Who doesn’t have a love/hate relationship with their laptop battery? It lets us be mobile, but it also chains us to that little battery life gauge and the dreaded decay of performance as time goes on. But with the right practices, you can move the relationship more firmly toward the “love” side: Here’s how.
All laptop batteries are built to handle a certain number of usage cycles, usually somewhere around 500, and often more. Each cycle of use decreases the battery’s capacity, so the less you drain it, the longer it’ll last — all other things being equal.
So where do you start? Begin by visiting the Power Settings corner of your laptop. Many computers offer the ability to switch to an “eco mode” that automatically adjust the way power is used (such as dimming your screen brightness) to conserve battery energy.
Also pay attention to hibernation modes. Ideally, you want your laptop to enter into hibernation before the battery is totally drained – as well as during downtime when you won’t be use the laptop for a while.
To save even more power, take a tour of your apps and quit any background apps that are steadily eating into your battery energy. In Windows computers you can look at your System Tray, your Task Manager, and your Processes tab to see which of those little icons really isn’t necessary. In OS X you can see what’s running both in the taskbar to the upper right and the pop-up menu – cloud storage services or video players that you aren’t using can be safely shut down. Both Microsoft and Apple have guides explaining the process further.
In ancient, less enlightened times, there was a problem called “battery memory” which caused batteries to “forget” their full charge capacity and start charging at lower and lower levels. This problem doesn’t exist anymore thanks to modern lithium-ion batteries, but it has led to a lot of poor advice and arguments about battery care based in information many years outdated. It’s time to clear the air.
You don’t need to totally discharge a battery and let it die to somehow reboot it – this is a dangerous practice that’s very hard on your battery. It is a smart idea, however, to do a healthier battery discharge a couple times a year. Let your battery energy grow low (without bottoming it — aim for around 5 percent) and then fully recharge it, all in one go. This maintenance helps calibrate the battery gauge.
While you can leave your battery plugged in for as long as you want (heating issues aside), there is a sweet spot for battery life that you can use to get the most cycles. You see, letting a battery charge to 100 percent all the time does tend to wear the battery out more quickly, while letting it fall too lower in the other direction too often can also be bad news – sort of like forcing yourself to run until your knees hurt. The happy middle ground is, according to Battery University funder and Cadex Electronics CEO Isidor Buchmann, is somewhere between 40 percent and 80 percent battery life.
So the best thing you can do for your battery is charge when it reaches 40 percent, and unplug it when it goes past 80 percent. Obviously this means applying a little OCD to when you plug and unplug your charger, but your battery will thank you in the long term by lasting longer.
Today’s lithium-ion batteries are durable little guys, but they can only take so much heat. Anything above 95 degrees Fahrenheit can damage your laptop battery permanently.
This leads to some common sense suggestions. For example, if you are charging up your battery and it starts to get seriously hot, pop the battery out and give it a break so it can cool down or you can move to someplace with a lower temperature. Likewise, keep the laptop off your actual lap. If testicular damage and discomfort weren’t good enough reasons, you’re also making the problem worse and often block vents.
Cold temperatures usually aren’t a problem, and storing a battery in a cool place is recommended, but don’t leave your laptop in freezing temperatures, ever. Too much cold can kill the battery permanently.
If you want to watch temperature even more closely (say, you live in a particularly hot climate), there are a number of apps you can run that will monitor laptop heat. This includes CoreTemp and Real Temp, which you can download for free.
Most people just let their laptop battery sit, snug inside the laptop, doing its job. But it’s a good idea to take your battery out from time to time and show it a little love. Every few months, detach your battery and give it a careful wipe with a soft cloth – get rid of any dust, and make sure the contact points are especially clean.
Note that this only replies to models with removable batteries. The newer MacBooks in particular have infamously trapped batteries. But if your battery can’t be easily removed, you don’t need to worry about it getting dirty.
Want the best battery? Here’s a quick list of bad practices.
Finally, a note about your software: Update it. Companies, notably Apple, work on improving the way that programs use power via software patches. The same operating system on a later patch could well use less battery energy, giving you more battery life without changing anything. So review your OS and keep your battery on a healthy diet of updates.
AMD’s line of desktop processors isn’t all that straightforward. There are five current product lines split across two categories, powering everything from tiny Mini-ITX small form factor PCs to high-end gaming machines. Naturally, different individual processors are separated by price and performance. Here’s a broad breakdown of the company’s main lines.
AMD’s acquisition of graphics card manufacturer ATI in 2006 boosted the company’s ability to produce and innovate in graphics hardware. As a result, AMD offers three unique lines of “APUs,” or Accelerated Processing Units. These designs combine a CPU and GPU onto the same chip, so motherboards with an APU design don’t need integrated graphics (like Intel’s soldered-on GPU options) or discrete graphics (via a conventional graphics card).
APUs tend to be the less expensive options in AMD’s lineup, often intended for smaller and more energy-efficient machines. The company still offers two lines of traditional CPUs, and these chips require external graphics solutions. AMD CPUs are a better option for system builders who intend to create a conventional workstation or dedicated gaming PC.
Related: What’s an APU, and should you buy one for your PC?
The Sempron line of APUs is AMD’s cheapest option for desktop computers. At the time of writing only two Sempron APU models are sold, the 2650 and 3850. The 2650 is the low-end option, with a dual-core design clocked at 1.45GHz, a 400MHz integrated GPU, and 1MB of L2 cache. The quad-core 3850 runs at 1.3GHz, with a slightly boosted GPU of 450MHz and 2MB of cache. It also supports slightly faster 1600MHz RAM. Both chips use the AM1 socket design and 128-memory core GPU architecture, and can be purchased for less than $30.
