Battery Problems with Asus Laptops
Recently there have been a lot of complaints by Asus notebook owners finding that the battery life of their newly purchased notebooks was deteriorating rapidly. Battery life would drop 35% after just a couple of months of usage. I decided to provide as much real proof as possible in this review showing that the problem is not the battery per se, but rather a firmware coding issue with the notebook that causes it to grossly under estimate actual battery life left and shut down prematurely. In other words, the notebook thinks there is 0 - 5% battery life left when in actual fact there might be up to 30% -- or an hour's worth of life. This may also be a problem for other notebook users outside of the Asus brand and is therefore worth anyone reading to understand what causes a notebook to shut down when it thinks battery life has become critical.
I have owned the Asus V1JP for 2 months now; I have been watching my battery life deteriorate every week. I know such quick deterioration is not normal so I was going to replace my battery thinking it was the problem. However, many users have reported the very same problem, seeing a vast amount of wear percentage on their batteries in a small amount of time and thus causing much lower battery life.
Notebooks Known to be Affected by this Problem:
I did not end up replacing my battery because I wanted to first further coordinate with some other members on the Asus forum to figure out what is causing this problem.
During the conversation in the very active thread discussing this topic, people suggested these as possible solutions for "fixing" the battery:
None of these worked, and the battery callibration was suggested by Asus service center staff as something that should be done every couple of months, but this did not help.
Let me try to explain why each of these solutions did not work and why.
Battery Calibration is a Bios tool in which it will charge and discharge your battery to calculate your current level of watts in your battery, basically your battery life (battery calibration tools vary by manufacturer, so refer to your user guide).
Before I ran the calibration, I read that many had found this tool causing more battery wear after being run (or at least more battery wear was indicated), up to 5% more wear than there was before. Despite knowing that, I attempted the calibration. I tried a regular calibration, compared to jsis method of calibration. This takes a long time and unfortunately it was not able to rectify my wear percentage problem.
My wear was 20% going into the calibration and after it was 25%. Then I attempted forum member jsis' elaborate method of calibration which requires you to remove the battery half way through the charging process. This also did not solve my problem, but it did work for jsis. Instead of helping, my wear had now gone up to 30%. With 30% wear, when I take my laptop to school and use it, I only get 2 hours and 15 minutes or so -- very dissapointing. I used to get 3 hours.
Battery calibration DOES consider the ACPI (read about what the ACPI does for laptop power management at Wikipedia) when running this tool, meaning there is software involved in the process. The Bios is also a factor. If the calibration tool worked right, it should have reported my battery life as 3 hours now, but after running it says I have 2 hours of total life indicating 30% wear.
More about the ACPI will be explained later and how it turns out to be the offending factor in this whole battery life issue.
Formatting and restarting the computer
This is another solution some members suggested to try, and I did try it, since I currently have a 1 week break from university! It's called "Reading Week".
I used the recovery discs provided by Asus, and then had a look at the Windows Battery Miser and it still stated only 2 hours and 15 minutes of battery life. I then decided to completely reformat the laptop and used my own Windows XP Pro CD and install all the drivers myself from the Asus V1 driver/utility CD. Everything went fine except now my Windows Battery Miser stated 2 hours of battery life -- another 15 minute drop!
I then installed a program called Notebook Hardware Control and Everest Ultimate, 3rd party programs that also report battery life; my wear percentage was now up to a whopping 35% and battery life continuing to decrease.
Third Party Programs
A few members stated the third party programs like Notebook Hardware Control and Everest Ultimate caused battery drain problems, making many members on the forum neurotic and crazed about this battery wear % and battery life problem.
However, third party programs helped me understand why this problem is occurring. To start things off, many follow Windows Battery Miser as a reliable source for battery charge level and battery life. That’s fine, I also use it myself.
Here’s the thing, compare your Notebook Hardware Control and Windows Battery Miser charge level and battery life. They are exactly the same, and do you wonder why? This is because the source of the data is coming from the same place. This is called the ACPI (read about what the ACPI does for laptop power management at Wikipedia), but can also be attributed to the BIOS as well. I will explain this further in the review.
In effect, these third party programs and Windows Battery Miser are gathering their data from the ACPI and displaying that result, but these are the wrong values. This also shows that the BIOS calibration tool is also using the same ACPI source for the test, and thus the calibration tool did not do anything for me to alleviate the issue. If the ACPI is wrong, calibration won't do a thing.
This screenshot shows how CoolMon2 takes data from the ACPI, which further supports the fact that the ACPI is the problem.
What is the going on with the battery?
After completing and testing all possible solutions, I looked to my own solution and conclusions. I had the following theories:
I have tested some of these aspects above, and so have others. I have tested my battery for being bad, it is not, I will explain why further in the review, because it leads the workaround to this problem.
There is bad coding, because I have tested it above, look what I have been through to solve this problem and it is still not rectified with those suggestions.
Many have already had their motherboards replaced to fix this problem but in most cases this did not solve the problem, some also attribute this to bad circuitry which is not the problem.
