“14 hours battery life when Web browsing” is the claim made by Asus for the new Atom X5-based Transformer T100HA. Given the size and weight of this tablet (the keyboard doesn’t have an extra battery,) that’s huge. So huge that I don’t believe it. I’d like to believe it but my history of testing PCs based on Intel Atom processing platforms tells me to question it. I’ve done that below.
I use my Intel NUC with Atom N2820 processor daily. It’s quiet, neat and runs Openelec like a dream. It was cheap too but now I’m wondering if I should have waited. The Ainol Mini PC comes with RAM, storage, a Windows OS and a 26 Wh battery for just $129. It’s silent too!
Ainol Mini PC
It doesn’t have a Gigabit Ethernet port but it does have USB3.0 so adding an adaptor is no problem. Retro-fitting an infra-red reciever might be a problem though and of course this Baytrail-T ‘tablet without screen’ is not going to allow for any expansion. The storage won’t be as fast as what’s possible with the SATA interface on an Intel NUC. The biggest problem I see though is that you might have problems installing your favorite Linux distro on this due to the 32-bit UEFI bug. Some tablets come with a 64-bit Windows not but you can clearly see that this 64-bit CPU is running a 32-bit Windows version on the Geekbuying sales page.
Along with the Baytrail-T-based dongles these are interesting IoT-style products (and with a 3G dongle could be the perfect malicious hotspot) but until they allow you to boot your chosen 64-bit OS they’re not flexible enough. If anyone finds a similar one with 64-bit UEFI bootloader, let us know.
I’m testing the Acer Aspire Switch 10 for Notebookcheck.net right now and it’s going well. I prefer it to the ASUS Transformer Book T100 because of the better keyboard, mouse and screen but there’s one little issue – battery life. The Switch 10 has a 24Wh battery inside which is much less than the 34Wh battery of the ASUS T100 and less than half of what you got on the previous W510. Looking at the keyboard reveals that it’s quite light and has 8 exposed screws so naturally I took a look inside. What I saw was encouraging because there’s space, screw holes and an unused PCB header space.
In our last review we looked at an 8-inch tablet running on the Atom Z3740 costing under $300. In this review we have the Dell Venue 11 Pro 10.8 inch tablet running the current high-end Z3770 CPU and costing $499. The powered keyboard is an additional accessory at $159. The two units are extremely well built but are they worth it? We take a look in our detailed Dell Venue 11 Pro review.
I’ve been using the Mobile Reporting Kit V12 over the last 5 days and it’s been working well. The challenge was to work through a day without any cables. No charging! The Harris Beach Ultrabook, Nokia Lumia 925 plus a backup phone (Nokia 808) and a camera (Lumix FZ150) worked together to give me my best mobile media studio yet.
As I wrote about driver update V2.04 for the Acer W510 I noticed a few user reports of poor connected standby battery life. The following day I heard about V2.08. I updatedÂ againÂ but I was seeing some serious Connected Standby issues. Battery life was way below what it should have been.
Here’s some information about how you can access a very cool battery life report on Windows 8, check your CS figures and potentially fix your problem. I hope you take the time to contribute your report or thoughts in the comments below too.
Always-on is the a feature you’ll find with Connected Standby-capable Windows 8 PCs.
Some people think they don’t need it. Let me explain why you need it.
Connected Standby (or Always On, Always Connected â€“ AOAC) is the mark of a ground-breaking new category of PCs that will not only be always-on capable but will have hardware that is so efficient that it will completely change what you think is good battery life.
The Powerocks Stone 3 portable power pack for iPad and Galaxy Tab solves a problem. It’s all very well having a common interface for charging but when people break the specs it becomes less useful. The iPad and Galaxy Tab charge using very high currents through a USB port that excedes the capability of the USB port you’ll find on nearly all laptops and PCs which means you generally have to carry the mains charger around with you. I found a portable power pack at IFA that supplies the correct current to allow full-speed charing on the go and it works. At least with the Galaxy Tab I tested with it.
There’s no European distributor for the Stone 3 yet so you’ll have to keep your eyes open for availability. Alternatively, wait a while becauseÂ I’veÂ got a unit coming from Znex. The Power-Pack IP is said to do the same so i’m looking forward to testing one that’s available right now.
Here’s a video and you’ll find some images below that.
About a year and a half ago I looked deeper into Intel’s Moorestown to report on some of the key features. One of those features was power gating which could significantly reduce the power drain of the platform by turning of areas of the CPU/GPU when they weren’t in use. It’s the feature that brings Intel into the ‘always on’ space but offering a 50x reduction in idle power.Â The only problem was that Windows wouldn’t run on the Moorestown platform so it was for Meego and Android only.
Oaktrail, the Z670 and Z650 parts, also have this power gating feature in the same Lincroft CPU and Briertown power management IC that Moorestown offers however, as far as I can see, Intel haven’t ever said that Oaktrail could run at a 50x idle power reduction. It could be that the extra hardware needed for Windows support affects the idle power achievable. Intel have also been quiet about possible battery life advantages of Oaktrail too. We’ve seen encouraging figures but have still yet to see real-life examples of the advantages of an Oaktrail-specific Meego or Android build.
