by Jerry Jackson
When it comes to mobile devices, one of the biggest ways in which you can help the environment is to limit the number of batteries that you throw away. This is a serious problem with mobile electronics like notebooks because Lithium-Ion batteries lose capacity over time and have to be replaced. HP and Boston-Power have come to the rescue with the HP Enviro Notebook Battery. This “green battery” lets you help yourself and help the environment since the Enviro battery is designed to last longer than a regular battery without decreasing in capacity over time.
Boston-Power designed the “Sonata” battery cell in order to create a notebook battery that can keep its original capacity for up to three years instead of about one year when most lithium-ion batteries start to show significant decline. HP is the only manufacturer to carry these new batteries for current notebook models at the time of this writing, with the new “Enviro” batteries selling for $149.99. HP models compatible with the Boston-Power batteries are listed below:
- HP Pavilion: dv4, dv5, dv6
- HP HDX: HDX 16
- HP: G50, G60, G61, G70, G71
- Compaq Presario: CQ40, CQ45, CQ50, CQ60, CQ61, CQ70, CQ71
When you consider regular batteries start to decline over time, this saves you money from buying a replacement battery as your notebook ages, and reduces the waste of more batteries entering landfills.
Still, with the HP Enviro battery ($149.99 MSRP) costing almost as much as a 12-cell extended life battery ($169.99 MSRP), is this really the best value for your dollar? We decided to put the HP Enviro battery to the test to see if it has any obvious short-term advantage to a standard battery.
Our test system is a HP Pavilion dv4t (dv4-1140go) with the following specs:
- Processor: 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5800
- Memory: 4GB DDR2
- Hard Drive: 320GB (5400rpm)
- Optical Drive: LightScribe Super Multi 8X DVD±R/RW with Double Layer Support
- Screen Size: 14.1″ WXGA (1280×800)
- Graphics: Intel GMA 4500MHD
- Wireless: Intel Wi-Fi Link 5100AGN plus Bluetooth
- Operating System: Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit with SP1
- Dimensions: 1.57″ Height x 13.15″ Width x 9.45″ Depth
- Weight: 5.18 lb
- 65W AC Adapter
The batteries used in our test include the standard 6-cell battery and the new HP Enviro 3-cell battery (details below).
- 6-cell Lithium-Ion (standard Li-Ion), date of manufacture: September 4, 2008 (10.8V, 47Wh, 4200mAh)
- 3-cell HP Enviro (Boston-Power Sonata Li-Ion), date of manufacture: February 2009 (10.8V, 47Wh, 4200mAh)
As you can see in the stock image above, each Boston-Power Sonata cell inside the new HP Enviro battery is twice the size of a standard Li-Ion cell. This is why a 3-cell Enviro battery is able to replace a 6-cell standard battery.
In the interest of full disclosure, I want to make it clear that we haven’t been able to test Boston-Power’s claims of long-term sustainable battery life from the Sonata Li-Ion cells. We simply can’t jump forward in time three years to see if the HP Enviro battery maintains its capacity longer than a standard battery.
What we can test is whether a 7-month-old standard battery (with technically the same capacity as the new HP Enviro) lasts as long as the new battery. Why should you care? Because standard batteries begin to lose capacity as soon as they leave the assembly line. This is the entire reason HP is using the new Boston-Power Sonata cells inside the HP Enviro battery.
In fact, if you visit the HP website you will see that more than a few HP customers have written negative reviews of the standard battery … some claiming that a three-month old standard battery lasts less than one hour!
If our tests show the older standard battery has less capacity than the new HP Enviro battery then it’s safe to assume that a standard battery does indeed lose capacity in a short period of time.
We used BatteryMon to monitor the charge and discharge rates for both batteries. We wanted to replicate “real world use” in our tests but also wanted to be as fair as possible when draining the batteries. That said, we tested both batteries under both “average use” and “light use.”
We conducted the Average use tests with wireless turned on, the Firefox web browser actively surfing the internet and downloading files, Microsoft Office opening email and Word documents, and screen brightness set to approximately 60 percent with Vista running in the “Power Saver” power profile without letting the notebook enter sleep mode.
We conducted the Light use tests with wireless turned on, Firefox browsing the web but not actively downloading files, and screen brightness set to approximately 40 percent with Vista running in the “Power Saver” power profile without letting the notebook enter sleep mode.
So what did we find out? The chart below indicates how long each battery lasted before the notebook shut down.
Battery Life Tests (more time indicates better performance)
|Average Use Test||Light Use Test|
|Standard Battery||2 hours, 31 minutes||3 hours, 18 minutes|
|HP Enviro Battery||3 hours, 32 minutes||4 hours, 20 minutes|
Again, these tests don’t confirm or deny Boston-Power’s claim that the Sonata cells inside the HP Enviro battery retain their capacity longer than standard Li-Ion batteries, but the results of our laboratory testing seem to confirm that standard Li-Ion batteries do indeed lose capacity over time. In fact, standard batteries may start to lose capacity even faster than we previously thought.
The standard battery used in our tests is seven months old (according to the sticker on the battery) and has been used frequently inside my personal HP Pavilion dv4t since I purchased the notebook in early December, 2008. The HP Enviro battery was manufactured in February and we started using it on March 20, 2009. Both batteries have identical ratings in terms of watt hours, voltage, and mAh … meaning these batteries should have identical capacities.
The fact that the new HP Enviro battery delivers roughly one hour of extra battery life suggests that the old standard battery has lost capacity.
It’s hard to say that the new HP Enviro Notebook Battery lives up to the claim that it will retain its original capacity for three years. Proving or disproving such claims will require lengthy and highly controlled tests … something we just can’t do for a brand new product.
That said, our initial lab tests appear to support the idea that standard Lithium-Ion notebook batteries lose capacity over a surprisingly short period of time. If the Boston-Power Sonata cells indeed outlast traditional Li-Ion batteries then this might be a revolutionary technology, not just for notebook manufacturers, but for consumers and the environment as well.
Bottom line, if you plan to keep your HP notebook for more than a year before you replace it then it’s probably a good idea to go ahead and purchase the HP Enviro Notebook Battery. This battery is a little expensive, but you should be able to use the battery longer before you have to throw it away.
- Same size and capacity as standard battery
- Seems to last longer than a standard battery (up to three years)
- Three-year warranty (an industry first!)
- Almost as expensive as a 12-cell extended life battery
- No way to know (yet) if it will last three years