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Portables Power Hardware

Working Toward a Universal Power Brick For Laptops 365

Posted by timothy
from the please-don't-base-it-on-micro-usb dept.
An anonymous reader links to PC Authority with some hopeful news about untangling a persistent annoyance for laptop users — namely, the myriad power supplies called for by laptop makers: "'On a PC, an ATX power supply for example will screw into certain mounting holes, have a maximum size and shape, and will take a standard 3-pin "kettle cord" for incoming power. If it complies with these standards, the PSU will be able to bolt into any manufacturer's ATX case.' Laptop design, on the other hand, involves cramming a PC into a tiny chassis, which usually has its own thermal design and power distribution requirements. This has led to the somewhat bizarre situation where every manufacturer has its own laptop power supply design. It now appears that some of the major players in laptops are getting together to work on a standardized laptop power supply design. Not only are big players involved, but the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) has created a team to work on the power supply standard."
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Working Toward a Universal Power Brick For Laptops

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  • Re:Well... (Score:3, Informative)

    by TwiztidK (1723954) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @11:38AM (#32811772)
    At present, Apple won't license their "MagSafe" connector to anyone.
  • Re:Well... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @11:44AM (#32811860)

    they'll tote it as an exclusive feature.

    You mean tout.

    You're the one who has to tote the thing around.

  • by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @11:48AM (#32811944)

    Here's a huge grain of salt:

    According to Taiwanese industry news site Digitimes these kinds of solutions may soon be superseded. It now appears that some of the major players in laptops are getting together to work on a standardized laptop power supply design. This includes the big branded players ASUS and Acer as well as the OEM manufacturers like Quanta and Compal, which are responsible for a lot of the non-brand name laptops available on the market.

    Basically it's just four Taiwanese OEM manufacturers (Yes ASUS is just as much an OEM as a brand name) trying to lessen the cost of manufacture by making the laptop power supply a commodity item. While this would be a good thing for all involved, I wouldn't start rejoicing until Foxconn expresses an interest and of course Dell, Apple, Lenovo, etc.

  • Re:Scalper (Score:3, Informative)

    by imakemusic (1164993) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @12:18PM (#32812500)

    Yes because they tout, i.e. flaunt, the tickets.

    Tout: advertize in strongly positive terms; "This product was touted as a revolutionary invention"

    Tote: Lug: carry with difficulty; "You'll have to lug this suitcase"

  • by Marcika (1003625) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @12:22PM (#32812582)

    Here's a huge grain of salt:

    According to Taiwanese industry news site Digitimes these kinds of solutions may soon be superseded. It now appears that some of the major players in laptops are getting together to work on a standardized laptop power supply design. This includes the big branded players ASUS and Acer as well as the OEM manufacturers like Quanta and Compal, which are responsible for a lot of the non-brand name laptops available on the market.

    Basically it's just four Taiwanese OEM manufacturers (Yes ASUS is just as much an OEM as a brand name) trying to lessen the cost of manufacture by making the laptop power supply a commodity item. While this would be a good thing for all involved, I wouldn't start rejoicing until Foxconn expresses an interest and of course Dell, Apple, Lenovo, etc.

    Yea right, just some OEM manufacturers... LMGIFY:

    "Quanta Computer Incorporated (TWSE: 2382) is a Taiwan-based manufacturer of notebook computers and other electronic hardware. It is the largest manufacturer of notebook computers in the world. Its customers include ACER, Alienware, Apple Inc., Cisco, Compaq, Dell, Fujitsu, Gateway, Gericom, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Maxdata, MPC, Sharp Corporation, Siemens AG, Sony, Sun Microsystems, and Toshiba.[...] It is estimated that Quanta had a 33% worldwide market share of notebook computers in 2005."

  • by wowbagger (69688) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @12:27PM (#32812654) Homepage Journal

    12VDC - Not gonna happen.

    Modern (beefy) laptops want about 70W when running, about 100-120W when running and charging. Pulling more than about 80W from a 12V lighter socket won't happen - most lighter sockets now-a-days are about 8 amps, and because the lighter socket is such an atrocious interface you really get about 11V at that current if the engine is running, so you are looking at about 80-90W.

    Even if you do as I have done and use manly power connectors (e.g. Anderson PowerPole) pulling more than 10A means seriously thick wire for any length.

    That's why many modern laptop power supplies run 18V or so - that extra 50% voltage means 2/3 the current at the same load, and 4/9ths the losses in the wire (for a given thickness of wire).

  • Re:good. (Score:5, Informative)

    by phoenix321 (734987) * on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @12:30PM (#32812698)

    USB1,2,3 are pretty compatible. In one way only for USB3, but not totally different.

