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Battery power for your portable PC is a precious thing when you’re mobile. It’s very unnerving to get those warnings of “low battery power level” and “complete shutdown is imminent.” We’re lucky if we get two good full hours of work time out of most laptop batteries, which can be frustrating. But as incredible as it sounds, the PowerPad 160 from Electrovaya ( www.electrovaya.com) can give you a whopping 16 hours of PC power. It’s a whole new battery-draining experience! A BATTERY OF A DIFFERENT KIND The PowerPad 160 from Electrovaya is truly an incredible piece of technology. It is approximately the size of your everyday legal pad (8.75 inches by 11.75 inches) and only a half-inch thick. It fits comfortably under your laptop and weighs just under 2.5 pounds. The PowerPad is a battery ( see www.webopedia.com/TERM/ b/battery_pack.html), pure and simple, but it is a battery on steroids. One end of a small power cord plugs into the back of the PowerPad, and the other end plugs into the power outlet on your laptop. The PowerPad essentially tricks your computer into thinking that it’s attached to regular AC power. But the real kicker is that the PowerPad 160 can provide around 16 hours of pure computing power to your laptop. That’s incredible, considering the limitations of most batteries that slide into a bay in your laptop computer. Some people have even reported longer usage times with the PowerPad, but it mostly depends on how much you’re using your computer at the time. THE POSSIBILITIES WITH POWER I would assume that most readers have already considered the possibilities of 16 hours of battery time. You can use your laptop on that cross-country flight for work or watch a DVD movie and still have power left over for the hotel that night. I’m able to take my laptop in the car with me now and I don’t even have to worry about the proper converter for the cigarette lighter. I can even use my laptop in the kitchen or up in the bedroom without having to worry about where I’m going to plug in for power. I even consider some of these scenarios as part of my “wireless” concept. I can use a wireless PC card to access the Internet, which cuts out the wire involved there. And now I can use the PowerPad to cut myself loose from the power cord. There’s still a small wire that connects the PowerPad to my laptop, but that’s a lot better than having to string a power cord across the room. FUEL FROM ELECTROVAYA Up until April of this year Electrovaya was actually called Electrofuel. The company is based in Toronto, Canada, and manufactures similar battery technologies for mobile phones and other products. The PowerPad 160 was actually first introduced in June 1999, an eternity ago in today’s tech-world. It’s a credit to the company that the PowerPad is still revolutionary even today. Electrovaya’s patented technology involves packing a battery with more energy density than normal batteries hold. In addition, many batteries that slide or slip into laptop bays are limited by their shape and design in how much power they can hold. The PowerPad, on the other hand, flattens out the structure of the battery giving more freedom in design and power. What’s more, the PowerPad is encased in a thin layer of titanium (which probably adds a little to its cost) to keep it safe on the road. POWERFUL AND SIMPLE TO USE The PowerPad 160 comes with an eight-page manual, the majority of which contains warnings and safety information. I was slightly intimidated by this until I realized that it’s no more or less information that’s included with any battery — “don’t puncture” and “don’t throw into a fire.” Beyond that, the manual serves up some general information on using the PowerPad, such as “Understanding the Fuel Gauge.” The Fuel Gauge is a series of five LEDs on the PowerPad unit that tell you how much juice the PowerPad has left in it. Three green lights at the top tell you that you have full power and one red light at the bottom tells you you’re dead in the water. While you can slip out your laptop’s battery and solely rely on the PowerPad, the manual recommends that you use the PowerPad “in conjunction with the portable computer’s internal battery.” This helps to make sure you don’t lose your work when the PowerPad runs out of power. A last feature with the Fuel Gauge is a little button that you can press to get an instant reading on the level of power available. While the PowerPad is plugged in and powering a laptop, the Fuel Gauge is on all the time. But if you pull the PowerPad out of your computer bag and are interested in checking the power level, simply press the button and you’ll get an instant answer. The ideal way to use the PowerPad is to set it directly under your laptop, although when I did this I had a little trouble keeping my computer still. The plastic material used on the flat portion of the PowerPad is slippery. I don’t have any rubber feet on the bottom of my laptop, so it would slide back and forth and forwards and off (fortunately, no breakage occurred). I do wish that Electrovaya had used some other type of material that wasn’t so slippery. COMPATIBILITY IS CRUCIAL The only unfortunate aspect of the PowerPad is that it’s not compatible with every laptop on the market. You can check out the compatibility list either on Electrovaya’s Web site at www.electrovaya.com or from an online reseller of the units called Five Star Advantage, at http://www.fivestaradvantage.com/ electrofuel/compatibility.html. I know that there is technology involved here that’s beyond my control, but it would be great if such an innovative product was compatible across the board. I used the PowerPad 160 on a Toshiba Tecra 8100, and it worked fabulously. I never even had to get out my laptop’s AC adapter; I just simply plugged the PowerPad into my Tecra and booted up from there. In doing just normal things on my laptop (surfing, e-mail, word processing, etc.), I went for about seven hours before I even got the PowerPad down to 50 percent power — and that was even with a reboot in the middle. If you’re looking to add a whole heck of a lot of battery power to your portable PC setup, and you are fortunate to have a laptop that’s compatible with the PowerPad, then the purchase is a good investment in your productivity. I’ve found that I can use my laptop in places I never dreamed before. The PowerPad 160 from Electrovaya is truly a great tool for the mobile legal professional. Product: PowerPad 160 Manufacturer: Electrovaya ( www.electrovaya.com) Price: $499-$529, depending upon the model you need for your laptop. Pros: Lots and lots of battery power! Nice rubber grip-strips around the edge of the product; So very simple and easy to use Cons: A tad bit pricey; Watch that your laptop doesn’t slide off Brett Burney is the Legal Practice Support Coordinator at Thompson Hine (www.thompsonhine.com) in Cleveland. He also reviews products for Law Office Computing magazine (www.lawofficecomputing.com) and writes a monthly legal tech column for LLRX.com. He can be reached at [email protected].

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