Help me get a cheap laptop, long battery life, and if you could, while you're at it, get me the Ark of the Covenant...
August 31, 2008 7:09 AM   Subscribe

I might be in the market for a new laptop. Should I bother trying to get a new laptop, or should I just buy a third battery for a current laptop and switch the batteries out mid-class?

It has to run Windows (and Office 2007, but that's a given), be cheapish (ideally around 600$ CAD), and have a good battery life.

It would be a notetaking laptop, i.e. all I care about is that it can take notes, will last throughout my classes, and that I can physically carry it to class. I don't need it for anything else.

I often have 4.5 hours of class a day, and in the winter semester, I'll have 6 hours of class a day pretty regularly. I would not have enough time to recharge a battery between classes. Most classes don't have easily-accessible laptop plugs, and those that do have about two plugs for classes have 30 to 200 people registered, so recharging batteries during class isn't usually an option, either.

The minimum battery life I'd consider for a new laptop is 3 hours of battery life, as my classes are 1.5 hours long, and that way I wouldn't have to change into a backup battery mid-class. Instead, my battery would last for two classes, then I'd pop in a backup during a short break I have.

Currently, a free laptop I own has about 2 hours of battery life. That's 3 hours if I use switch in a backup battery mid-class. Plus, even for the days that I only have 3 hours of class, I'd have to change battery mid-class (about halfway through the second class), which is not ideal. If I buy another battery, that'll give me 4 hours, which is barely enough for my 4.5 hour-days (as the lectures don't last for the entire class). It'll mean I'm changing battery mid-class twice, which means I'm missing a lot of notes, as it boots very, very slowly. I can take the notes during the reboot period with pen and paper, but I don't know if this is one of those things that would drive me nuts in ways I have not yet anticipated, or if this is a fine idea. Am I nuts or just thrifty?

I know battery life is like the holy grail for laptops--everyone wants it, and to get it you need to cough up money--but IF getting a new laptop is the best idea, I was wondering if you could suggest ways I can cheap out on most of the specs so I only get what I need. I'm decently computer savvy, but spec-talk bores the crap out of me, so while I know the basics--Vista needs 2GB RAM as a practical minimum, etc.--I don't know enough to help me save money. Any help?

Or should I just suck it up, buy a third battery, and take a pen and paper for the 10- to 15-minute period it needs to shut down and reboot to change the battery?
posted by flibbertigibbet to Computers & Internet (14 answers total)
You may want to look into an all-day external laptop battery- Powerpads can supposedly get you 7 - 10 hours. They are a bit expensive- $200 or so.

Definitely over-buy on capacity, as you will see power capacity degrade over time.
posted by jenkinsEar at 7:23 AM on August 31, 2008

What about an Eee PC?
posted by saxamo at 8:06 AM on August 31, 2008

What make/model is the current laptop? You may be able to get an extended life battery.
posted by meta_eli at 8:23 AM on August 31, 2008

I also think an Eee PC might work for you, if all you need is notes. It would be the same price as a good battery.
posted by Sonic_Molson at 8:35 AM on August 31, 2008

Response by poster: I've been considering an Eee since I started this, but I need to see it instore. Anyone have any idea which Canadian chains sell Eee? A search of the Futureshop and BestBuy websites only turn up Rat Pack Eee-oh-eleven CDs.

If I did get an Eee, I'd probably go for an Eee 1000, which fits all my needs pretty much perfectly. It claims to have 4-8 hours of battery life on XP, and is within my price range.

I can't find out if my Gateway is compatible with a Powerpad (because it's currently indisposed and I can't find the model number to compare with its compatibility list), but if it is, that'd be amazing! Thanks.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 9:52 AM on August 31, 2008

Response by poster: Sigh. Seems my Gateway is one of the few to NOT be compatible with a Powerpad. I'll double- and triple-check later, but dang that's disappointing, it would've been almost perfect.

Well, time to save up for an Eee 1000, then. I just need to find a place to actually touch the thing to see if it's too tiny to type on. Anyone know of a store in Ottawa with an Eee 1000?
posted by flibbertigibbet at 10:43 AM on August 31, 2008

Acer has announced a version of their aspire one netbook with model number A150-1447. It's doesn't look like you could actually buy one yet but I'm thinking that it might be more attractive than the Asus models when it shows up. You can pick up 3 cell battery versions of the aspire one for as little as $330.00 from newegg. The 1447 will come with a 6 cell battery. The 1447's lightness and battery life has got me thinking about buying one. I haven't actually used either the EEE or the Aspire One.
posted by rdr at 11:51 AM on August 31, 2008

My Eee gets about six hours and you can get a mega battery that will give you 10
posted by A189Nut at 12:52 PM on August 31, 2008

Whatever you get, make sure it can play TF2 (inside joke).
posted by Crankatator at 3:58 PM on August 31, 2008

Even though the powerpad doesn't work for ya, cnet does have some other external battery options- some seem to come in random voltages that may be more compatible with your box.
posted by jenkinsEar at 9:59 PM on August 31, 2008

Response by poster: Of the four listed there, one has been discontinued (Valence N-Charge), one is the Powerpad again, one looks like it might be far too heavy, and the other one got pretty bad reviews.

Thanks anyways, though!
posted by flibbertigibbet at 10:48 PM on August 31, 2008

I know you say it needs to run Windows and Office 2007, but if you really just need a portable machine with a long battery life to take notes on, check out the Alphasmart products. The Alphasmart Neo has "up to 700 hours" of battery life and you can easily transfer your notes to your laptop after your classes are over (and review them, I suppose, which should help learning). I don't have one, but I've heard a lot of good things. I'd recommend it over an Eee PC, since I don't think they've quite got the battery life to something amazing yet. Maybe if the 901 model really does get "4.2 to 7.8" hours (per Wikipedia).

Also, thank you, jenkinsEar, for alerting me to the existence of powerpads. Maybe I'll buy one at some point.
posted by Gnatcho at 2:03 AM on September 1, 2008

Response by poster: Gnatcho: Apparently, the MSI Wind, which is basically identical to the Eee 1000h, has a battery life of about 5.25 hours (compared to the Eee's 4.5, according to this page).

The only problem with the Alphasmart is that I like my notes to be formatted a certain way, in-class, to give me a hierarchy of ideas and to help me remember facts easier, and it doesn't seem the Alphasmart can do that. Thanks though!
posted by flibbertigibbet at 8:36 AM on September 1, 2008

Response by poster: Hey guys! Thanks for all the tips. I'm typing this up on my Eee!
posted by flibbertigibbet at 10:13 PM on September 6, 2008

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