Battery life isn't getting much better, so try these alternatives

LAS VEGAS -- It's enough to make you want to drop everything and race for the nearest power outlet: Your workday isn't even done, and your smartphone or laptop battery is already in the red zone.

See Full Article

If you're hoping that techno-progress will dispel that depleted feeling, you may be in for a long wait. Battery life is constrained by limitations in chemistry, and improvements aren't keeping pace with demands from modern gadgets.

We're still dependent on the venerable lithium-ion cell, first commercialized by Sony in 1991; it's light, safe and holds a lot of charge relative to most alternatives, but it isn't getting better fast enough to keep up with our growing electronic demands.

So instead, manufacturers are doing their best to "cheat" their way around lithium-ion's limitations. The CES gadget show in Las Vegas this week featured plenty of workarounds that aim to keep your screen lit longer.

Proceed with caution, though: Manufacturer claims of battery life improvement can fall short of real-world experience.

NEW CHIPS

Not that long ago, computer-chip makers competed to make their chips ever faster and more capable, with power consumption a secondary consideration. But the boom in energy hungry smartphones and laptops means that companies like Intel need to put much more emphasis on power efficiency these days.

Intel says its sixth-generation Core chips, known as Skylake, add a little more than an hour to battery life to laptops compared with the previous generation, according to spokesman Scott Massey. The chips utilize a more compact design, hard-wired functions that used to be run via software and fine-tuning how they ramp power use up and down.

BETTER-DESIGNED LAPTOPS

Laptop manufacturers are smartly sipping power, too.

HP says the Spectre x360 notebook it introduced in March gains up to 72 minutes of battery life, for a total of up to 13 hours, thanks in part to Intel's new chip. Among other tricks, the PC doesn't refresh the screen as often if the image isn't moving. "If we can solve a bunch of small problems, they can add up," HP vice-president Mike Nash said.

Similarly, Lenovo's new ThinkPad X1 Yoga tablet turns off its touch screen and keyboard backlight if it senses its owner is walking and has the screen folded back like an open book. Vaio, the computer maker formerly owned by Sony, says its Z Canvas launched in the U.S. in October benefits from shrinking components and efficiently distributing heat to make more room for a bigger battery.

And Dell says it has worked with manufacturers to squeeze more battery capacity into the same space. It says its efforts recently boosted the energy storage of its XPS 13 laptop by 7.7 per cent compared to an earlier version of the same model .

NEW CHARGERS

Maybe it's your phone that's not keeping up. If so, you might check out new accessories designed to make it easier and faster to charge back up.

Kickstarter-funded Ampy uses your body's kinetic energy to charge up a pager-sized device. Strap it to your arm or a belt and it can recharge a smartphone in real time; an hour of jogging or similar exercise yields about an hour of use. You could also just throw it in your bag and get the same extra hour of gadget life after a week of walking around -- not an awesome trade off, maybe, but possibly better than nothing.

The wireless-charging technology Qi makes it possible to charge a phone without plugging it in. Instead, you lay it down on a special pad and let electromagnetic field coupling do the work. Wireless charging has always been much slower than wired, although Qi's backers say it's speeding up. But wired charging is getting faster, too, at least for phones with the latest hardware-- and with Qi, you still have to line up your device just right on the sometimes fussy pads.



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • Stunning display of northern lights captured by photographers

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Did you see them? You may have been tucked into bed or inside, but on Saturday night and early Sunday morning, the sky erupted in a stunning display of northern lights that many people were able to capture with cameras. Source
  • In Canada, parks thrive but conservationists cry foul

    Tech & Science CTV News
    On a highway in Banff National Park in western Canada, tourists hastily park their cars to catch a glimpse of a bear at the edge of the forest. "We've seen some amazing animal life up here, much more than a lot of other places that we've gone camping," Tony Garland, a 60-something American who drove up from Seattle, told AFP. Source
  • Human-made chemicals found in higher quantities in deep ocean

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Human-made chemicals are penetrating deeper into the North Atlantic, a new study has found. Remember CFCs? Production of the ozone-depleting chemicals was largely phased out globally in 1994. But almost 25 years later, researchers are finding them in increasing amounts in the deeper, "older" parts of the ocean. Source
  • 'O Canada': Researcher mounts microscopic flag on penny to celebrate 150 years

    Tech & Science CBC News
    It's the smallest tribute to Canada that you'll ever see. McMaster University research engineer Travis Casagrande has carved a microscopic, 3D Canadian flag on the face of a penny. The carving — which is one one-hundredth the size of a human hair and invisible to the naked eye — is meant to be a celebration of Canada's 150th birthday this year, and a showcase of the microscopes at the Canadian Centre for Electron Microscopy at the university. Source
  • No public memorial for Harambe planned as Cincinnati Zoo looks ahead

    Tech & Science CTV News
    CINCINNATI -- No public events are planned at the Cincinnati Zoo marking the one-year anniversary of the shooting of an endangered gorilla. The zoo's dangerous-animal response team concluded the life of a 3-year-old boy who fell into the gorilla enclosure last May 28 was in danger and killed 17-year-old Harambe. Source
  • If U.S. quits climate deal, Earth expected to warm dangerously

    Tech & Science CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Earth is likely to reach more dangerous levels of warming even sooner if the U.S. retreats from its pledge to cut carbon dioxide pollution, scientists said. That's because America contributes so much to rising temperatures. Source
  • Mother of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick killed in boat accident

    Tech & Science CTV News
    FRESNO, Calif. -- The mother of the CEO of the ride-hailing company Uber died in a boat accident Friday evening in Fresno County, the company said. Bonnie Kalanick, 71, died after the boat she and her husband, Donald, 78, were riding hit a rock in Pine Flat Lake in the eastern part of the county, authorities said. Source
  • G7 leaders agree to fight protectionism, U.S. still not on board on climate agreement

    Tech & Science CBC News
    U.S. President Donald Trump has agreed to include a pledge to fight trade protectionism in a final communique due to be released later on Saturday at the end of a summit of Group of Seven leaders, a G7 source said. Source
  • Trapped 'like a caged animal': Climate change taking toll on mental health of Inuit

    Tech & Science CBC News
    As millions of Canadians eagerly anticipate the arrival of warm weather, many people living in Canada's North will be lamenting the end of winter. For the Inuit, milder temperatures mean the sea ice is melting, making travel more difficult. Source
  • Selfies with seal pups a no-no: U.S. science agency

    Tech & Science CTV News
    PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- U.S. officials are warning people not to take selfies with seals, no matter how tempting. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's fisheries office says seal pupping season is underway in New England and that means people might see seal pups on the beach during Memorial Day weekend. Source