Dawid Lorenz, myself, and a number of other folks (read the comments on Dawid’s page, and also on the product pages for the D620 batteries) have all experienced poor battery life on Dell Latitude D620’s that are typically less than six months old. There may or may not be a high failure rate for this battery model, and this page details my experiences in diagnosing the health of my battery and obtaining a replacement under warranty.
Determining Battery Health
There are several methods of determining your battery’s capacity relative to it’s initial specification (aka “health”).
- Press and hold the status button located on the bottom of your battery. The five LED lights will initially display your battery’s current charge (five lights is charged, zero lights is discharged), and if you continue pressing the status button for three seconds the lights will blink off and back on again, now displaying the health of your battery. If zero lights appear your battery is operating at greater than 80% of its specified capacity, if five lights appear your battery is operating at less than 60% of its specified capacity. This information was pulled from the D620 User Guide.
- If you enter the system BIOS by pressing “F2″ during the Dell logo while booting, there is a “Battery Health” option under the “Sytem” menu which gives a qualitative assessment of battery health.
- The power manager under FC6 tracks the maximum capacity of your battery at its last full charge and generates a health percentage based on the factory spec charge for your battery. To view this information, right-click the battery meter in your gnome panel, select “Information”, and expand the “More” area of the “Device Information” panel.
- If you kept your initial Windows XP install, there is a battery health meter under the Dell Quickset applet in the lower right hand corner of the screen that gives the same information that is available through the system BIOS.
Obtaining a Replacement Battery
Of course, you always have the option of purchasing a replacement battery from Dell (9-cell or 6-cell), or simply living with degraded battery life. There are some circumstances where you may be able to obtain a replacement under warranty, though. If the BIOS/Quickset health gauges are showing the battery as failed even though it’s less than a year old, Dell will replace it under warranty. According to the phone rep that I spoke to, a battery is considered to have failed when operating at less than 50% of its rated capacity. When I called, my battery was five months old and operating at 50%-60% of it’s capacity (5 death lights, BIOS noted lowered battery life but did not pronounce failure, FC6 power manager rated health at 56%, observed battery life was 50%-60% of expected). I was able to successfully make the case that the battery was clearly borderline and would certainly be replaced within a month or two, and that doing so now was an opportunity to provide excellent customer service whereas forcing me to wait would serve no purpose other than irritating me. To his credit, the phone rep immediately acknowledged that my line of thinking was reasonable, spoke to a supervisor, and was able to authorize the early replacement.
I love my laptop, and in general I’m very happy with it. It does look like there’s a trend toward premature battery failure, though, and if your situation is severe enough you may be eligible for a warranty replacement. Once your replacement arrives, go read about how to monitor and optimize battery performance.