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The Battery Life Dilemma
Battery life is a hurdle for all mobile devices, including laptops. Obviously, these devices depend on their battery to make them useful away from home, but larger batteries are also more expensive and heavier. This places manufacturers in a position which requires compromise. The size, weight and expense of the battery must be balanced against the need for portability.
The size of unit shipped with a laptop is carefully decided, but it's not always the right decision. Some laptops have far less endurance than users are likely to require. The current Sony Vaio Y Series, for example, has a default battery that only provides about 4 hours of life even in light use. Since this laptop is an ultraportable, that may not be sufficient.
One option for increasing life is an external laptop battery charger. This is an adapter that can be used to charge up the battery when it is not in the laptop, and a few models come with their own built-in batteries to provide extra endurance.
On paper this seems like an attractive option. But it is really viable? Let's find out.
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Hooking up an external battery to your laptop or your laptop's battery to extend life really does sound like a great idea. It may increase the bulk of what you're carrying, but you can also choose to carry it only when needed. This makes more sense than having a larger battery in the first place, because you can elect to take the bulkier unit only when needed.
There are two types of external battery chargers commonly available. The first are simple adapters that connect to your laptop's battery and charge it while it is outside of the laptop. This is obviously the least useful since you can't use your laptop while charging.
The second type has a built in Lithium Ion battery, and usually several different ways to connect. This type of charger can often be used while the laptop is still turned on, in which case it actually operates like a secondary unit that can extend your laptop's endurance.
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Good Luck Finding One
There's just one problem with this great idea - availability.
External chargers are not commonly found and are rarely sold by manufacturers. Most manufacturers would rather just sell you an extended battery with your laptop if you want more battery life. It's easier to justify to consumers and easier for their inventory since they don't have to stock extended batteries AND different types of external chargers.
That's not to say they're non-existent. There are several models of external laptop chargers available on various websites, like Amazon.com. These chargers often serve numerous models at once, but even so, there seems to be a lot of laptops that don't have external laptop chargers available. This seems to be particularly true of newer laptops. I found several chargers for older Dell laptops, but I wasn't able to find any for those made in the last year or two.
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So Should You Buy One?
Let's assume that you do manage to find an external laptop charger for your model. Does that mean you should buy it? That depends on what you need and the type of external laptop charger that you find.
The chargers with no built-in battery are only useful for charging when it is outside of your laptop. This is useful for road warriors who would like to have two batteries so one can be swapped out for the other on the road. Obviously, this can get a bit unwieldy without an external charger because you would only be able to top off what's currently in your laptop.
The other type option, with the built-in battery, is more flexible. It can not only charge - it can also keep your laptop running when the original power source goes kaput. This functions like an extended battery that doesn't need to be installed in your laptop's chassis. However, this type is even rarer and more expensive than normal.
Most of the products available seem to sell for between $40 and $60. That's not a bad price.
Models with their own battery will likely sell for closer to $100 or more. These are more difficult to justify, particularly because buying batteries from a third party is always a risk. You may be better off going for an extended option that is sold by your laptop's manufacturer. This will provide similar functionality and you'll know it's built by a trustworthy company. And if you need to charge the extended battery without the laptop, you can purchase an external battery charger to go with it.
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Images are from Amazon.com