eo Battery Life Issue

Anyone who has followed discussions of the TabletKiosk eo v7110 in various forums or blogs should know by now that there is a fair amount of controversy surrounding the device. The primary issue is that the originally advertised battery life (with the included 3-cell battery) was over 2.5 hours, but the reality is that the eo cannot manage more than 90 minutes or so under normal use. Even with pretty much everything (including the screen) disabled, testing has generally shown an upper limit of about 2 hours.

The issue is well documented on other sites and has been publicly acknowledged by TabletKiosk as well. Over the course of last week, requests sent to their technical support department (I opened a ticket with them myself) met with fairly terse, stock responses acknowledging their awareness of the issue and that they were working on finding solutions. On Friday, they sent a mass email to all eo owners once again stating that they were working on the issue and extending the no-penalty return period for purchases up to 30-days instead of the usual 15. Right now, there is a lot of discussion online among early adopters about whether or not each of us plan to keep our system or make use of this return policy.

Many are pondering whether TabletKiosk knew about the problem before they shipped or not. I have worked either with or in technology quality assurance groups for much of my career and I know that QA can sometimes take a back seat to marketing-driven deadlines. It really looks to me like TabletKiosk was pretty focused on being able to issue that press release announcing that they had the first UMPC available in the US market and that probably resulted in a rush to shipping. They also were likely influenced some by the rather excited and somewhat impatient pre-order customers (including me) who were really making it known that we wanted to get our orders as soon as possible

We do know that the shipment of the first batch was delayed by a little over a week after they discovered that a large percentage were defective due to a case molding problem. At first, it might seem that the extra time spent verifying that the remaining units were ready to ship should have increased the chance of them identifying the battery life issue; the opposite may very well be true. The need to identify and certify the units that did not have the show-stopper defect could easily have caused a large percentage of basic functionality testing to be set aside. With the impending shipment of the Samsung Q1 greatly threatening the ability to issue that “first to market” press release, serious measurements and testing of the battery life may simply have been set aside.

Of course, the other alternative is that they might have shipped the systems with the known problem, hoping that the issue could be quickly resolved. My own experiences have shown that it just isn’t that uncommon to ship a product with a known problem to meet a deadline. It could be that they were gambling on the possibility that a fix would be ready before word about the problem spread too widely. Knowing that preview articles describing pre-release prototypes had commented about battery life, I wouldn’t be overly surprised if this is what happened here.

One move that put off quite a few in the online community was TabletKiosk’s decision last week to quietly remove the battery life claim from the specifications for the eo on their website. I suppose that does seem a tad sneaky, but it probably was also the smartest thing for them to do. In fact, I had even suggested as much in a posting to the OrigamiProject.com forums the day before they actually made the change. They certainly couldn’t keep the incorrect information up on the promotional materials, while changing it to show the current battery life figures wouldn’t exactly be helpful in selling the eo and would very likely turn out to be inaccurate once they find and fix the problem. It isn’t like TabletKiosk is denying the problem to current owners (we have received emails acknowledging it) and any potential buyers that did even a little online research would pretty quickly come upon discussions of the problem. I really think that simply avoiding the subject on the sales page is the wisest thing right now.

This brings me to the big question of whether or not I plan to keep my eo. I still have a couple weeks before the 30-day period expires, so I don’t have to make an immediate decision. At this moment, I’m leaning towards sticking with it. I’m certainly not thrilled with the battery life, but it really isn’t intolerable for me. Assuming that the extended battery gets close to double the life of the standard one, it should be capable of somewhere around 3 hours. If I also keep the standard battery charged, that would be about 4 ½ hours total, although with one re-boot required. It is pretty rare that I would use the device much longer than that without getting to somewhere that I could get it recharged. Based on everything I’ve heard so far, I also think the odds are rather high that they will manage to extend the battery life at least to 2 hours standard and 4 hours extended. I have a strong doubt that I would ever need more than a 6 hour combined total.

The truth is that I am getting a lot of use out of my eo, even with its current limitations. I’m actually writing this article on it while eating my lunch at a Wendy’s restaurant. That is really both very cool and very useful. It is also just one small example of the pretty large number of ways that I have been using my eo, both on the road as well as at home or work. I bought an extra charger allowing me to have them both at home and work, which means that the battery life really hasn’t slowed my usage much.

I would probably seriously consider returning my eo if there were another UMPC on the market that met my needs as well, while giving a better battery life. Right now, that just isn’t the case. The Samsung Q1 may do better in the battery life, but it falls short of my needs in the area of storage space. I also don’t like the user interface nearly as well. Sony’s just announced UX-series UMPCs also look nice, but they are too small, too expensive, and also fall short in the storage capacity.

At least for now, it looks to me like it is basically a choice between the eo and no UMPC at all. Barring any changes in circumstances in the next couple weeks, I’m pretty sure I’ll stay with the eo.

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