Aluminum PowerBook battery and 65 watt PowerBook battery charger

Aluminum PowerBook battery and 65 watt PowerBook battery charger
Company: Newer Technology
Price: $109 / $49.95

Newer Technology 4800mAH Aluminum PowerBook battery
Price: $109.00

Newer Technology 65 watt PowerBook battery charger
Price: $49.95

Newer Technology has been adding to its line of batteries and chargers for Apple PowerBooks. The Weeks division of labs has been flogging them to some time, to see if they have the juice, so to speak. I tested a 4800mAh (53.3 Watt-Hour) Aluminum PowerBook battery, along with a 65 watt-hour PowerBook battery charger.

Historically, most users stick with their original Apple batteries until the original battery has given up the ghost. But Apple does not supply replacement batteries forever, and you’ll be more than disappointed to find that your older P’Book battery may be orphaned. Even if a replacement is available, the battery may have been sitting on a warehouse shelf gathering dust. Sitting on a shelf is not good for laptop batteries; they don’t age well just sitting in a partially-charged state. An old battery may not accept, or hold, a charge well.

I’m currently using an 15″ Aluminum PowerBook, which ships with a 50 watt battery. Apple touts the 15” Aluminum as providing 4:30 hours of battery life “depending on battery saving features used and system configuration.” As any PowerBook owner knows, you’ll never get the advertised battery life without running the screen at lowest brightness, no CD or hard drive access, and no Airport, Ethernet, or modem usage. Occasional typing is permitted. Best battery life is always obtained by gazing at your computer while it’s in sleep mode.

My usage pattern while on battery is rather demanding: I run the screen at full brightness, Airport’s on, and the hard drive is accessed frequently enough to rarely permit it the opportunity to spin down. I generally get about 1:45 – 2:00 hours of battery life before reaching the 5% charge remaining level. At that point, I’ve already had several “Low battery” warnings, and have to plug in.

Visually, you’ll think you’re getting a real Apple battery. Newer’s fit and finish it excellent, and it’s has same LED’s for displaying charge level. Labels on the back display the battery rating (4800 mAH or 5300 mAH). The first Newer Tech 4800 mAH battery I received for testing had problems. It would never charge past 85-90%, and the battery life would not exceed 1+15 minutes. Newer specifies the correct technique to properly condition a Li-Ion (Lithium Ion) battery, which I followed to the letter. I actually conditioned the battery several times, and then reset the ‘Book’s Power Manager, just to make sure that I didn’t have corrupted power management settings. No dice.

Coincidentally, these problems happened just before the annual pilgrimage to the 2005 MacWorld Expo. At the show, fellow writer John Nemerovski and I had a chance to interview Other World Computing President Larry O’Connor. Since OWC owns Newer Technology, the buck stops with him. After our discussion about OWC’s upcoming products, I mentioned the problems with the review battery unit. He immediately diagnosed it as having a bad cell, and swapped out out the defective battery for a new one right then and there. There’s no better customer service than getting help from the owner of the company. While I doubt the average OWC/Newer Tech customer can talk with Larry directly, OWC’s customer service is generally quite good.

Conditioning the battery involves fully charging and fully discharging the battery at least once. Having done this, I found the new battery worked perfectly. The stock Apple charger would top off an almost-completely discharged battery in roughly 1:45, while still using the PowerBook. I did not try to determine the “time to charge” when the computer was not in use.

Given that the test unit was a 4800 milliamp hours (mAH unit), I wanted to see if the battery would provide the full 4800mAH. The easiest way to find out battery capacity is to run the following script in Terminal:

ioreg -l | grep -i IOBatteryInfo

Here’s the result from testing a just-conditioned NewerTech 4800mAH battery:

[Squiggly:~] dweeks% ioreg -l | grep -i IOBatteryInfo | | | | “IOBatteryInfo” =


This command queries the battery for it’s capacity, current charge level, and voltage.

Theoretically, the battery should show its capacity as 4800mAH. However, I ran the same script on my PowerBook when it’s battery was new, and found that Apple’s battery tested at just over 4700 mAH. So, it may not be unusual for even new batteries to not charge to full-rated capacity.

In use, I could not tell that this was not a stock Apple battery. When I flogged the Newer battery with my demanding power requirements, it produced the same battery life as Apple’s battery. Battery life when I was trying to conserve power was just as good. The unit charged just as fast with the stock Apple charger as the Apple battery. I did not perform a test that simply runs the system until it sleeps by running it under a constant load (playing iTunes non-stop) as I prefer a more real-world test.

So, why buy Newer’s 15” PowerBook batteries? I can think of two reasons: price and choice of capacity. The 4800 mAH battery sells for $109.95, while Apple’s part retails for $129.00. You’ll get the same battery life for a bit less money. Newer also sells 53 watt-hour/ 5300 mAH battery for $129.99. We did not test this unit, but it should provide roughly 10% more battery life than Apple’s battery for the same price. As someone once said…”You pays your money, you takes your choice.” Choice is a good thing. rating 4

MyMac Labs also tested Newer Technology’s PowerBook battery charger.

Retailing for $49.95, the charger provides the same 65 watts of output as the $79.00 Apple charger. Not surprisingly, I found the time to charge my PowerBook with the Newer charger to be the same as the Apple charger.

Time to charge aside, what’s the difference between the two units?

Apple has some advantages:

It’s a bit smaller and lighter. Roughly the same depth, it’s one-third as long, as well as being a bit narrower. Apple does not publish the weight on it’s web pages, but it does seem somewhat lighter than Newer’s charger.

Apple’s cord length is 8 inches longer than Newer’s 12 feet. Apple also provides the ability to plug the charger itself into the wall socket, and not use the extension cord. Newer’s extension cord is permanently attached to the charger.

Apple’s unit has a light-up ring at the end of the plug that attaches to the PowerBook that glows amber while charging, and then turns to green when the battery is fully charged. This is a great little feature Newer doesn’t have. To be sure, you can view the LED’s on the battery to see the charge state, but those provide only a very rough estimate. If you want a good estimate, you must consult the battery indicator in the menu bar, which means having to have the PowerBook up and running.

In contrast, the Newer unit has an LED on the charger itself, but it merely indicates the charger is plugged into the wall, not the charge state of the PowerBook.

So why buy the Newer unit? If price is an issue, you’ll like that it’s $29.05 cheaper than Apple’s part. That’s a 36% savings. If you don’t mind a slightly bigger and heavier unit that doesn’t have the glow-ring plug, you’ll do just fine with Newer’s charger. As far as charging is concerned, it’s just as good as Apple’s charger. Again, you can choose between features and price. Choice is good. rating 4 out of 5

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