Lasting the distance

Lasting the distance

The notebook has come a long way since it became commercially available in the 1980s. Users are increasingly relying on portable machines in home and office environments, while organisations are incorporating them into everyday business to cater to a highly mobile workforce.

The shift to smaller, thinner and lighter models and the push for mobility is also impacting the design of notebook accessories. A plethora of features and add-ons are now available, allowing users to work anywhere.

USB ports, flash drives, power supplies, Web cams, Wi-Fi, broadband access, keyboards, mice, removable storage, carry bags, speakers, port replicators and cooling stands are just some of the many accessories aiming to enhance and complement the mobile experience.

One of the ongoing concerns with notebooks is battery life. Acer senior notebook product manager, Henry Lee, said the launch of Intel's new Atom chipset this year, codenamed Diamondville and Silverthrone, should bring improvements in this area.

The Atom is Intel's smallest and lowest power processor to date. It is specifically designed for mobile Internet devices and Internet-centric computers being launched this year. The chips have a thermal design power (TDP) specification in the 0.6 to 2.5 Watt (W) range. The current mainstream mobile Core 2 Duo processors have a TDP around 35W.

"We are looking at about half an hour to an hour extension on the notebook battery," Lee said. "The battery is always something that business users want to extend to get a full day's work."

At the moment the standard battery life of a notebook is about seven hours. Lenovo recently launched a new business notebook, the X300, which it claims provides up to 10 hours of battery life using an optional bay battery. Its thin and light design aims to compete with Apple's consumer-oriented MacBook Air.

"The X300 can deliver up to 10 hours of battery life and provides users with the ability to have all-day computing without having to charge their notebook during the day," Lenovo's small business and consumer director, David Nicol, said. "It is available with a threecell or six-cell battery so those two batteries combined provides about 10 hours battery life."

Nicol said resellers that provided extra battery accessories could potentially add about 10 per cent value to their notebook sales.

"It could also result in ongoing business for the reseller because after the purchase, the customer may decide to buy an extended life battery or a bay battery," Nicol said. "At that point, the reseller can then talk to them about other computing requirements."

With more workers hopping on to the mobile bandwagon, users require accessories that will help them remain productive during the day. Nicol flagged power adapters as another option. Lenovo will shortly launch a new ultra slim AC/DC power adapter which can be used in cars and on planes. Users can also purchase optional tips to charge mobile phones, MP3 players and other types of complementary mobile devices.

"We have had a lot of interest in the AC/DC adapter because of the benefits it provides," Nicol said. "It not only works on current ThinkPad notebooks but previous generations as well. Users don't need to carry both a notebook and mobile phone charger when they are travelling; it is one charger on hand for when they are running low on power."

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