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Old 23rd October 2016, 11:42   #1
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Default The right way to use laptop / smartphone batteries?

The biggest issue most of us have with electronic devices such as laptops and cell phones is the battery life.

Many years back when the battery on my 8-month old Dell Inspiron barely gave two min of backup, the Dell technician mentioned that the battery had hardened since it was always used on power.

He suggested that the laptop be used solely on battery periodically (say, once a month) to allow the battery to be completely discharged.

Two years later, on another Dell Inspiron laptop when the battery was towards the end of its life at ten months, a different Dell technician mentioned that the battery cells were weak.

He then went on to explain that every rechargeable battery has a finite number of charging/discharging cycles. Every time the battery is used and then charged, you use up one cycle.

* Technology has since changed wherein one cycle is said to have been used only when the battery is completely used and then recharged.

http://www.zdnet.com/article/six-tip...ble-batteries/

The touchpad on my Mac, although functioning as necessary, isn't giving me the "click" sound. On browsing, I found that a probable cause is that the battery has hardened, not giving the touchpad enough room to "click".

So, one school of thought says, use the device on battery power to avoid the battery from getting hardened.

The other says, every time you do that, you're using up one of the finite charging cycles.

Obviously, the battery can't last forever; but what's the right way to use these batteries. The fine line between not weakening it, at the same time, not letting swell up.

Anyone with scientific basis for how they're designed/supposed to be used?
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Old 23rd October 2016, 15:04   #2
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Default re: The right way to use laptop / smartphone batteries?

This has always been a mystery to me too i.e. what is the correct way. Thanks for starting this thread.

Coming to my experience, I have had several issues with my erstwhile Dell Inspiron N5010 including battery related.
The battery gave up completely in about 2 years. Usage wise, it was mostly plugged in. A friend who had the same laptop used his lappy mostly on battery i.e. he used to plug in only when the battery level was down. But his battery too gave up in about 2.5 years.

OTOH, my brother's HP Pavilion i5 which is 5 years old still runs on original battery with around 2 hours of backup. Earlier it was 3.5 hours when the laptop was new. His usage style is a combination of both. Sometimes plugged in even when the battery is fully charged as he is used to leave the laptop switched on over night and other times uses it without power chord.

Don't know what to make out of my experiences other than that Dell uses an inferior battery.

Last edited by Sherlocked : 23rd October 2016 at 15:09.
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Old 23rd October 2016, 17:15   #3
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Default re: The right way to use laptop / smartphone batteries?

I keep the charge between 20% to 80%. Never allow the powers to go below 20 % or beyond 80%.

There are too many suggestion to prolong the life of battery and I found this one to be sensible.
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Old 23rd October 2016, 17:52   #4
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Default re: The right way to use laptop / smartphone batteries?

I don't know what the golden rule is. I don't think anybody does.

For my Laptop: (June 2014 Lenovo G500)

I keep the laptop always plugged. I use it without AC power a few times a month only(20-25 hours a month).
I still get close to 3 hours on screen time which was the same I got from day 1.

For my Phone: (August 2015 Xiaomi Mi4i)

I just charged it till 100 % the first time and turned on Wifi after that. Many people just charge their new phones for 8 hours because the person at the shop said so.

Since mom handed the phone to me in Jan '16, I charge the phone for the whole night, every night.

I haven't faced any issues with battery. I easily make it through the average day (3 hours of SOT, 3G data on for almost all the time ) with about 25-30 % remaining.

With Wifi, I can manage 4-4.5 hours of SOT at home.
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Old 24th October 2016, 00:20   #5
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Default re: The right way to use laptop / smartphone batteries?

Let me add a bit from what I have learnt from different sourced including my own experiences and digging into battery guidelines published by renowned manufacturers.

And, let us also understand that the batteries work based on a chemical "locha" that happens between metal and chemicals.

While the number of cycles part seems to be true for Nickel Cadmium (Ni-Cd) batteries, don't charge full or drain fully sure is the thing for most common batteries as of today - Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) batteries. Ni-Cd batteries also have a problem with not draining them completely - something related to their where the individual cells think they are charged if not drained completely and hence do not charge fully inside when charged again.

I have had similar experiences of my 8 month old laptop battery die. That was way back in 2002. It was most of the time connected to power as I had to run urgently to customer offices and needed my full 2 hours of battery for those purposes. The reason was the same as stated in above posts - don't keep it on AC power all the time. So I started to train myself the practice of using the laptops on battery and let it drain to about 15-25% before connecting it back to the plug. It sure works better this way. I haven't had a premature battery failure in the last 13-14 years on any of my laptops or cell phones.

