Discarding Optical Drives to Make Way for Bigger Batteries

So it’s been discovered now that Apple has included a significantly larger capacity lithium-polymer battery on the new iPad. To be exact, the new iPad has a 42.5 watt battery, as opposed to the previous generation’s 25 watt version. It’s not surprising that this had to happen, considering the plethora of power hungry radios included. Yes, of course Apple finally managed to get low power Bluetooth and LTE chips, but that only helps so much. They truly did need to do something to the battery to keep the performance in line with last years model — anything less than 10 hours would not be acceptable to them or users.

This got me thinking about battery capacity in current MacBooks. Right now Apple has the best in class laptops on the market as far as battery life is concerned. That being said, there is no doubt within my mind we’ll get a huge performance bump as soon as Apple drops optical drives across the entire lineup. I know I’ve talked about this before, but originally I was hoping Apple would offer dual HD configurations instead of just increasing battery capacity. This line of thinking was foolish though. The reality is Apple is always going to focus on user experience first, and that means if they have an opportunity to fill up that drive bay with more battery, they’ll jump at the chance.

The current generation 15” and 17” MacBook Pros have 77 watt and 95 watt lithium-polymer batteries respectively. Once you remove the optical drive itself, plus the additionally supporting structure surrounding it, Apple could extend the battery and fill up the rest of that space, thus dramatically increasing battery capacity to well over 100 watts. With newer low power Intel CPU/GPUs, tweaked power management in Mountain Lion, and more battery capacity, it’s not unrealistic to think they can’t attain at least 10 hour battery life across the entire MacBook Pro lineup. As for the MacBook Air, the smaller physical size of the unibody chassis will limit the battery capacity somewhat, unless Apple comes up with some breakthrough in battery technology soon. Remember, they already ship the Airs without optical drives, so they really can’t utilize anymore space in these things. The components as is are packed so tightly, there’s not a single drop of space that they can use — short of another breakthrough in logic board design and component sizes. This year should be interesting to see what Apple can come up with.