You expect that you use a laptop, especially an Ultrabook through most of the day on a mixture of tasks ranging from basic data entry / content creation through playing audio and video content to even playing games. Often these tasks require you to be online all the time, thus causing you to use the built-in Wi-Fi network adaptor or a wireless-broadband adaptor whether built-in or plugged in to the machine’s USB port or ExpressCard slot. Here, you expect the battery to last around 6-10 hours on this activity mix with you just plugging the laptop in to its charger and having it on charge for up to 8 hours while you eat and sleep.
This is compared to you having to make sure that you have the charger in your laptop bag when you are out for the day and looking for power outlets all the time after a significant amount of battery-only activity.
A common reality with the battery life on a laptop is that this factor can be easily assessed, measured and reviewed on new machines where the battery would be performing at its best. But as the battery pack ages as you use the machine, the runtime will typical deplete through the repeated charge and discharge cycles. Similarly, the kind of usage a customer throws at a laptop or similar device may not be typical of what a manufacturer or reviewer would observe due to the mixed nature of this use, the laptop’s configuration which may be different from what was assessed with, and the peripherals connected to the machine.
The article talked of the idea of a laptop having the horsepower of a “thin-and-light” like an Ultrabook or the Toshiba Portege R830, but as thick as a regular “standard” laptop. But this extra thickness is taken up with a larger high-capacity battery pack that facilitates a longer runtime. It is a practice that has been tried before with some portable-computer implementations including the Apple iPad.
As well, Sony have implemented this concept with their add-on external-battery-packs that are available for their VAIO S Series and VAIO Z Series that I have reviewed. From the various comments and images that I have come across regarding these accessory batteries and their use with the VAIO laptops, the laptops don’t become obnoxiously weighty or thick when the battery packs are installed.
Nowadays the issue of battery life in the ultra-slim laptops is becoming more important as Intel releases the Ivy Bridge processor range which provides integrated graphics for these computers that can yield high performance for most video and gaming needs. Of course, it may not satisfy the needs of competitive LAN-party gamers or high-end video-editing / graphics needs.
Here, intense graphics-rich activity on these computers, such as a marathon session of Civilization V on the long-haul flight or a long run of video editing and transcoding for that “on-the-road” vidcast may put a strain on the Ultrabook’s battery. If the concept of a laptop equipped with the abilities of a “thin-and-light” but using a high-capacity battery; or a “thin-and-light” working with a high-capacity add-on battery pack was followed through, you could then provide for more room with the battery even after this kind of activity takes place.
Of course, I would still ensure that there is the ability to run these computers on external power as a way of not compromising battery runtime when you are using the computer at your “base”, whether it be your office, hotel room or car.
It is then still worth factoring in long-run battery life in laptop’s design, whether as part of the computer itself or as an optional accessory, especially for those of us who may consider working online and away from power for significant periods.