All Day Laptop Battery Life—for Under $200

If you do a lot of your web work on a laptop, you’re probably familiar with the sing-song promises from the battery community about how they’re just about to deliver all-day computing power. Yeah, right. The promises from the fuel cell researchers and other purported geniuses of juice have gone unmet for decades now. The good news is that for under $200 there are several ways to get all-day power.

My favorite solution for all-day power is an external battery. You can get these for well under $200, they weigh under two pounds and in some cases under one pound, and if you’re willing to buy a higher end battery, you can get up to 16 hours of continuous laptop usage (although your mileage may vary if you do, say, many continuous hours of streaming video).

My current favorite universal external battery for use with my laptop is the PowerPad 95 from Electrovaya (see below). It’s $199, which may seem slightly expensive, but I do roaming work with a laptop constantly and this battery has long since paid for itself. The PowerPad 95 is under two pounds and when fully charged I find it can deliver up to eight hours of power if I’m doing a lot of word processing and e-mail and the like, and about six hours if I’m occasionally doing streaming video and audio.

You can charge the PowerPad 95 fully in under four hours, but since I typically get over three hours of power out of my laptop’s built-in lithium-ion battery, I often just charge the PowerPad 95 for about two hours and that partial charge will give me up to five hours of extra power. Electrovaya quotes the PowerPad 95 as capable of an 80 percent charge in 2.5 hours. Once it’s charged, when I need to use it I just plug it into my notebook’s AC power port.
There are a number of less expensive external batteries, and lighter ones, but they typically won’t give you as many hours of power as the PowerPad 95. The previous external battery I used was from APC. It consistently gave me about three hours of power and you can get many of the APC units for well under $100.
What if money is no object? Electrovaya’s PowerPad 300 is on my wish list. It costs $599, but it’s quoted at 22 hours of power on a full charge. Who needs all-day power when you can get all-day and nearly all-night power?
Do you have any good tips on how to get all-day power?