You’ll find these chips a good option if you’re building a very basic, low-cost system, or a system that doesn’t require much direct user interaction (like a home file server).
AMD’s mid-range APU lineup gets the Athlon product line name. These chips use faster quad-core processors and zippier GPU clock speeds, but don’t offer a dramatic boost over the Sempron line. The Athlon 5150 runs at 1.6GHz, while the Athlon 5350 runs at 2.05GHz, but otherwise these AM1 socket chips are identical, with 2MB of L2 cache, 600MHz 128 GPU memory cores, and support for RAM at speeds of up to 1600MHz. Athlon APUs retail for under $50.
Athlons are a solid choice for a cheap, general-purpose computer.
The top of the line of AMD’s integrated chips is the A-series. About two dozen variations of the A-series are currently sold, with CPU cores ranging from two to four and GPU cores from two to eight — the highest-end A-series APU is technically a 12-core monster with 4 dedicated CPU cores and 8 dedicated GPU cores. All of them run at significantly higher wattages than the 25W Sempron and Athlon line, ranging from 45-100 watts (making them much heavier hitters on your power bill). Clock speeds for the CPU cores go as high as 4.1GHz for the top model A10-7870K chip with a maximum of 4MB of L2 cache, and GPU clock speeds range from 433MHz to 866MHz. Maximum supported RAM speed varies from 1600MHz all the way to 2133MHz.
The line is broadly separated into A4, A6, A8, and A10 chips, increasing in CPU power, GPU features, and price as you go up. Prices for the slowest A4 chips can be below $50, while the top of the line A10 sells for more than $150. A-series APUs require a FM2 or FM2+ CPU socket.
An A-Series is a good choice if you want a reasonably powerful, yet affordable system, with modest gaming capability. These APUs can’t handle the latest games at high detail settings, but they can play most titles at low-to-medium detail and 1080p resolution.
Athlon CPUs (not to be confused with the APUs above) offer a good price to performance ratio for computer builders who want to create standard work or gaming machines, especially when compared to their more expensive counterparts from Intel. The Athlon series comes in dual-core and quad-core variations, labeled Athlon X2 (1MB of L2 cache) and Athlon X4 (4MB of L2 cache). CPU speeds range from 3.6GHz to 4.1GHz, and at the moment a a variety of architectures and wattages are represented. The cheapest Athlon X2 can be had for around $50, while the most expensive X4 costs about $75. Both use the FM2+ CPU socket, and some are backwards-compatible with the original FM2.
These chips are a good choice for mid-range systems and budget gaming systems if a discrete graphics card is already available. They’re not a good choice for high-end gaming, however, as they simply don’t offer the CPU performance the most demanding games require.
AMD’s 8-core FX series are the fastest and most powerful offered by the company. All of the current chips run at high wattage (95-220 watts) on the AM3+ socket, with speeds ranging from 3.6GHz for the FX 4100 to a blistering 5GHz for the FX 9590. L2 cache ranges from 4MB to 8MB. At the time of writing all FX CPUs use the slightly older 32nm architecture and the maximum DDR3 speed is 1866MHz – DDR4 is not supported as of the FX-8 generation.
The new Re+ hard drives by WD are intended to address the power consumption issues of modern high-capacity datacentres. With 6 Gb/s transfer rates, sequential data rates of up to 225 MB/s and a capacity of up to 550 TB per year, these are claimed to combine the high reliability of Re hard drives and the industry’s best watt-per-gigabyte ratio. In fact, WD claims the Re+ family products have the lowest power consumption of all 3.5-inch hard drives available on the market today.
According to WD, the Re+ hard drive platform is currently the most power-efficient, high-intensity and high-capacity one in terms of total cost of ownership, i.e. capacity-price-power consumption relation. Considering that watts have become a currency, like the dollar, massive deployments of these under today’s large web-scale cloud infrastructures could result in enormous savings of millions of dollars per year, while providing for enhanced performance and reliability as required for high-intensity datacentres.
AeroMobil’s CEO, Juraj Vaculik, has announced the company’s plans to make a functional flying vehicle available to consumers by as early as 2017. The vehicle will be based on the prototype AeroMobil revealed back in October 2014. Its initial price is expected to amount to some couple of hundred thousand euro.
The idea of constructing a flying vehicle was born out of AeroMobil founders’ desire to overcome barriers and restrictions faced by air travelers and drivers, including traffic jams, inefficient short-distance air travel, and lack of infrastructure.
For now, though, both Juraj Vaculik and his co-founder Stefan Klein admit the introduction of flying vehicles is concerned with a number of technical, financial and regulatory issues which need to be immediately addressed. Thus, Aeromobil has not found yet the right materials to construct a light enough flying car, while complying with all crash and safety requirements. However, they expect it will only take two years to solve the problem. All the more, the company enjoys strong EU support, both in terms of certification and funding.
The concept of the first consumer vehicle to be manufactured is a posh “flying roadster,” like that from Tesla’s playbook. Packed with Garmin avionics and two-axis autopilots, the carbon-fiber two-seat roadster is expected to be categorized as a light sports aircraft. It will provide for a travel range of around 430 miles, and its operation won’t require any special license. Mr. Vaculik also claims his flying cars will be able to use grass landing strips and will only need 650 feet to take off or land.
Next generation mass-market flying cars, according to Aeromobil, will be fully autonomous hybrids with four seats and a range twice as long as that of roadsters. However, their introduction is rather a matter of distant future, which implies a lot of regulatory and psychological aspects to be taken into consideration before the future can actually happen.