Saturday, 31 May 2014

Battery Monitors - Forewarned is Forearmed!

My trip to the Apple Store in Leicester to sort out my MacBook Air battery proved to be well timed as I started a new contract this week and I’m back on the road quite a bit. So far, so good. I’m getting really good battery life while the laptop is unplugged. The machine isn’t on all the time but I’m not compromising when it is working and not letting battery life get in the way of what I need to do.

I use three tools to monitor my Apple laptop batteries; Watts, Battery Diag and coconutBattery. Watts (£4.99) and Battery Diag (free) are both available from the Mac App Store; coconutBattery is also free.

Battery Diag lives in the menubar, although there is an option to have a dock icon. The app is fairly minimal as shown in the screen shots below. If you want a no-nonsense and no-frills method for seeing the state of your battery, Battery Diag is great.

coconutBattery, now on version 3.0 goes a bit further by allowing you to maintain a historical record of your battery capacity, actual and potential. There is additional information about the battery itself, including manufacturing data such as manufacturer, date of manufacture, model and serial numbers. The history is only recorded when you elect to save it - data is not automatically saved at the end of a recharge for example - but you can export the history into .csv folder for analysis in in spreadsheet. The main screen is shown in my previous post.

Watts goes the extra mile as an all round battery management tool. Although it shows less detailed information about the battery than either Battery Diag or coconutBattery, it does enable you to set notifications to warn you about specific battery events such as low battery alerts, and reminders to unplug your laptop from the mains after a certain amount of time. In addition, Watts helps you manage your calibration cycle by providing details of what you actions you need to perform to keep your battery in tip-top condition. Watts also keeps a user driven record of the battery's capacity, but you can't do anything with it, except look at it! Watts is a bit pricey but given the cost of fitting a new battery, an extra couple of quid may prove a sound investment.

The four Watts screens

As is the case with many utility type programmes you sometimes need a couple of tools to get the best mix, and these three apps have served me well enough over the past few years. As I was writing this, I came across another battery management offering called FruitJuice which I'm running as a trial. FruitJuice seems to be very similar to Watts, but is even pricier at £6.99 on the App Store. The main difference appears to be a rather natty graphical display of battery history but I've not used it long enough to generate a graph yet! I think I'll be sticking with Watts after the trial is over.

I genuinely believe that it is worth paying attention to your battery and how it performs over time. Good battery management pays off in the long term - and let's face it - any laptop with a dodgy battery is of little use to man nor beast! Especially when you're on the road without a power supply to hand!

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