It was the turn of the century and the tech industry was abuzz about the inevitable milestone of a 1 gigahertz microprocessor. The underdog, AMD, beat the microprocessor giant, Intel, to this historic landmark with their Athlon processor operating for the first time ever at 1 gigahertz.
This trend of racing to the next gigahertz milestone continued until a point was hit where regardless of how much faster the microprocessors became the user had no significant gain in everyday performance.
Now over a decade later, megahertz and gigahertz are an afterthought for the new king on the block, battery life.
As computing continues its trek from the home office to the pocket, power efficiency becomes the feature we desire but is hidden behind design and new features. As we demand faster, thinner, and lighter devices compromises are commonly made that decrease the space for a battery. With less space for a battery, engineers rely on two factors – improving battery technology and component power efficiency.
Long gone are the days where devices are strictly sold by speed alone. The microprocessor manufacturers realize this, as each new iteration includes power efficiency improvements with minimal speed increases. Earlier this year Apple introduced a laptop that offers 12 hours of battery life. For the first time in a consumer laptop we have achieved the ability to truly have a full day use on one single charge. This battery life was not obtained by increasing the battery size but by increasing the power efficiency. The less power used per clock cycle the longer and battery life and happier the customer.
Most portable computers now will do what 90% of users need to accomplish. Moving forward battery life and portability is what will set devices apart.
As technology dramatically increases our need for speed has plateaued and this creates the new race – battery life.