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Why do so many laptops use internal batteries today?


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#1 Vectron

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Posted 29 December 2017 - 10:30 AM

What's the big deal with all the laptops today?

The last time I bought a laptop was back in 2012 when I got a Dell Inspiron 15R. Anyway I recently wanted to buy a new one and went to a number of stores to see what they have for sale. I totally expected to see laptops with replaceable/detachable batteries like they were in the older models, but I was shocked to see that nearly all laptops are now using built-in batteries.

  • The first thing I would like to know is why. Why are the manufacturers so inclined towards this built-in design?
  • Why are the batteries shrinking. The older models used 6-cell batteries, 8 cell and even some 9-cell batteries. I put this down on my wishlist before I went shopping only to find out that today the majority of laptops only have 4-cell batteries. Have the laptops really become this efficient? Or do they simply offer shorter battery life?
  • What, if I want to replace the battery? What, if I want to remove it and have the device run on adapter only?
  • What, if I want to turn the device off? I mean how can I be sure it is off and not secretly spying on the user, if it has constant access to power supply? How can this be remedied?

 

Regards!



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#2 britechguy

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Posted 29 December 2017 - 03:03 PM

1.  Virtually any choices various manufacturers make come down to two factors:  ease of assembly and cost (and cost broadly - it definitely costs more to design a case that allows a battery to be removed and inserted).   Oddly, when I was looking recently, I really hadn't noticed what you're noticing.  The HP consumer laptops I ended up buying both have a detachable/replaceable battery pack.

 

2.  Battery technology has definitely gotten better and better, as has processor energy use, but it really comes back to cost.  They can give "most users" what they need or want in a smaller, less expensive, package.   I definitely like the lighter weight.

 

3.  Replacing the battery in an internal battery model is the same as replacing any other internal component in the device.  You have to tear it down (at least to some extent, unless there is a door, and these are definitely becoming rare) to get to it.   I never run a laptop sans battery and most modern ones have power management built in that will allow the battery to run down to a certain level before starting charging again.  This is less necessary with Li-ion than it was with NiCd (which I haven't seen used in a long time now) or NiMH.

 

4.  Batteries run down, and in fairly short order.   If you want to drain your battery such that the PC cannot run (and, perhaps, not even sleep) on the available power it's a simple matter to leave it on, with no charger attached, to drain the battery in a few hours.   I don't believe my computers are "spying on me" in any meaningful sense, even when running.  Most people don't worry about desktops when they're powered down and there's not much difference between them and a laptop if you've intentionally drained the battery to the point where they shut themselves down.


Edited by hamluis, 30 December 2017 - 11:37 AM.

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#3 mjd420nova

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Posted 30 December 2017 - 01:00 PM

The use of the new lithium-ion batteries has really made the removable batteries obsolete.  That's not to say that they will last forever, but with proper care, they will probably last longer than the technology they run on.  Toshiba tried in their early days of laptops to make the batteries internal, they didn't last very long and had to be replaced, which was quite a job as they weren't assembled into a pack but spread out over various open spaces inside the unit.  Tablets brought on the need for internal batteries as the mfgr wanted to make a unit that only their service centers could get into, like Apple is doing with their phones. 



#4 DavisMcCarn

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Posted 30 December 2017 - 03:43 PM

Internal batteries save the manufacturer a couple of dollars so there is your driving factor.

But; additionally, the power consumption of the various components has dropped significantly, too which is why the runtime hours have gone up dramatically with lower capacity batteries.  CPU chips, for one, have dropped from 35 watts in typical laptops to 15.


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#5 Vectron

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Posted 30 December 2017 - 06:03 PM

I don't believe my computers are "spying on me" in any meaningful sense, even when running.

It was a hypothetical question, I was just wondering. I saw some security people complain about these batteries because they were worried that a device firmware (Intel Management Engine) could be compromised, and they wouldn't be able to turn the device off.

But otherwise I have to agree with you on the point about easily removable covers. I recall some older HP models you had to completely disassemble (which includes removing the motherboard from the case entirely) so you could access the fan and clean it. Pure garbage design, if you ask me. Laptops should have easily removable covers for fan cleaning and component access i.e. battery, RAM, HDD, etc. Most of devices on sale that I inspected didn't have such access pads.




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