But there still could be some advantages in running and Intel Meego and Android version on Oaktrail due to the extended power states and some claimed battery life figures from Evolve III today show that although there may not be a 50x idle power reduction, there still may be something special that Meego and Android can do to get the best out of the Lincroft/Briertown combination. Evolve are claiming some impressive battery life figures.
Windows 7â„¢ 10+ hours
Android 16+ hours
Maemo 18+ hours
We assume that Evolve III are referring to Meego rather than Maemo and we also assume that these are idle or low-usage battery life figures but even so, there’s a clear difference being claimed there.
You can find out more about the Evolve III Maestro S here. We suspect that you’ll see this design popping up under different brands globally. The Viewsonic Viewpad 10 Pro is likely to be using the same hardware so watch out for similar claims for Viewsonic.
Note: Intel are maintaining the OSPM package for MeeGo. We assume that’s the case for their Android build too.
Notes OSPM (Operating System Power Management) is the name of the software feature-set that can interface with the new features and power-states. S0i1 and S0i3 are the unique power-states that the Moorestown and Oaktrail platforms offer.
Note ‘Briertown’ was a working name for the power management IC. Compatible IC’s are available from Renesas, Freescale and Maxim. More information below.
If you measure the power used by a netbook PC when it’s in standby, a frozen unusable state, it uses around 500mW of power.Â Leaving a netbook on with WiFi connected in an idle state with the screen blanked, maybe with an email program polling occasionally, you’ll see about 10 times the power usage. In PC terms, 5W is impressive but if you go to the smartphone world and take a look at the figures there, there’s a huge huge gap that needs to be tackled. As smartphones become tablets, become smartbooks, there’s a threat that ‘always-on’ becomes ‘must-have’ and that X86-based devices will struggle to compete in casual computing scenarios.
Smartphones are designed from the ground-up around the concept of ‘always-on. From the moment a smartphone is conceived, every element of the design has to be checked for power consumption which is why a smartphone can sit connected to the GSM telephone network drawing power consumption levels lower than 50mw. That’s 1/10th of the power consumption taken by a good netbook when it’s in a frozen state. Impressive.
But what happens when you connect a smartphone to the internet ? You can use cellular data services to achieve a good rate of connectivity by switching on UMTS for example. Switching to WiFi on a typical smartphone brings faster connectivity and, in a lot of cases, lower power that can be done on cellular networks. A smartphone can run a multitasking operating system and remain connected to internet and voice networks in well under 500mw of power, the same as it takes a netbook to sleep.Â In fact, the best smartphones are running in this configuration for over 24hrs on a 5Wh battery which is an amazing 100mw of power usage. Turn on some background internet activities and it will jump to an average 200mw!
What happens if you take an ARM platform that’s in the same processing power category as a low-end netbook. Put it in a 10â€ screen form factor and do the same test? Actually, it’s the same as a smartphone. The only difference between a high-end smartphone and a smartbook with a 10â€ screenand a huge battery is the screen itself and when that is off, there’s practically no difference at all.
To prove this, I took one of the most powerful mobile computing platforms in a large 10â€ form factor device with 32GB of storage, 1GB of RAM and integrated WiFi. The device has a 23wh battery (about half that of ‘6-cell’ netbooks. The device is the Acer Iconia Tab A500 Android tablet which runs honeycomb. I connected to the Wifi (at 54mbps) and left the device connected with the screen off while it did it’s stuff in the background. Marketplace checks, email checks, Twitter checks and even some GPS usage by Google Maps. A weather service was running, the volume was set to silent and Bluetooth was turned off.
Over a 48Â hour period with a few screen-on moments for checking progress (and a 10 minute in-use period as my daughter grabbed it to use a paint program)Â I measured 46% fall in battery usage of which 5% was due to screen-on time. Take away the screen-on figure and you have 209mw of power usage.Â The Acer Iconia Tab is nothing more than a smartphone inside!
‘Always-on, Always Connected’ will be a ‘Must-have.’
Always-on tests are interesting because it’s a hands-off test that people think only applies to idle smartphones.Â In fact, it applies to many computing scenarios. With location, polling, sync, presence, alarms, push updates and of course, cellular voice and messaging becoming the norm in the hand, they will also have appeal on the desk. Not having to wait 5 seconds for a machine to start-up, another 5 seconds for a Wi-Fi connection and another 10 seconds for tweets, emails and other features to catch up is annoying.Â There’s also a bunch of other screen-off, connected activities that are interesting. Servers for example. By that, I mean computers and gadgets that serve information to the Internet. This doesn’t just cover web servers. Think about internet-connected weather stations and web cameras, in-car data storage and notification systems. Then there are the devices that just don’t need big screens; Connected musical instruments. Digital cameras with 3G. Internet Radios. Low-power internet connectivity is important for these devices.
