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Whenever I am on a long flight, I try to be as efficient as possible in laptop usage. Everything that I don't need is switched off, from WiFI and bluetooth, to any other unneeded app. I mainly need to write, so this way I can manage up to 5 hours. On my previous Mac, I simply had an additional battery packed, which would allow me twice the amount of working time. Unfortunately Apple decided to make the battery an integral part of the laptop.

On my 11 hour flight last week, there was however this guy who was working all the time on his laptop and he I saw him coding and compiling all the time. I intended to ask him how he managed to do that with external power available, while deplaning, but I simply forgot :(.

My question is how can I work on a macbook pro longer then 5-6 hours when on a long flight with no external power available?

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4  
More seriously, you should probably edit your question to include any laptop or electronic device that has a non-removable battery. –  Vince Oct 20 '13 at 15:20
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Was the other guy on the flight using a computer with or without removable battery? –  hippietrail Oct 20 '13 at 17:14
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Fly with my airlines, we have electric and usb sockets in all classes ;) –  MeNoTalk Oct 20 '13 at 19:00
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Is this really a travel question? It sounds more like an electronics hardware question... –  Flimzy Oct 20 '13 at 22:27
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Do you really want to work more than 10 hours in a row on a laptop in a confined environment? –  mouviciel Oct 21 '13 at 6:08
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5 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Three approaches:

  • choose an airline that has in-seat power.
  • get a sheet battery - the one I have for my Windows laptop adds another 7 hours or so - that attaches to the laptop and doesn't look external, so you can use it in place
  • get an external battery and take a break for a little while to let it do its charging under your seat or somewhere the crew can't see it, then remove it and go back to working

My old laptop used to trip the breakers on planes if I tried to both use it and charge it, so I'd use it a while, close the lid, plug it in and set it aside while I ate or whatever, then pick it up and work again. And yes, I choose my work wisely. If I'm rendering video then my 9 hours of battery life will disappear in an hour or two. Still I occasionally render video on planes anyway.

External battery packs for Macs surely exist. Here's a review and another review. It says 32 hours for MBA, and 8 for MBP. That should help. And in a pinch, you might even carry two :-)

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Why are they called "sheet batteries"? –  hippietrail Oct 21 '13 at 14:33
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they are flat and thin. Mine covers the entire base of the laptop and is about the thickness of a screen. See youtube.com/watch?v=MmfZShCifAE for example –  Kate Gregory Oct 21 '13 at 14:38
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The most obvious solution is to procure an extra, external battery.

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Well not so obvious if you're used to normal laptops without sealed-in batteries. –  hippietrail Oct 20 '13 at 17:17
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@hippietrail: I think the idea is to carry a battery that any device, with a sealed-in battery, can be charged from. I carry a (much smaller) version of the same, to charge my phone, kindle, etc, when away from a power outlet for extended periods. –  Flimzy Oct 20 '13 at 22:28
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Apple claims the 2013 version of MacBook Air has battery that can last up to 12 hours. (http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=MacBook_Air&oldid=577817487)

A test performed by The Verge, for example, found Apple's claim to be accurate, with the laptop running for 13 hours and 29 minutes while "[cycling] through a series of websites and images at 65 percent brightness." (http://www.theverge.com/2013/6/17/4436332/macbook-air-review-13-inch-2013)

Of course, if this guy is coding and testing a CPU-intensive program (such as a 3D game), that will use up the battery faster. But, for "normal" programming, it should be comparable to the test The Verge has performed.

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One of the big consumers of electricity is powering the screen. Lower the brightness to the lowest you can possibly tolerate. The other big consumer of the electricity is the CPU. While you can't avoid using the CPU, you can reduce the strain on it by shutting down any unnecessary programs in the background such as iTunes.

You also need to ask yourself if it's reasonable to expect 10+ hours of battery power if your laptop is anything less than new. Battery lifetime can be shortened drastically after a couple years of use. From personal experience every laptop I have owned has gone down in battery life by 50% after a year. I've improved this number a bit with better battery charging habits, but the decline is inevitable.

But those are more technical tips. As far as travel goes, there are airlines that have outlets at every seat. The only one that I have personally been on to offer outlets and powered USB ports is Air Canada. If writing during a long flight is this important, you should do a little homework to find an airline with power outlets. I know that Virgin Airlines also has outlets and I'm sure with a little searching you will find many many more.

http://www.virginamerica.com/inflight/airline-amenities.html

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I am fully aware off the options to increase battery lifetime. I am going to downvote this answer since I was specifically interested in what to do if there is NO outlet available. –  andra Oct 24 '13 at 8:23
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The latest version of OS X (Mavericks) is available as a free upgrade, and reports are that it lives up to its promise of conserving battery life. The Mavericks battery monitor also tells you which applications are consuming the most power: you may find find that some seemingly-innocuous background apps are consuming much more power than you expect, and can be safely deactivated.

Other than that, just follow the usual advice. Dim the screen, turn off the wireless, close the laptop when not in use, turn off Flash animations, and so on.

And if you have money to burn, treat yourself tothe latest model Macbook Air. It will easily see you through a 10 hour flight if you're not maxing out the CPU.

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