Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Heightened battery expectations

I'm typing this on a MacBook Pro (borrowed from work for the weekend), and I'm amazed at the battery life. It's close to six hours -- provided you turn the display brightness down almost all the way, turn off the wifi, and run no software other than a smallish text editor. This is up from around two hours when I'm playing music on iTunes, with the brightness on full, and running Firefox with the WiFi on. Triple the battery life, just by toning it down and killing the internet connection -- depending on what I need to do, this is a fair trade.

This makes me wonder about the battery life of netbooks, like the Dell Mini 9 (4 hours) or the Acer Aspire One (6 hours), or an eeePC (up to 10 hours). They don't tell us what settings and software they used to get their numbers. Are they running the same bare-bones setup I am, or is this seven hours with reasonable brightness and wifi use? This is something that'd be important to know, but which is hard to find out.

I keep staring at various netbooks, debating whether there's one in my eventual future. One of my biggest questions is, can I actually type on one for hours? And, I think I found my answer -- I think the keyboard is the same size as my GoType Palm keyboard, which I found comfortable and easy to use. That is, the specs say a GoType has 17mm key spacing, standard is 19mm, and the keyboards on netbooks are generally listed as "88% size". So keyboard size is not a problem; the only issue might be hand position and keyboard layout. I tried a folding PocketPC keyboard for my Axim a few years ago, and it was nice except for the fact that they put the up arrow where the right shift key should've been. Dumb, and it rendered the keyboard very difficult to type on. So I suspect I'll have to try one out before I take the plunge and buy it, assuming I can find a way to test drive one. And assuming I've ever got that much unbudgeted money all at once.

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