Notebooks/laptops and anything else that runs on batteries
Longer battery life
This one really bugs me. I have two regular 53Wh batteries for my work laptop. The newer one gives me 2-2.5 hours of battery life with non-intensive use (web browsing, email, etc), and the older one gives me about one hour. Now neither of these batteries is new, so I can't expect a great deal of capacity from them. And since it is running a company-managed OS image, and it's locked down pretty hard, I can't tell it to spin down the hard drive, and it doesn't make use of SpeedStep. So it's not running as efficiently as it should.
. I can't immediately answer the question of "How much is enough?" Truthfully, the answer is, has been, and always will be "more than I have now." For now, I think 5 hours under moderate-to-heavy use should be considered a bare minimum. I would like to see eight to ten hours under the same usage pattern be considered "average", and twelve hours as "exceptional".
So what will that take? There are two approaches to the problem: either increase the supply of energy or decrease the demand (or, most practically, a combination of both). The first approach, increasing energy storage, only really has two real prospects that are likely to become commercial in the near future:
--Increased battery capacity
-- There really hasn't been progressing significantly--my now-close-to-15-year-old Thinkpad has a battery with a capacity of about 34Wh, and which is significantly smaller than the battery for my Dell Latitude D610. So in a decade and a half, very little has happened.
-- It's a great idea, although many hurdles remain before they can gain widespread adoption. First of all, it has to fit in the normal profile of a laptop. We're getting closer to that ideal--current prototypes are about the size of a notebook dock. They'll still need to shrink by a factor of about 10 to become acceptable, but lots of very smart people are working on it. The downside of fuel cells is simple--they require consumables. Forget to take along enough refills, and expect to be tied to an electrical outlet. However, If a single fuel cell can power your notebook for a month
, I guess that's not such a big deal.
On to demand. There are a few current developments that are promising, like the various brands of Solid-State Disks and Apple's announcement of LED-backlit displays. Right now, the hard drive in my laptop is keeping my leg uncomfortably warm. Eliminating nearly all that power consumption would be great. What other targets do we have?
-- This is still the low-hanging fruit in many ways. When running full-blast, it can still consume tens of watts. Intel and AMD (and VIA, although they're ahead of the game here) need to work on that. When idle, the CPU should be using practically zero
power. We've had enough of "make it faster, dangit!" on the notebook front, and we need to turn our attention to power savings, even at the expense of some performance. However, this is only possible with the cooperation of...
-- You can't point fingers at any one OS here. Linux is just as guilty (if not more so) than Windows, although Vista is working hard to take the battery-sucking crown. Maybe we need mobile-specific OSes that run next to nothing when allowed, so the CPU can get a rest.
-- Right now, this is by far the hottest part of my laptop. Granted, those modules get no ventilation, but right now I'm doing nothing beyond typing this. Again, the only places SODIMMs go is into laptops (excepting niche applications like industrial control and tiny form factor machines), so they need to be made much more energy efficient.
-- Of various sorts--802.11x, Bluetooth, etc. Yes, they have to consume power to transmit, but everything else needs to be pared down.
-- Here's a wild idea--why not use a divergent fresnel lens behind the LCD, and use ambient light instead of a CFL or LEDs?
There are other potential places we could save more power, but that's enough for now. Reducing power consumption would bring lots of benefits. You'd save space on cooling systems, letting you build a smaller, lighter notebook. You'd need a smaller battery for the same lifetime, again saving size and weight.
Yeah, everyone's a critic, and it's easy to be an armchair engineer, but the needs are nonetheless valid.