The only batteries I have had replaced were on a Sony mobile (pre Sony Ericsson era) after 3-4 years of usage and an Nokia mobile after 3 years of usage. So, they are not premature. Yes, more recently on my HTC One M7 after 20 months of heavy usage (3-4K minutes a month) + daily watching videos on whatsapp or youtube for at least 60-90 minutes + the killer one, to use it as a hotspot to connect my and my colleague's laptops for 2-3 days in a week when we work from remote sites (data cable connected and hotspot on for about 8-9 hours continuously) and using up about 5GB data every month (all the videos and stuff were on WiFi). SO, for the abuse I have put it through, it was not premature and I changed battery just because I had to charge up the phone at about 5PM.

I have a Sony Vaio entry level laptop - made in July 2010, bought in Feb 2011. During initial setup, Sony suggested to limit battery charge to 80% to extend the battery life. I selected okay for that and my laptop doesn't charge beyond 80%. This laptop was abused fairly when we were in the UK - it was always on and always connected to power. For a long time it was our media hub with HDMI out to TV + a wireless mouse to operate from the couch. We sort of lost the habit of disconnecting it from the plug when not in use. Even today it gives me the same 1.5-2 hr backup (depends on what I use it for) that I got when I bought it years ago.

A little more interesting story now.
I am now in Canada on deputation. Needed a car and found a 2004 Toyota Prius (Hybrid of course) with low miles on the Odo. I thought, a car in good shape, practical (among other things, I moved bunk bed frame + mattresses once and a 3-seater couch once), comfortable, a Toyota, low miles, in good shape, we don't stay here for long and hence selling it would be easier when we have to go back. Bought it. Not before I did my research on the Hybrid battery life and inquired with a few knowledgeable chaps I got to meet during my car search at several used car dealerships about their experiences with old Priuses. Everything as encouraging and positive. Then upon much digging, I found some whitepapers on by Toyota identifying how they mention that their Hybrid batteries DO NOT need replacement unless they get faulty and are "for life of the car"

Toyota Priuses use Nickel-Medal Hydride (Ni-MH) batteries that do not have charge-discharge problems of Ni-Cd batteries but not as dense as Li-Ion batteries. Now, think of this - there are not many better examples of batteries running flawlessly for 12+ years (in my Car's case) and going strong in situations where they charge rapidly and discharge rapidly and take millions of charge and discharge cycles. Even if I drive the 160 KMs from Ottawa to Montreal, it would be a few thousands of charges and discharges.

So, what did Toyota do?
When the battery icon in the Prius Info Display shows "Full", it is actually charged to 80%. It never charges over 80%. When it shows Red and "empty", it is at 30% charge. The circuit doesn't let it drain below 30% as long as the circuit is connected. Effectively just the mid 50% of the battery capacity is used.

Hope that helps guys.

PS: ever seen geeky Android ROM's giving you options to stop charging your battery at 80% and switching off phone at 20%?

More notes:
- In case of your mobiles, since the charging pins are pretty standard, you have options. Not many such options for laptops! The FAST chargers are not as good for battery life as the low Amp output slow chargers. My phone was supplied with a Quick Charge 2 charger with 2.5A output and charges the 3000 MAh battery in 90 minutes or less. I use this option when I have to charge phone before going to office in the morning. But, I generally charge my phone overnight (from about 10:30 AP to 6 AM) using the old 0.75A charger. The discharge rate is better when I use a slow charger.
- Almost all batteries of this age have a circuit that protects them from overcharge. That's a little saving grace.
- Last year there was a sub-brand from Lenovo that launched a phone with physical cut off circuit once the battery is charged. ZUK Z1 I think.


Kindly note: I am no expert. These are my personal learning due to my interest in making my purchases last longer (middle class mentality) and for being an amateur geek who tries to learn about the technology he uses.
If someone one knows it better, please correct my update and I shall be happy to learn.

Last edited by MotoKris : 24th October 2016 at 00:48.
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Old 24th October 2016, 12:18   #6
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Default re: The right way to use laptop / smartphone batteries?

I eagerly await to see conclusive tests / results on this thread.
As of now I am bewildered.

NiCd batteries that used to come earlier, were supposed to be charged and discharged completely due to the memory effect.
Li ion cells should not be discharged completely.
NiMH cells do not have the memory effect.

