDAs.) For example, a 40 percent charged
battery stored around 77 degrees maintains 96 percent of its permanent
capacity after a year, while one stored at 104 degrees holds only 85
percent capacity. If it's stored fully charged, that decreases to 65
percent. So store batteries in a cool place and at a 40 percent charge
if not being used.
Many computer manufacturers sell machine-specific, high-capacity batteries,
which often double available computing time and usually the price too.
But universal products, which may offer longer life or a more
convenient package, also are available.
PowerPads use lithium polymer technology to deliver from two to six
times more power - 12 to 16 hours in some cases - and range in price
from $249 to $449. The letter-size, less than 1-inch-thick pads sit
underneath notebooks and laptops and connect through the AC power port.
N-Charge Power System offers up to 10 hours of continuous notebook use.
Similar to the size and weight of a notebook computer, this recharger
also sits under the laptop computer and connects through the AC port.
It can charge two devices simultaneously without an adapter and works
with all popular models. A smaller model offers half the weight and
power; the systems run $300 and $200. Contact .
magazine named iGo Juice 2003's best choice for portable power. This
combination AC/auto/in-flight power adapter is compatible with most
major computer brands. With the additional peripheral powering system
you can charge a cell phone or PDA while charging (or using) your
laptop. The adapter costs around $120; the PPS is another $20. Contact .
looking for a lighter load to carry should check out the Targus
Universal Auto/Air Notebook Power Adapter. At six ounces, it's about
two ounces lighter than iGo Juice, but it doesn't have the AC
adaptability. You also can charge mobile phones, PDAs, and other
peripherals after buying separate power tips. The adapter is $100; the
power tips run about $20 each. Contact .
even lighter and keep the three-in-one idea with Kensington's Universal
AC/Car/Air Adapter, which also uses the iGo PPS system for powering
peripherals. The Kensington adapter is about $150 but several Web
outlets sell it for less. Contact .
To charge your PDA and synchronize with your laptop, use the
appropriate Zip-Linq sync-and-charge spring-loaded cable. Plug one end
into your notebook's USB port and the other end into your PDA. The
retractable cable expands to about 30 inches and supports most major
PDA brands. A similar device is available for charging cell phones;
both types cost around $15. Contact .
for a few extra minutes on your cell phone to cinch a deal or make a
contact? Targus' emergency USB chargers let you charge your 9-volt cell
phone battery through your computer for about 30 more minutes of talk
time. It works with certain Nokia and Motorola models and costs $20.
instant battery chargers serve a wider selection of cell phones.
Lasting three years, Cellboost plugs into your phone for 60 minutes of
talk time and 60 hours of standby time and costs about $6. Contact .
Power zinc-air batteries bring dead cell phone and PDA batteries back
to life, and you can use the device while it charges. The charger has a
three-year shelf life and lasts for three months if you keep it in the
reclosable pouch. The power cartridge is universal but you need a
special smart cord for your particular device; for $14.95 you can buy
two power cartridges and a smart cord. Contact .
included in Technology Bueyrs Guide articles are for informational
purposes only. Inclusion of a product does not constitute review or