The point here is not to highlight that ARM is better than X86, it’s to highlight the gap. This gap is currently a huge advantage for ARM-based platform designers.
The first point is, if manufacturers using X86/PC architecture don’t get products to market with active standby soon, with the help of Intel (the only X86 player trying to tackle this problem) customers will have a chance to experience, and may not turn back from, ARM-based always-on products.
The second point is that this is a screen-off gap. Current screen technology is killing ARMs advantage in the ‘in-use’ scenario where screens are larger than 7â€. It reduces the ARM advantage from 20x in idle to about 4x with a 10â€ screen being backlit. When the devices CPU is being actively used, the advantage drops even lower to around 2x. [Acer Iconia Tab â€“ 4W. Samsung NC210 â€“ 8W)
Finally, the Acer Iconia Tab A500 is a good example of low-power internet connectivity. It’s likely that other devices in this ARM tablet segment hit the same figures.
Keep an eye on high-end ARM-based platforms over the next year or two. Honeycomb and iOS are leading the way into the professional space with their software and application ecoystems and you might find that this always-on advantage starts to lock people in soon.
I’m ready to consider an 11.6 or even a 12â€ screen now and its based on my requirement to run some more complex software on a device that has a higher resolution. The problem is, while I can bear a bigger footprint, I can’t bear much more weight.
My Gigabyte Touchnote with its Runcore SSD and 2GB upgrade has served me well for 2 years but with the extended battery I’m down to 4hrs so it really is time to think about something new. The Touchnote weighs 1.45KG in its current form and there’s no way I want to go above that; In fact I’m looking to get as close as I can to 1KG. I’m also looking to stay with ‘just enough’ CPU which keeps the price down and allows me to stay in the low-power, long-battery life bracket. For me though, ‘just enough’ means dual-core Atom N550/N570 or AMD C-50 and if I consider my video editing project, it could be higher than that.
As I look at devices like the ASUS EeePC 1015PN and the Samsung NC210 I see Windows Starter, 1GB and 1024×600 screens but weights below 1.25KG. There’s also the AMD C-50-based Toshiba NB550D and the EeePC 1015b which at 1.3KG offers 2GB and, we hope, Windows options. The Fujitsu Lifebook PH530 is an interesting 1.33KG option with Core i3 and an 11.5â€ screen but in the 12â€ range you really are looking at 1.5KG unless you are prepared to pay serious money.
With my Android tablet PC taking over some of my netbook work now (many of my shorter posts last week were done with the Galaxy Tab) I’m not worried about having 8hr battery life. A solid 4-5hrs is fine so perhaps that means I can go up with the CPU and down with the battery life.
I get the feeling that there are a lot of you out there that are in the same position. You’ve had your netbook for a year or two and you’re looking for another mobile productivity solution. So what’s your preference? Do you want to keep it small or light? Do you want to break out of the Intel netbook restrictions or are you happy to carry on inside their restrictions? Feel free to comment below and of course, if you have buying tips, lets hear them.
About 3 months ago I bought a Toshiba AC100 ‘smart’ book for testing. While I didn’t believe it would provide me with a netbook experience I was very interested in continuing my testing with ‘always on’ ARM-based devices. Unfortunately, that ‘always on’ experience highlighted in marketing and videos, has still not been delivered 3 months later. It’s time Toshiba actually stood up, removed the false claims, started apologizing to customers and fixing this broken device. More importantly, potential owners need to keep fingers off until we can confirm the problem is fixed.
We highlighted the standby battery life problem just a few days after we got the AC100 and a few weeks later delivered the message direct to Toshiba at IFA. The product simply doesn’t provide anywhere near the claimed ‘up to 8 days’ of standby battery life. You’ll be lucky if the AC100 still has a charge 24 hours later. Many many users have confirmed the same issue.
A promised upgrade to Froyo was the light at the end of the tunnel that most owners clung on to but that is now many weeks overdue with no official word about a timescale. In fact, a surprise firmware update last week that failed to install was followed by another firmware update that doesn’t seem to have fixed the problem or updated the device to Froyo. Do you trust them to deliver 2.2 AND fix the battery life problem?
In attempts to actually get something useful out of the AC100 I hacked the bootloader (yes, forgoing any rights to a return or repair under guarantee) to install Ubuntu and after trying the update a few days ago, I now have a bricked device. I’m sure others will fall into this trap.
I’m not going to address this email to Toshiba because their forum should be alerting them to their problems (link) instead, I’m addressing it to current and potential owners. The AC100 is still broken and I advise you to check your standby battery life and if you think I’m right, return the device. [If not, please let us know â€“ we’d love to strikethrough and update this article.] Potential owners should refrain from a purchase until there are clear confirmations that the problems have been fixed. Better still, pass the message on and highlight that the AC100 is not yet the device with the ‘ultimate battery life’.