Could it be user abuse? Not really, because I have been here for such an extended period of time, just like many others, we know how to take care of our notebooks, so please don’t call this abuse on our end.
Battery Life Test
Now that the basics of what is going on in the background on the Asus forums, I just did a test showing what happens to your battery life and the workaround.
As many have already read my review on the Asus V1JP I've had for 2 months now, my battery life test showed I got 3 hours of battery life right when I first got my laptop. Every week I was losing roughly 3-5% battery wear and server a minutes of battery life over time. Once again I am using the same settings for this battery life test.
Mathematical Calculations of Battery Life and Wear
This is where I can also prove there is a direct correlation between wear % and battery life. For this let's assume the critical alarm is turned on, just like everyone has it on.
This will differ from laptop to laptop, but this is the general settings for my V1JP.
Battery life = (((B x W) – B) / C)
BL = (((77 x 0) – 77) / 25)
BL = 77/25
BL = 3 hours
This shows if you have a 77whr battery, and if your consumption rate is on average 25whr, and your wear % is 0, then your battery life is 3 hours, this matches my original battery life test in my review.
Battery life = (((B x W) – B) / C)
BL = (((77 x 35%) – 77) / 25)
BL = ((27 – 77) / 25)
BL = (50/25)
BL = 2 hours
This shows if you have a 77whr battery, and your consumption rate is an average of 25whr, and you rwear is 35%, then your battery life is 2 hours, this also matches the results, and you can see it on the Up Time on CoolMon2.
This also shows how battery wear does affect your battery life. You can even calculate another interesting factor.
Wear battery life = 100% charge = 3 hours of battery life with 25whr consumption on a 77whr battery.
Wear battery life = 3 hours x 60 minutes = 180 minutes on 100% charge with 25whr consumption.
Wear battery life = 180 minutes /100% charge = 1.8
This value 1.8, means how much battery life in terms of minutes you lose per 1% of wear. So if your wear percentage is 35%, then multiply 35 x 1.8 = 63 minutes, which is exactly how many minutes you will lose to your wear %. My laptop shows this exactly with 35% battery wear. I hope everyone understands and follows this!
Here are a several images showing how my battery was being run down as I used it under the conditions above.
At one you can see my battery charge is 0% and it is still running. Let me explain why later in this article.
Notice the Up Time in CoolMon2 which is the program I used to monitor my hardware. You will notice that is my battery life, and the program starts calculating it as soon at the notebook it turned on. So my test is done on a fresh reboot.
Furthermore, my battery life test resulted in 2 hours and 43 minutes , it did not last 3 hours because during the last 40 minutes, the battery LED was blinking constantly, and the fan RPM was high, the discharge rate skyrocketed to 30whr, despite doing menial tasks, like typing this document. If my discharge rate was lower, like 26, then the battery would have last another 10 minutes or so. But for this situation it is ok that the battery life was lower than my initial test in my review, since I was unable to keep my discharge rate low enough to achieve a closer number to 3 hours.
Questions that come to mind:
Answers to these questions:
The workaround temporary solution
So after testing for close to 1 week, I have found with the help of others on the forums, that turning off the Critical Alarm somewhat solves this problem.
When you turn off the Critical Alarm Windows will still show incorrect values but will allows you to continue to use the battery as is until it dies, then your notebook will shut off. However there are some implications.
Real Battery Wear
This refers to actual battery wear, where the battery is physically deteriorating and will lose its charge. If your ACPI is bad, like mine, you will not be able to use third party programs to figure out how badly worn your battery is.
Instead you will have to conduct a battery life test just like I did.
If your ACPI is good, then you have nothing to worry about. All programs will correctly display your charge level and battery life without problems.
"Fake" Battery Wear
This refers to the software aspect, where the ACPI is bad and now your computer reports high percentages of wear and low battery life.
The implications are that you will never know the true values of charge level and battery life because the ACPI is bad and has bad coding. Many users are unaware of this thus they don’t know what causes their notebook to turn off when the battery is low on charge.
Many users have their critical alarm turned on; this is used to protect their work. This is a good thing to keep on since it will protect all of your work. However, the critical alarm is also based upon the ACPI information, if the ACPI states 5% charge, then the critical alarm will put your computer into hibernate. Thus resulting in only 2 hours of battery life, when in actuality your battery still has another 30% charge or more left, which can yield another 1 hour of battery life.
Hence, the battery wear and battery life problem can be attributed to the ACPI being badly coded, thus yielding a lower amount of battery life than anticipated. The ACPI is the source information for Windows Battery Miser, all third party programs, and is also correlated to the BIOS when conducting the calibration tool, which did not solve this problem either. The only workaround right now is it to uncheck the critical alarm, turning it off, so that you get the entire length of your battery life, but there are implications for doing so (such as not actually knowing when your battery will give out and losing work). The ACPI is the problem; companies need to test their products and coding to ensure problems like this do not happen!
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