But these are all what I have read on blogs and other non conclusive sites.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MotoKris View Post
So, what did Toyota do?
When the battery icon in the Prius Info Display shows "Full", it is actually charged to 80%. It never charges over 80%. When it shows Red and "empty", it is at 30% charge. The circuit doesn't let it drain below 30% as long as the circuit is connected. Effectively just the mid 50% of the battery capacity is used.
WONDERFUL!

Last edited by alpha1 : 24th October 2016 at 12:20.
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Old 24th October 2016, 12:34   #7
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Default Re: The right way to use laptop / smartphone batteries?

Quote:
Originally Posted by libranof1987 View Post
the Dell technician mentioned that the battery had hardened since it was always used on power. He suggested that the laptop be used solely on battery periodically (say, once a month) to allow the battery to be completely discharged.
Don't you already do this? Else, why have a laptop over a desktop?

I don't pay any special attention to making my batteries last. Use the laptop on the docking port at work (plugged in) and about an hour or so around the house (on battery). 3.5 years up and my Dell laptop still has reasonable battery life. I'd say it's 70% of what it was when new.

Quote:
Originally Posted by shijinpr View Post
I keep the charge between 20% to 80%. Never allow the powers to go below 20 % or beyond 80%.
You have some software that does this? I hope so. Our lives are complicated enough ; where would one find the bandwidth to watch the charge level?
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Old 24th October 2016, 13:29   #8
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Default Re: The right way to use laptop / smartphone batteries?

I had a Toshiba which I changed this month to a dell. On the Toshiba, I had just 1 battery change in the 7 years of ownership. I used to charge (most of the times) only when I used to get a message saying the charge left is xx% and I need to plug in to use the laptop or in some cases when unintentionally I saw the charge being lower. This was when I was the only user for the laptop.

When better half started using it the laptop used to be plugged in even when the battery was full and I feel that considerably reduced the life. I changed the battery and the second one did not last as long as the first one.

Likewise in phones, for a brief period I used an app called battery doctor. That app said that once in awhile we should let the charge drop below 15% and then do a full charge cycle to let the battery last longer. So IMHO I would say it's always better to charge only when required. The battery is there for a purpose and should be put to use.

OT - Has anyone tried using a laptop by plugging into mains and removing the battery? Might sound stupid but have always had this question on mind and I always forget to try it out
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Old 24th October 2016, 14:15   #9
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Default Re: The right way to use laptop / smartphone batteries?

Quote:
Originally Posted by GTO View Post
You have some software that does this? I hope so. Our lives are complicated enough ; where would one find the bandwidth to watch the charge level?
Yes we do. Newer laptop have system programs that do this kind of management. It is mostly 88% cut off for laptops.
Anyway , it is almost 3 years in my personal Lenovo G series laptop, its puny battery still going on by using manual charge management, where my work laptop's mighty 9cell batteries died in a year or so, as I put in on charge cable whenever I am in office.
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Old 24th October 2016, 14:26   #10
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Default Re: The right way to use laptop / smartphone batteries?

This was a big dilemma for me once, so i started reading up and figured first thing to do is ascertain what kind of battery is used in the device. This is the most critical step in deciding what kind of charging cycle one should follow. Next would be to check the relevant device support site or user manual, since it would give inputs on how what that device manufacturer has incorporated from their side.

Since lithium ion's are the favorite these days, this short article maybe quite useful for users.
http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/fiv...-battery-life/
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Old 24th October 2016, 20:54   #11
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Default Re: The right way to use laptop / smartphone batteries?

Quote:
Originally Posted by GTO View Post
Don't you already do this? Else, why have a laptop over a desktop?

You have some software that does this? I hope so. Our lives are complicated enough ; where would one find the bandwidth to watch the charge level?
Oh no! I does this manually, simple tasks in our complex life
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Old 25th October 2016, 09:35   #12
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Default Re: The right way to use laptop / smartphone batteries?

Using the battery correctly is one thing, how do you guys dispose off the used batteries correctly? I have some lying around and don't want to just throw them in the bin nor give them to that kabadi wala.
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Old 25th October 2016, 10:31   #13
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Default Re: The right way to use laptop / smartphone batteries?

Quote:
Originally Posted by centaur View Post

OT - Has anyone tried using a laptop by plugging into mains and removing the battery? Might sound stupid but have always had this question on mind and I always forget to try it out
Of course it works!
But be careful, if there is a loose connection (typically 3 potential points: mains socket, SMPS entry, laptop connection) you are gone.
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