This article is about batteries that you can use to provide backup power for your laptop. The emphasis is on the two external batteries that I haved actually used: the Tekkeon myPower ALL MP 3450 and the Duracell/Xantrex XPower Powersource Mobile 100.
The bottom line? I bought one of each. The Tekkeon was better designed for the specific purpose of use with a laptop, as I’ll explain below. The Xantrex, however, was a battery that could more conveniently be used as a power supply for a variety of devices.
In the Fall of 2009, I bought a Dell Mini 10v. I’m not sure how much it differs from the Dell Mini 10 as described on the Dell website in May 2010. For purposes of this article, it’s only important to note that the battery option I selected was the 56WHr Lithium-Ion Battery (6-cell), described as Manufacturer Part# : M525P | Dell Part# : 312-0908. As of May 15, 2010, it sold separately (in Canada) for about $170.00. Some people have said that it gave them 6 or 7 hours between charges. When mine was new, it gave me about 5.5. Currently, it’s just over 5. (I should say that my figures are the runtime estimates given to me by my computer. I haven’t measured the runtimes any more scientifically than that.)
Of course, there have been days when I needed more time than a single battery could provide. One option is to carry a spare copy of the battery that came with the computer. Buying an external battery may cost a little less, but not much less. Worse, it will give you less additional time than a spare. (I got only 3.75 hours with the Tekkeon, and 2.5 hours with the Xantrex.) There are, however, two main advantages with the external battery: you can add power without shutting down; and you can use the battery with more than one computer.
An external battery will probably also be a little easier to carry. The two batteries I have used don’t differ significantly in width, but the Tekkeon is flatter and longer than the Xantrex.
In addition, to be able to recharge the Xantrex, you need to carry a power adapter. You need a power adapter to recharge the Tekkeon too, of course. Using a little plug-in adapter, however, you can use your laptop’s power adapter to recharge the Tekkeon.
By now, you may be wondering what it was about the Xantrex that I liked. First, the power adapter that comes with the Tekkeon is considerably more bulky than the one that comes with the Xantrex. Second, an inverter is included with the Xantrex so that you can use the 12V power supply in your car to recharge it. You’d need to buy a separate inverter to do this with the Tekkeon.
The biggest hassle with the Tekkeon is all the little plug-in adapters you need to have before you can use it. I had to order both of the ones I needed for my Dell Mini 10v separately: one to power the computer, and one to be able to use the computer’s power adapter to recharge the battery. (While I was at it, I bought a third adapter so I could use the Tekkeon to recharge my cell phone. It’s so much simpler with the Xantrex. You just plug your power adapters in like you would to a wall socket.)
A very informative supplier that I discovered early on in my research was Backup-Power.ca. (As of May 15, 2010, they listed the both the Xantrex and the Tekkeon at $159.00 each.) I bought my Xantrex from Backup-Power.ca. None of the alternative retailers seemed to give a better deal.
I could have ordered my Tekkeon from Backup-Power.ca too, but I didn’t. First, they couldn’t supply the additional adapters that I needed. I had to order those directly from Tekkeon. (I paid a visit to a local outlet of The Source, and was told that these adapters are not as generic as I had hoped they would be.) Second, there are many alternative retailers for the basic package from Tekkeon. I got a considerably better price ordering from I B & H.
The Xantrex is simpler to use, as noted above and in other ways. It flashes, and stops recharging when the process is complete. You have to set a switch and push a button to check the recharging process for the Tekkeon.
On the other hand, the Tekkeon seems to be a more efficient device. You can adjust the voltage delivered according to the device you are charging. With my Dell Mini 10v, I can only use the Tekkeon to recharge the Dell’s battery. With some laptops, however, you can set the voltage so as only to power the computer without recharging its battery, which gives additional time.
The Xantrex has two USB outlets for 5V power. The Tekkeon has only one.
Finally, I found the Xantrex documentation more informative than the Tekkeon documentation. For example, it warned me to be careful about using the battery to charge a device which has a battery charger of its own. That probably explains why I fried the charger on my Sanyo KIR-SL2SS Eneloop Kairo Rechargeable Hand Warmer when I tried to use it with the Tekkeon.
One more note. Bixnet.com has a Universal External Rechargeable Netbook & Laptop Battery–SP75 which appears to be very similar to the Tekkeon. It would be great to see comments from anyone who has used one.
The marionette on the left, who inspired me as a child and to whom this article is dedicated, is Torchy the Battery Boy (image source: Whirlygig). You can watch Torchy sing a song about naughty children, or listen to his theme song, on YouTube. And if that isn’t enough Torchy for you, there’s an article on Wikipedia.