When Less Isn’t More – We Need Better Batteries

April 28th, 2010 |
More, more, more. In the tech world, who doesn’t want more megahertz in their CPUs? Faster and more powerful GPUs for the increasing demand of high definition video from 1080p. Moore’s Law states that every two years the number of transistors on a circuit board can be doubled. Thus, this is the reason why the iPhones or BlackBerry’s in our pocket are nearly as powerful as a computer I purchased ten years ago. The silicon is shrinking and the hardware is getting stronger.

There’s only one problem – the battery. Batteries haven’t improved as fast as the rest of the computing world. In fact, why the hell are we still using Duracells and Energizers? AA batteries should be obsolete by now. There shouldn’t be a single digital camera on the market that has a battery that can’t last through a days worth of picture taking. No buts. End of story. It’s two-oh-freaking-ten. Designers, get with the times, please!

When Apple revealed their iPhone back in 2007 sporting an internal non-replaceable battery, the world cried foul. Then look what happened. Oh right, no one is whining about it anymore (except for all those Nokia fanboys). The rate at which our gadgets are used to their fullest potential and then disposed is so rapid today that it doesn’t matter. I don’t know a single person who owns an iPhone and has used it to its max for two years and has needed to get the battery replaced – they are still holding charges and bobbing along.

Asutek (Asus) struck on something interesting back when it introduced the first eeePC and practically opened the floodgates to the Netbook category. Their batteries, at the time, sucked. The original 7″ eeePC ran a variant of the open source OS, Linux, and while it was supposed to be the stepping stone to the future, the OS never caught on. Unlike Windows XP, Linux is so un-bloated that a 3-cell battery lasted quite a long time back in the day. We all know what happened to Linux. Consumers demanded Windows XP, and they got it for another couple years until Microsoft shipped Windows 7. Once everyone made the jump to Windows again on their little Netbooks, people demanded more battery. The 3-cell could no longer cut it. We needed 6, 9, and even 12-cell batteries. As the batteries expanded, the slimness of Netbooks became chunky. The Netbook of today is hardly what you would consider ultraportable. At best, a good Netbook is expected to be able to handle a day’s worth of web browsing, because let’s face it, no one wants to be lugging around an AC adapter at all. Lesson: If you’re going to do Linux, make it a competitor to Windows. I’m willing to bet Google’s extremely feather light Chrome OS will be able to jump start what Asus, HP, and many other companies have failed at.

If you asked me which Atom processor is the best for a Netbook, I’d probably have to spend a bit of time on Google. I’ve lost track of all the Intel Atom versions (now there’s dual core Atoms?). The most important thing when considering any mobile device is now, of course, the battery.

With almost every Android phone packing a 1Ghz Snapdragon processsor or iPads with their A4’s and Netbooks with their Atoms, the processor is no longer the cherry on top. Finding a computer that fits your needs, looks good, and has incredible battery life is no easy feat.
One of the companies that have been innovating and putting a larger chunk of R&D into getting more juice out of the old Lithium is none other than Cupertino’s Apple, Inc. Apple may get a lot of attention for their shiny new gadgets from their iPods, iPads, and iPhones, but no one can complain that the batteries that power Apple’s latest gadgets are anything but spectacular. Read the rest of this entry »
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Raymond Wong

Do We Really Need a Tablet? No.

January 20th, 2010 |

One of the major questions that a lot of people are asking is whether or not they will need a tablet computer and what function it will serve on a day-to-day basis. As consumers, we don’t need another portable computer in our lives in addition to the many that we already have.

Step back and think about it. Here is my personal experience, which is increasingly common amongst the “connected” population.

Many of us have a laptop, a smartphone or cell phone that can handle e-mail and messaging, a netbook for on-the-go activities, and a home desktop for “real work”.  On a regular day, I have a cell phone, an iPod touch and a netbook or laptop handy. That’s three devices and all are internet ready. The iPod Touch is used to check my five e-mail accounts, read news on Google Reader, browse Facebook, write some posts on WordPress, listen to music, watch a movie once in a while (if I feel like encoding the video) and for playing some games. As you can already tell, the iPod serves as a necessary part of my daily routine. In fact, the only justification for buying it at its sky high debut price (I bought the 16GB model roughly five months after it was released) was that it would improve my workflow and life. I made the decision that it would. I’ve never looked back. Read the rest of this entry »

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Raymond Wong

2009 the Big Kahuna, 2010 an Even Bigger Kahuna

January 11th, 2010 |

If 2009 was the year of “hope,” then let me dub the year 2010 as the year of refinement in regards to technological developments. In looking back throughout the last year, I noticed one major trend: convergence as a stepping stone. Everywhere I looked, people seemed prepared to connect different technologies together. Digital convergence was without a doubt the central theme for technology last year. Non-techies everywhere no longer needed advice on how to move a file from their mobile phone/device to their computers or vice versa. The proliferation of wireless internet, be it through 3G connections or more public Wi-Fi has reversed the degree of difficulty that integration used to require. Seeing that the market was ready for such new revolutions, electronics companies pushed the boundaries of what could be sold, fearing less that they would end up putting people off with unnecessary all-in-one devices.

What we’ve been graced with are digital cameras and memory cards that include Wi-Fi and can upload photos and videos to web albums or video sharing sites such as YouTube as well as to social networks including the likes of Facebook and MySpace. Once considered niche markets, social networks have made it clear that they are here to stay, infiltrating our lives like never before. Because people spend so much time on Facebook, failing to capitalize on that with complimenting software is now considered a missed opportunity.

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Raymond Wong