5 reasons to hog power outlets when using a notebook

Hogging a power outlet can help your battery last longer, give you better performance, and keep other devices charged up, while at the same time keeping you ready for the unexpected.

Last week, ZDNet's mobile guru James Kendrick highlighted how changing technology means that we don't need to keep our notebooks permanently on charge when out and about. And on the whole he's right, people are needlessly tethering their notebooks to power outlets, meaning that they aren't getting the most out of their hardware, while simultaneously being a pain in the rear to others. 

But there are times when it makes good sense to hog a power outlet, and here I'm going to run through five reasons why you'll find me tethered to the mains outlet.

(Source: iFixit)

#1: Reducing battery recharge cycles

The battery packs inside notebooks have a limited number of recharge cycles before they begin to lose efficiency. This number varies from manufacturer to manufacturer.

For example, the 15-inch Retina-display MacBook Pro I'm currently using — Apple lists that as having 1,000 recharge cycles before the battery is considered "consumed" and should be replaced. I've owned the notebook for 86 days as of today and it has gone through 40 recharge cycles. That's roughly one every two days, giving my battery a theoretical lifespan of about 2,000, or a little under 5 and a half years.

But let's look at this another way. My MacBook Pro has a battery life of between 5 and 7 hours, which means that I could, in theory at any rate, go through two recharge cycles a day, which would shorten my battery's lifespan to about 500 days, which is a little more than 16 months.

The more you use your notebook while it is connected to a power outlet, the longer the battery will last.

With this in mind, I don't like wasting recharge cycles unnecessarily.

#2 – Performance vs. battery life

The performance you get from most notebooks while they are running off battery is more than adequate for most tasks, but when you want to do something more demanding — my example would be running Photoshop — then you have to choose between performance and battery life.

You can't have both.

If I choose battery life then I'm sacrificing performance, and tasks take longer, whereas if I choose performance, I'm cutting into my battery life significantly, and also churning through more battery recharge cycles.

#3 – Recharge when you can

I'm a big believer in eating when you can, sleeping when you can, and using the rest room when you can. The idea being that you never know when the next opportunity might arise.

In recent years, I've extended this to recharging my portable devices when I can. Why drain my battery when there's an outlet a couple of feet away? What's more, why drain a battery when there's a recharge outlet only a couple of feet away and I don't know how long it will be until I'm sitting near another one?

#4 – Expect the unexpected

This is a follow-up on the previous point, but it's worth bearing in mind.

Notebooks tell you how long their battery has left, but bear in mind that this is an estimate. A prediction.  An educated guess. Your notebook doesn't contain a time-travelling circuit and cannot accurately tell you what's ahead.

Recharge now so you don't have to worry — or at least so you can worry less — about it later.

#5 – A charged notebook can be used to charge other things

The battery in my notebook isn't just used to power the notebook, I also use it to charge other devices using the USB port. The more power I have in the tank, the longer I can keep my other devices going. 

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