Most new super-thin laptops, including Ultrabooks and the Retina MacBook Pro, are designed so consumers can't change the batteries themselves. This is a big issue if you plan on keeping your new laptop for more than two years or want to hand it down to someone else later.
Our advice: find out which laptops have easily removable batteries and which don't before you buy.
The Electronics TakeBack Coalition (ETBC), an organization that promotes recycling and green design, has posted an in-depth report on Ultrabooks batteries (PDF). The research findings are disheartening (see charts below).
Most Ultrabooks have batteries that are difficult for their owners to replace. Apples new MacBook Pro with Retina display is the poster child herewith a glued-in battery that could cost as much as $500 for do-it-yourselfers to replace or $199 to have Apple do it (54% more than previous models).
Other laptop manufacturers are following this trend to require you to send in your laptop to the service depot for a simple battery swap, a repair that could mean a week away from your laptop and added cost.
Besides being user-unfriendly, the design change, ETBC notes, makes it even less likely that laptop owners will use their laptops for as long as possible or repurpose them.
The typical laptop battery lifespan is only two years to three years. After that time, if the cost and inconvenience of getting the battery replaced are too high, laptop owners might just ditch their still perfectly usable laptops.
Other Ultrabook batteries are fairly easy to remove yourself, but there are caveats. Replacing the battery on the Vizio Thin+Light Ultrabook or the Samsung Series 9, for example, will void either the battery warranty or the laptop warranty.
Some Ultrabooks, like the Acer Aspire S3, simply make it very difficult to replace the embedded battery yourself.
If you're concerned about having to send your laptop off to the service depot for a battery change or don't want to jump through hoops just to keep your laptop running for more than a couple of years, consider whether your next laptop will let you change the battery yourself or not.