Battery life on ultramobile computers still hopeless


UMPCPortal is annoyed at the power-related shortcomings of an otherwise saucy handheld computer, Kohjinsha's SC3. As a result, ultramobile supremo Chippy has a poll up asking his readers the following question:

"What's the minimum battery life you consider to be suitable for an Ultra Mobile device in 2008?"

The options are for 2, 3, 4 or 5 hours.

Only 5 hours?

This year was supposed to be the breakthrough in this regard for pocketable computers, and it isn't happening. It's not even close to happening. The SC3 is cutting-edge stuff, and it can't stay awake more than a couple of hours. There's the hardware required to run Vista – or any other desktop-class operating system – and then there are the laws of thermodynamics. Together, they make for unhappy UMPC fans.

If you're wondering, 5 hours is the runaway winner on the poll. Makers: cut the fancy operating systems, cut the performance, and stop trying to make desktop replacements that have to run on 20 watt-hour batteries. Such machines serve no real constituency and solve no real problems: the iPhone, of all things, is the only thing near this segment that gets it right.

OK, so the Everun is pretty neat. And the OQO, too. Sony's Vaio UXes are also lovely. But you know what I mean.

Kohjinsha SC3 UMPC. First impressions. [UMPC portal]

Published by Rob Beschizza

Follow Rob @beschizza on Twitter.

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  1. Main complaint with the Nokia 770: many airports won’t let me connect because I can’t make it through their terms and conditions with the built-in browser.
    I think for now I’d be happy with video conferencing. If I have to do anything more complicated than that, I’ll use a real computer.

  2. I need 10 hours. I would use this at the track and the day starts at about 10:30 when I get on the train and ends about 7:30 when I get home.

    I’m willing to buy a spare battery, though.

  3. I have an aged Kyocera 6500 smartphone (palm 3 based) that I keep by my bed for use as an ebook reader and alarm clock. I use it from a half hour to a couple hours every night, and it alarms at me for a half hour or so every morning. I keep the phone side powered down, and the battery lasts for a couple of months between charges. Months! That’s *well* over 20 hours of runtime, and insane standby, even by the most conservative estimate.

    There’s a lesson here, although I’m not entirely sure what it is. Probably it is just “don’t compare apples and oranges”, but there you are.

  4. “or any other desktop-class operating system”

    You mean XP? Or Linux? I’m not a knee-jerk Vista basher (the box I’m typing this on is running it), but you don’t have to be a conspiracy nut to see that it helped drive a fairly lackluster hardware market. Now, you can do the same with more hardware!

    The idea that you throw this onto a mobile device is just plain dumb. You don’t have to go back to a Model 100 to get decent time: you just have to run an OS and applications that are for the mobile user.

  5. Well… what is a computer? I don’t know that I would say a palm-based pda isn’t one.

    But still, I take your point, hence the apples and oranges comment.

  6. Eight hours would be nice. Auto-standby while idle and that’d last about a day, or at least between plugs.

    Of course forever would also be nice.

  7. I can get 9+ hours on my Sony TZ ultraportable with the extended battery (not the default one). With wi-fi on, screen at maximum brightness. Bluetooth and DVD off.

    It’s enough to get me across the Pacific.

    No, it’s not a handheld computer, but it is under 3 pounds.

  8. The Sony TX/TZ series ultraportables used to tout 4-6 hours regularly … at least they did when I was in retail. I would expect a netbook or UMPC to last at least that long.

    My sweet spot is eight hours of mixed use. Integrated 3G cellular radio and/or WiFi would need to be tooled as best they can to sip juice instead of chug it like a keg stand. Screen would probably need to be OLED. Get some of that new-fangled static RAM that doesn’t need power to save its state. The wishlist will just keep growing if I don’t shut up.

  9. “Makers: cut the fancy operating systems, cut the performance,…”

    That would miss the point of having UltraMobilePC and would never sell, unless sold dirt cheap like Asus eee. UMPC is a tiny PC laptop with normal laptop battery life. Just because it’s near pocket size doesn’t justify comparing its battery life to cell phones. I can see why that comparison is so tempting, but it is invalid.

    Market for small devices running other than Windows OS on slow hardware is already full of long battery life devices. What is missing is small device with full desktop compatibility, powerful hardware, and long battery life. Unless makers produce these two out of three models they are never getting to the three out of three

  10. Smaller devices means smaller batteries. Someone needs to figure out a way to make foam batteries that can be injected into devices to take up any available space around the green boards.

  11. I’m still trying to understand why 3 hours is considered acceptable for full-size laptops.

  12. I’m still trying to understand why 60 miles is considered acceptable for electric cars. (Hint: you works with what you haves.)

  13. There is another way to handle the power problem rather than higher capacity batteries…

    Make devices easier to charge. Get rid of the wal wart and use a simple cable. Even better, design a device that can use rechargeable AA or AAA batteries.

    Contrary to what most of the product brochures show, most people are not using these things in the middle of a wheat field or on the beach. You are never really that far from an outlet except when on an airplane.

  14. An employer expects you to work for 8 hours. 8 hours seems like a reasonable aim for battery life.

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