    FW400,800 are also compatible enough.

    eSATA is probably more of a niche product. Probably no one has this on their must-have!!1! list. It's marginally faster than USB2 for external drives only and few drives can steadily saturate a USB2 link at all. Until I'm not saying 480Mbps are enough for everyone, but enough to stop caring *that* much until SSDs become cheap enough to be an external commodity drive.

    VGA is simply kept in a zombie state by ignorant users and overcautious companies. Use cases are respectively "I don't see any difference between analog and digital video and that VGA-only TFT was 0,10 EUR cheaper" and "My laptop must work with the most ancient projectors, the most ancient of cabling and the most ancient of users. Therefore VGA is a must".

    DVI and HDMI are interchangeabled with an adapter available at 1000 eBay shops for less than 5 EUR incl. shipping. They're still gold plated, though.

    DisplayPort are electrically incompatible to DVI and HDMI, but no one notices, since the video cards adapt to it. Apple fans will probably mod me down to hell, but DisplayPort is the reinvention of the wheel. A sleek and stylish wheel of course, and we totally, absolutely needed another connector for digital video that is electrically incompatible with DVI and HDMI. Since we only had 2 digital video standards to choose from. Maybe one of our Appolytes can enlighten me, but to me, it has no substantial advantages over HDMI.

    Looking at the rest of the connectors on this Thinkpad, I spot 1 probably required Gb Ethernet port, 1 zombie Modem port that, since 3G internet, is probably never be used or needed again and 2 analog audio connectors in and out, that are as of yet indispensable.

    Ethernet will probably survive for several decades, since no one will want to replace all those hectoparsecs of wiring or carry around a USB-Ethernet dongle. Paranoid companies will not switch to even terabit WiFi, ever, since it's all so terribly insecure even with 16kB long keys.

    VGA will die in methusalem companies out 1 decade AFTER Internet Explorer 6. Since, you know, you could on one day meet the first data projector ever built and must connect to it lest the company be damned.

    FireWire is dying. Zealots are drawing their knives now, but it adds nothing to USB2 or 3.

    Same for eSATA.

    DisplayPort, Mini-DisplayPort, Micro-DisplayPort and DisplayPort9000 will probably survive with Apple hardware because of reason no. 1337.

    HTC, Apple or Sony could go on to invent anther standard for micro-, mini- and pico-USB, And micro-, mini- and pico-HDMI, maybe each in two versions called A and B.

    The MAFIAA will come up with a new copy protection scheme and cabling somewhere in the next decade, but that cannot stop the unification wave. They have HDMI with Gigabit Ethernet now, which is probably more versatile than sliced bread, but it still will have to compete with USB video.

    But in the end, the future has fewer connectors. One for power, one for everything else. USB is as Turing-complete as connectors go, if you excuse this analogy. Everything can then easier be adapted to use them instead of inventing a new format. With mass production lowering marginal costs to fractions of a cent, nothing exists that cannot be connected by some protocol driven over USB.

  • by sirwired (27582) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @12:36PM (#32812778)

    Twice now I've had IBM/Lenovo laptops that use the same connectors as their predecessors, yet have increased wattage requirements that make the old supplies risky to use. I remember when our office transitioned from 600's to T20's. So many people were re-using the plug-and-voltage-compatible supplies and burning out the power regulators on the system board that IT started putting bright green stickers on every machine warning you that you should only use the higher-power supplies.

    Again, from T60 -> W500's... increased wattage requirements, same voltage and connector. While this one isn't burning out laptops, the older bricks run HOT.

    SirWired

  • Re:good. (Score:3, Informative)

    by TheThiefMaster (992038) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @12:45PM (#32812892)

    DVI can be adaptered to VGA, so there really is no reason for a pc to have a VGA port on it.

  • Re:good. (Score:3, Informative)

    by 644bd346996 (1012333) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @12:48PM (#32812944)

    DisplayPort is royalty-free; HDMI isn't.

    DisplayPort is also more computer-oriented than HDMI, so it is more flexible about what kind of data streams it can carry. For example, the latest version of the standard supports carrying USB signals and a wider range of audio formats than HDMI supports.

    Also, DisplayPort wasn't invented by Apple. They just adopted it (except for their own connector) because it suited their needs better than HDMI.

  • Re:good. (Score:5, Informative)

    by srw (38421) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @12:57PM (#32813066) Homepage
    Firewire has better latency than USB2 and is better able to sustain it's specced data rate. That is why it is still used in professional video and audio applications. Oh, and we also use eSATA for the same reason. (Yes, I work in that industry.) Other than that, I think you're pretty much right on.
  • by confused one (671304) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @01:19PM (#32813430)
    That article says nothing about standardization. It indicates the power supplies have to meet certain efficiency standards. That's all.
  • Not a kettle lead. (Score:3, Informative)

    by ZERO1ZERO (948669) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @01:22PM (#32813482)
    I see lots of people refer to the IEC C14 connector as a 'kettle lead' For one, it won't plug into a kettle - there is a notch. Secondly the kettle lead is likely to have a 13amp fuse in the plug, and computer should have a 5 amp in the plug. The proper name for a kettle plug is the IEC C14.

