Your Guide to Battery Types
 by: Chris Robertson

Every mobile electronic device we own runs on battery power, yet we take batteries for granted – at least until they run out of juice. No matter what kind of device battery – laptop battery, cell phone battery, camcorder battery, remote control battery – you need, it’s helpful to know the various kinds of battery types and their uses.

Gel Battery – A gel battery is also known as a sealed lead acid (SLA) battery, and its distinguishing feature is that it doesn’t have to be kept upright in order to work. An SLA battery continues to perform in extreme conditions, such as hot temperatures, or under vibration. SLA batteries are often used in wheelchairs, scooters, and uninterruptible power sources. It’s best to keep an SLA battery charged, or to charge it more often than you would other types of batteries.

NiMH – NiMH stands for Nickel Metal Hydride and is the battery of choice for many cell phones, camcorders, digital cameras, GPS systems, PDAs, and other personal electronics. NiMH batteries are also used in hybrid cars. An NiMH is a rechargeable battery that is similar to a nickel cadmium (NiCd) battery, but that has double or triple the capacity of a NiCd battery. It’s best not to overcharge NiMH batteries.

NiCd – NiCd stands for Nickel Cadmium, and is a type of rechargeable battery commonly used in toys, electronic devices, and power tools. Although some people prefer NiMH batteries to NiCd batteries, a NiCd battery provides virtually the same level of voltage throughout its lifetime, and costs less than an NiMH battery.

LiION – LiION stands for Lithium Ion, and is one of the newest rechargeable batteries. Although they are more expensive than other types of rechargeable batteries, LiION batteries have more capacity and are often used in wireless phones, camcorders, and notebook computers. The downside of LiION batteries is that the length of their life commences from the date of manufacture, rather than from the number of times the battery is charged and discharged. It’s best to regularly charge LiION batteries and store used batteries in the refrigerator. (Allow them to warm to room temperature before using them, though.)

Alkaline – Alkaline batteries are not rechargeable with a battery charger, but offer a large current over a long period of time. These batteries are often used in CD players and portable radios.

Carbon Zinc – Carbon Zinc batteries are known for their reliability over long periods of time in low-drain situations, such as for garage door openers or clocks. A Carbon Zinc battery is not rechargeable.

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When choosing a Toshiba laptop battery, be sure that the item has passed the strict quality-assurance procedures that meet the accepted international standards, such as CE, UL Listed, and ISO9001/9002 certification. Any authorised battery dealer should be meeting these standards as a matter of course.

New Toshiba laptop batteries need to be activated first, before the laptop is used. They require an initial charge of 12-14 hours – and this must be done on the home charger – as opposed to any other charger, such as a cigarette adapter.

As this fully conditions the battery, regardless of what any charge indicator light says, wait the full time before disconnecting. The manufacturers recommend that the battery is then allowed to fully discharge through normal use, followed by another full recharge. This procedure should then be repeated.

After the three full charge cycles as described, it is wise to avoid further complete discharges, because this places strain on the battery. Laptop batteries, such as Toshiba laptop batteries, only have a finite number of these charging cycles before they die.

Several partial discharges with frequent recharges are healthier for lithium-ion batteries than one complete cycle. Frequent recharges will not shorten a battery’s life, but leaving it uncharged will.

A battery’s ‘fuel gauge’, often displayed as a percentage score or battery symbol on a laptop toolbar, will become increasingly less accurate as the battery fades. This can lead to the laptop closing down prematurely, which isn’t a situation anyone wants to be in when they have a piece of important work open.

There are several ways to prolong the lifespan of a Toshiba laptop battery. Keep the battery cool, by avoiding storing it anywhere hot, such as in a car. Temperatures over 40 degrees are going to significantly damage a battery’s lifespan, and these should be avoided. These batteries provide around 300-500 discharge and recharge cycles, and are expected to perform well for up to two years of normal use.

The frequency of charging will depend on the laptop’s configuration (processor, memory, hard disc, etc.), the types of programs being run and the display brightness. So, to extend the Toshiba laptop battery lifespan, set screen brightness lower, disconnect any unused external devices (such as a mouse, bluetooth dongle, webcam, etc.) and close any unused or wasteful applications.

If the laptop is to be stored for any length of time, charge it to between 80 per cent and 100 per cent of the full charge, and store the battery at a temperature of 0 degrees to 35 degrees Celsius. Bear in mind that stored batteries still discharge over long periods, so it will need to be charged again every few months.

While this care routine for lithium-ion batteries might seem relatively inconvenient, they are the current battery technology that society is stuck with. Researchers have been working on alternatives using fuel cells and nanotechnology, but such laptop battery advances are still a few years away from becoming the norm on the market.

A battery’s life actually starts to diminish from the moment it leaves the factory, so when buying a battery it is wise to check the manufacture date, start using a new battery immediately and to leave the purchase until it is actually necessary.

Toshiba laptop batteries are a product of superior design, and should be carefully treated to ensure they provide optimum performance and durability within their lifetime.

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