Mac Musings

NewerTech TiBook Battery Provides Four Hours of Use

Dan Knight - 2004.05.24 - Tip Jar

It's not a widely publicized fact, but rechargeable batteries wear out over time. I'm not talking about the way they slowly use power while sitting on the shelf or unused in your 'Book, but the fact that the materials responsible for creating the power break down over time.

According to one article, the expected life of a NiMH battery - the kind found in current Apple portables - is two to three years. I can tell you from personal experience that the battery in my TiBook dropped from 3 hours and 26 minutes to 65 minutes between January 2001 and April 2004.

I'd been intrigued by the NewerTech batteries sold by Other World Computing. Their website claims 30% more power from the NewerTech battery than from the one Apple shipped with the 400 and 500 MHz TiBooks.

Although I use my PowerBook mostly at my apartment and in my home office, I also take it to the camera store now and then, and I also like to use it sometimes without digging out the power supply. With the old battery and the Energy Saver setting tweaked, I couldn't run the TiBook for an hour before the low battery warning popped up.

I debated living with a nearly shot battery or replacing it, and I finally decided that I had to replace it when a week on sleep was enough to completely drain the old battery. For US$139.99, the NewerTech battery would also cost less than a genuine Apple replacement battery.

I received the new battery, charged it up, and used it in OS X for about a week before testing it. To do that, I booted into OS 9.2.2, launched Battery Amnesia, unplugged the power adapter, and let the TiBook run until it dropped.

BatteryAmnesia

As the chart above indicates, that was 245 minutes later - the NewerTech battery was giving me 4 hours and 5 minutes of power under maximum drain. (Battery Amnesia runs the hard drive constantly and won't dim your display, so it does what it can to create a worst-case scenario. Too bad it's not available in an OS X version.)

The old battery was tested in early February 2001, when it was just a week or two old.

Anyhow, doing the math, the new battery lasted 245 minutes. The old one gave out after 206 minutes when new. That's only a 20% improvement in battery life, but he TiBook was in a stock configuration: 128 MB RAM and a 10 GB hard drive. Today it has a 20 GB drive and 512 MB RAM, so I suspect the power drain is a bit higher, which could account for the difference.

In the real world, I can get at least 4 hours of active use, and with the Energy Saver settings activated, a freshly charged battery usually shows over 5 hours of power. Of course, when I use my modem or my Proxim 802.11b card, power consumption is higher - and battery life is reduced accordingly.

Regardless, the battery does offer a lot more life than the old one did when new, and it costs less than Apple's battery, so if you've got a TiBook, Pismo, Lombard, or WallStreet with an old, fading battery, consider NewerTech as a good value replacement. All of their batteries have more capacity than Apple's batteries, and the prices are very competitive.

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Dan Knight has been using Macs since 1986, sold Macs for several years, supported them for many more years, and has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. If you find Dan's articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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