    The kettle leads are also rated to work at higher temperatures, which is one of the reasons you can got from kettle to pc, but not from pc to kettle.

    Also, do you guys in the US have kettles? I'm sure I've read many times that your electricity is too weak to power a kettle , here in the UK we can get 3KW kettles which will boil a couple of litres of water in a minute or so.

  • Re:Not for my laptop (Score:4, Informative)

    by pauljlucas (529435) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @01:35PM (#32813708) Homepage Journal

    You can blame Apple's "Think Different" approach to things. (Though oddly ironic in that it's misspelled)

    Actually, it's not misspelled. It's intentionally not "Think Differently" because they're not telling you how to think. They're telling you what to think.

    Analogy: For a car ad campaign, I might say things like, "When you think of this car, think sleek, think bold, think power." Just as "think sleek" is short-hand for "think [about something that is] sleek," "Think Different" is short-hand for "think [about something that is] different."

  • Re:good. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Spatial (1235392) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @02:19PM (#32814454)

    eSATA is [...] marginally faster than USB2 for external drives only and few drives can steadily saturate a USB2 link at all. I'm not saying 480Mbps are enough for everyone [...] FireWire is dying. Zealots are drawing their knives now, but it adds nothing to USB2 or 3. Same for eSATA.

    I thought the same thing until I actually tested it. USB2 is very slow; it was probably a bottleneck ten years ago, let alone now.

    I have an external HDD with all three interfaces. How long do my backups take on each?
    eSATA: 2.2 hours (70 MB/sec, 560Mbps, limited by HDD)
    FW400: 3.8 hours (40 MB/sec, 320Mbps)
    USB2: 4.8 hours (32 MB/sec, 256Mbps)

    This is with a three-year-old 5400RPM 750GB model. In short, any old piece of crap can saturate USB2.

  • Re:good. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Ogi_UnixNut (916982) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @02:48PM (#32814918) Homepage

    Unless USB3 can do DMA transfers (i.e. without needing the CPU's direct involvement) Firewire will stay. Honestly the USB standard seems to be a step backwards to PIO days.

    It was a crap standard back when it was released, which is fair enough, as it was designed to replace serial, parallel and the PS/2 ports, all slow devices. It was never designed for connecting disks to (or anything faster than 12mbit/s), which is why it sucks at most high throughput tasks (despite the tacked on bit added to it in USB2 to help it along).

    The only thing on the horizon which I can see as being an improvement over Firewire (and a unifying connector for all) is Intel's LightPeak technology, but even that has the limitation of not being able to transfer power to devices through the same cable.

  • by evilviper (135110) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @03:08PM (#32815262) Journal

    Please, electrical gods, make it 12V

    Not going to happen. Laptops use 12V internally, which means the battery will be higher voltage than that (much higher in fact) and you need a supply voltage that is several volts higher than the battery to charge it, and higher still to be able to charge it while powered-on and running, too.

    The standard is ~20V, which isn't bad. Connect two car batteries in series and you get 24V. Throw in a handful of diodes to clean-up the power a bit, and they'll also drop a few volts, to the point it should be safe to use.

    12V sealed lead acid motorcycle battery in your pocket for when the li-ion is failing after a year.

    I love car batteries for stationary uses. They're just so dirt cheap, and are so large they have tons of power to offer. For mobile uses, however, there's good reason we use NiCd, NiMH, and LiIon. A lead-acid battery would weigh a ton. But more than that, it'll still only power the device for a fraction as long as any other type of battery. They just don't have remotely the energy density of LiIon.

  • Re:good. (Score:3, Informative)

    by pclminion (145572) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @12:45AM (#32821784)

    Unless USB3 can do DMA transfers (i.e. without needing the CPU's direct involvement) Firewire will stay. Honestly the USB standard seems to be a step backwards to PIO days.

    As somebody who is currently writing Linux device drivers for some extremely bizarre hardware which is capable of DMA, I can only say... "Hurrrgh?"

    What does DMA have to do with the USB3 wire protocol? DMA is a function of the host controller. If you want DMA capability, then put it in the controller. What on earth does this have to do with the wire signaling? Asking whether USB3 can do DMA is like asking if TCP/IP supports Microsoft Outlook.

    But I haven't read the USB3 spec. Perhaps it's a schizophrenic combination of physical specifications and host endpoint specifications, in which case I wonder what the hell somebody is smoking?

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