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Planned laptop obsolescence?
October 6, 2011 10:01 AM   Subscribe

I am really wary about buying a laptop with a non-user-replaceable battery. Opinions on this? How painful/possible is it to get such batteries replaced when they fail?

I don't get this whole concept of having a non-user-replaceable battery in a laptop. Or in anything like that, really (kindle, ipad, smartphone, ...). I've always had the impression that the useful life of these sorts of rechargeable batteries is a year or two. Am I just supposed to throw the whole thing on the trash heap at that point? That's sick! So how long do these batteries really last, and what are we supposed to do when they fail?
posted by madmethods to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
If, for instance, you get a MacBook Air, you take it to the Apple Store and they replace it same day--sometimes even while you wait. Same thing with some of the other Apple devices.

My most recent Apple battery lasted around four years.

YMMV, but I don't see being without my laptop for an afternoon once every four years as a big problem.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:05 AM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


There are often kits you can get as well as directions off the internet to do these things.

If you are up to the challenge, it shouldn't be too difficult. In the event you cannot carry out the repair, its unlikely you'd damage anything with an attempt.

/keep all screws, take pictures of the tear down and you should be good.
posted by handbanana at 10:15 AM on October 6, 2011


My Macbook battery is well over 2 years old, and it still holds about 85% of the charge it did when brand-new. (It's replaceable, but my point is, I've never bothered getting a new one.) My iPhone battery is 2 years old and battery life is nearly as good as when it was new, and it goes through at least one full charge cycle every 24 hours. Now, I've also not bought any low-end electronics in a while, maybe those batteries degrade faster, but I can't even remember the last time a device's battery became unusable before something else (general age, dropping it, etc) made me replace the whole device.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:20 AM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


OP doesn't say what device is under consideration. Most manufacturers will replace the battery for a fee. If the manufacturer is Apple, they'll either "service" the unit (iPhone, iPod, MacBook) or replace the unit (iPad) for a fee. Other manufacturers should probably have a policy which you'd be wise to research with reference to the particular product.

There are also several sites helpful for DIY replacement for things that don't seem replaceable at first blush. (See, e.g., MacBook Air takedown.)
posted by Hylas at 10:21 AM on October 6, 2011


I've owned a lot of laptops, and while they have some definite degradation after a couple years, if they didn't have totally crap battery life in the first place, I've usually been able to get at least four years before I think it'd be worth replacing the battery on that basis. At which point I'm usually ready to replace the device itself.
posted by gracedissolved at 10:32 AM on October 6, 2011


I have had three Mac laptops in about 14 years. I get about 3-4 years on a laptop battery, new, and about 2-3 with replacements.

My MacBook Air is the only one of these three where the battery is hidden away, and I was a bit nervous about that. But I am using a third-generation model, so I imagine that most of the kinks in the engineering and the replacement service process have been worked out by now.

I also expect that pentalobe screwdrivers and replacement batteries will be widely available from iFixIt, etc. in that timeframe, when I ultimately need to replace the battery in my Air.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:01 AM on October 6, 2011


I was you until a few months ago.

I wouldn't buy a new Macbook to replace my old one for years because of this.

I finally relented because Apple's service at the Genius Bar has been so good that I trust them. Also because non-accessible laptops can be made - and Apple does make them - physically stronger and able to hold a larger battery.
posted by zippy at 12:15 PM on October 6, 2011


NOTE: I could be wrong, BUT - at my company, we have a number of Apple products, several of which are fairly recent purchases - within the last 3 years, say. Imacs, notebooks. However, Apple so far has refused to replace anything that is not under warranty for us, even if we want to pay for it. We go "um, we'll pay you to fix this - we know you have parts." Apple Store: "Sorry. You can try to find some online, or go to a 3rd party authorized Apple dealer/repair center." (Yes, somebody could have purchased extended warranties, don't ask me why they didn't).

I do not know if this would also apply to batteries in recent production Mac notebooks (we haven't asked for a battery replacement yet), but they certainly won't replace any other part we've tried getting replaced there that was out of warranty. Better check on that before you buy one.
posted by bitterkitten at 12:43 PM on October 6, 2011


My mid-2009 Macbook Pro still has a completely great battery life, and it's never been replaced.

We have a three-year-old iPhone 3G in the house, too, and it's still got an OK battery life -- not as good as when it was brand new, but certainly enough to get you through a day of hard use.

We have Nintendo DSes with non-user-serviceable batteries, one of which must be five years old, and they're likewise just fine.

We do have a first-gen Kindle in which the battery doesn't hold a charge anymore; but there's something else wrong with the device, because replacing the battery didn't fix it.

In summary: The useful battery of a non-replaceable battery is a lot longer than you think it is.
posted by Andrhia at 12:45 PM on October 6, 2011


I have only replaced the battery on one laptop (a Dell); the rest were just fine for the life of the laptop. That said, I did have an IBM 486 which I used for years after the battery died - it just became a portable non-battery computer. (Still works for that - know anyone who really wants a 486 running Windows 3.1?)
posted by jb at 12:56 PM on October 6, 2011


Oh, and I didn't have to replace the Dell battery - it's just that it had gone from 3 hours to 1.5 hours, and I had the chance to get a 9-volt which did 4.5 hours.
posted by jb at 12:57 PM on October 6, 2011


NOTE: I could be wrong, BUT - at my company, we have a number of Apple products, several of which are fairly recent purchases - within the last 3 years, say. Imacs, notebooks. However, Apple so far has refused to replace anything that is not under warranty for us, even if we want to pay for it. We go "um, we'll pay you to fix this - we know you have parts." Apple Store: "Sorry. You can try to find some online, or go to a 3rd party authorized Apple dealer/repair center." (Yes, somebody could have purchased extended warranties, don't ask me why they didn't).

That's weird and totally counter to my experience. On several occasions, I've gone to the Apple Store and they've said "this isn't covered under warranty, it will cost $XXX for us to fix it." Regardless, the MBP and Air batteries are explicitly replaceable for fee, not under warranty.
posted by The Michael The at 1:26 PM on October 6, 2011


Even if the battery totally fails, the unit still works if it's plugged in. It isn't like it becomes completely useless.

And by that point you're probably going to want to get something new anyway.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:20 PM on October 6, 2011


Apple has different (worse) support for corporate customers.

I would qualify the answer with this: if the battery is soldered in or the case is unable to be opened, I wouldn't buy the thing. But if the battery is just under a cover or two and can be unscrewed and unplugged, I'd have no problem with that.

Even if the battery totally fails, the unit still works if it's plugged in. It isn't like it becomes completely useless.

Not necessarily. I've replaced nearing 100 batteries in Thinkpads that have failed in exactly that way.

User: My laptop is dead! [gnashing of teeth]
Me: Take the battery out and try running it with just the cord.
User: It works!
posted by gjc at 6:13 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


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