Industry Pushes for 8-Hour Battery Life

It may be a tall order, but Intel and others are working to create notebooks that can last for 8 hours on a single charge of a six-cell battery.

The race is on to deliver all-day battery life for notebooks.

While Intel believes that Napa platform notebooks can push notebooks to or past an average of 5 hours of battery life in 2006, its still shooting for more.

The Santa Clara, Calif., company has said it would like to see standard-issue business notebooks run for 8 hours—or the equivalent of a day—on a single charge of a standard battery versus todays average of around four hours.

The extra run time would be a boon for businesses whose staffers are away from their desks most of the day in meetings, who spend long hours on airplanes or who work in the field.

But Intel alone cant ensure notebooks will get to the 8-hour mark. A host of others, including PC makers, display manufacturers and battery companies have all joined in the effort, many via a battery life consortium.

"Eight hours is a great next goal for the industry to work on," said Mike Trainor, chief mobile technology evangelist for Intels Mobile Platforms Group.

"Its still a challenge—the industry is in the throes of making it happen—but its the right balance of being aggressive and still doable as an industry."

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read more about low-power chip plans.

Thus, in an effort to attack some of the areas outside of processors, which use only a small amount of the total power consumed by a notebook, numerous companies have joined the Mobile PC Extended Battery Life Working Group, a body that seeks to help boost battery life while still allowing companies to compete.

Efforts by the group, founded by Intel in 2002, include publishing a standard method for measuring the power consumption of an LCD panel, which PC makers can use to help compare panels to one another and design systems.

The group also helped set a voluntary three-watt LCD panel target for XGA-resolution or 1024 by 768-pixel panels in the 14-inch and 15-inch range, Trainor said.

"Reducing platform power [a notebooks average power consumption] is really an effort of finding a lot of small gains," he said. "Theres not really a silver bullet."

Indeed, cutting the power of LCD displays will be one of the main objectives of the effort, Intel said. Right now, an LCD panel consumes about 30 percent of the total power used by a notebook, followed by the chipset—chips that assist the computers processor—which can consume about 20 percent.

Voltage regulators, which convert current coming out of a battery to work with various components inside a notebook, are next, consuming about 12 percent, followed by processors at 10 percent of a notebooks power budget.

PC makers such as Gateway Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co., already offer add-on batteries that can double average battery life. But executives at the two companies praised the effort to save power and extend battery life in interviews with Ziff Davis Internet.

Next Page: A reachable goal.