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high power laptop & in flight power

high power laptop & in flight power

Old Mar 4, 15, 3:10 pm
  #1  
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high power laptop & in flight power

Hi there,

New here, but hoping someone can help as I am tearing my hair out!

I've just bought a new Dell laptop and was horrified to recently find that it requires too much power to use on flights!

Apparently the normal flight power socket gives around 75 watts and my laptop requires 125 watts.

Does anyone have any experience of this issue? Is there any way around it?

I wish I knew this before buying the laptop, I would have bought an alternative!

THANKS in advance,

Rob.
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Old Mar 4, 15, 4:17 pm
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The only way around it is to let the power outlet charge the laptop (while it is shut down).

Charging usually uses significantly less power than charge+use. It isn't ideal, but that is the price you pay for a larger high power laptop.
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Old Mar 6, 15, 2:13 am
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Originally Posted by ScottC View Post
The only way around it is to let the power outlet charge the laptop (while it is shut down).

Charging usually uses significantly less power than charge+use. It isn't ideal, but that is the price you pay for a larger high power laptop.
Won't necessarily help; can't say for sure it's true of all 125W/130W supplies, but the two different 130W models I've tried will trip the in-seat breaker no matter what you're doing (even with just the brick plugged in without the computer attached.)

If he's got a model (most Latitude or recent XPS) where there's a mostly-compatible 90W version available, he should be able to use the 90W supply with the machine, either to charge it while off, or to run with some throttling (and no battery charging while the machine is on.) The amount of throttling has been more or less tolerable depending on the particular machine.

While rated for 75W, I've never had a seat power port deactivate with a 90W supply (whether AC, or either the Dell or Lenovo DC Auto/Air supplies I've had.)
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Old Mar 6, 15, 11:58 am
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Originally Posted by nkedel View Post
If he's got a model (most Latitude or recent XPS) where there's a mostly-compatible 90W version available, he should be able to use the 90W supply with the machine, either to charge it while off, or to run with some throttling (and no battery charging while the machine is on.) The amount of throttling has been more or less tolerable depending on the particular machine.

While rated for 75W, I've never had a seat power port deactivate with a 90W supply (whether AC, or either the Dell or Lenovo DC Auto/Air supplies I've had.)
This has worked for me on DL aircraft. I think it probably also helps to do whatever you can to minimize power consumption during laptop operation. I.e. use the "battery" hardware power setting, reduce display brightness, avoid spinning CD/DVD and USB drives, and ideally run your OS from SSD if possible.
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Old Mar 6, 15, 1:11 pm
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I had this problem some years ago with a hefty HP Pavilion model. Billed as a great device for enjoying audio and video, great big screen for watching movies, but connected to an airplane power outlet, charging couldn't keep pace with use, even for less power-intensive activities such as working in Word and Excel. It was probably here on FT in this forum that someone explained to me that the computer needed more power than it could draw from the airplane outlet. Even on a fairly short trip, like Chicago to Washington DC, I was alarmed to see how quickly the battery ran down.

If you need to travel with a computer like that, the only solution seems to me to be to travel with a fully charged backup battery. And, as said before, turn it off at times and let it recharge, although if I recall correctly, the recharging will be slow.

My eventual solution was to leave that heavy HP Pavilion at home and make it my desktop computer. Its weight alone was killing my back, much less lugging a backup battery along.

I got a smaller, slower, lighter-weight HP Pavilion (what can I say? I was a fan at the time). Did I mention slow? It had a celery processor --- oops, I mean a Celeron processor -- hardly different. Bought a backup battery for it (dinky computer size meant dinky battery life), and that became my travel computer. I called the big one that stayed at home Dr. Evil, and I called the little one that went on trips with me MiniMe. Dr. Evil burned himself out years ago, his own fan couldn't keep him cool; MiniMe is still with me.
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Old Mar 6, 15, 1:53 pm
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Originally Posted by WWGuy View Post
This has worked for me on DL aircraft. I think it probably also helps to do whatever you can to minimize power consumption during laptop operation. I.e. use the "battery" hardware power setting, reduce display brightness, avoid spinning CD/DVD and USB drives, and ideally run your OS from SSD if possible.
May be a difference in aircraft (I haven't flown Delta since 1988 and the former NW since 2000), or in the power supply. Do you mind saying what machine (or at least brand) and roughly what power supply you saw that with?

The Dell 130W supplies I tried have tripped the breaker on CX (77W) and AA (77W and 738) as soon as they were plugged in, whether or not the laptop itself was attached, and if attached, on or off. The machine model in question is the Precision M3800 and the power supply was except for the 738 the XPS-style mini-plug one (says DA130PM130) on the back; on the 738 it was an older PA4E that I tried because of the problems with the XPS-style adapter... didn't work either.

The older 90W Latitude PA-10 supply and the 90W Lenovo supplies have always worked for me on AC style plugs, and ditto the 90W DC auto/air adapters from both Lenovo (actually Targus, I think) and Dell on older AA aircraft.
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Old Mar 6, 15, 4:02 pm
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I've got a couple of old x64 Latitude D830s that I've upgraded to 8GB memory and dual SSDs, so I still use them for light-duty activities. They operate off of the 90W PA-10 power supply.

A few years back the 230 watt power supply in my M6500 died and I discovered that the 90W PA-10 would either charge the M6500 if it was turned off or keep it running if the battery was already charged. After that I carried the extra 90 watt PS when I knew I needed to run the M6500 during extended flights. Not exactly rocket surgery, but it worked.

Now I've got an HP ZBook 15 with 200 watt PS that I can operate similarly with a 90 W Slim AC adapter while flying. I'm not sure if they're pulling a full 90 watts on the plane though. I run all SSD and no DVD or USB drives. Even when running on the big power supplies they run a lot cooler than when first delivered from the manufacturer with HDD etc.
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Old Mar 6, 15, 4:48 pm
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Originally Posted by WWGuy View Post
A few years back the 230 watt power supply in my M6500 died and I discovered that the 90W PA-10 would either charge the M6500 if it was turned off or keep it running if the battery was already charged.
230W? Ouch. I thought the 170-180W on the M4700 and W520/W530 were heavy enough.

That matches my experience with the M3800, then; I thought you were saying that a higher-wattage supply would work in-seat if the machine was under light load.

After that I carried the extra 90 watt PS when I knew I needed to run the M6500 during extended flights. Not exactly rocket surgery, but it worked.
I've done essentially the same thing in the past year a couple of times.

Now I've got an HP ZBook 15 with 200 watt PS that I can operate similarly with a 90 W Slim AC adapter while flying. I'm not sure if they're pulling a full 90 watts on the plane though.
No idea, although my prior couple of machines were all pretty powerful for machines requiring only 90W supply (same PA-10; E6420/E5430 w/ quad core and business GPU), and never had a problem with on-board use.
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Old Mar 6, 15, 5:24 pm
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Originally Posted by nkedel View Post
230W? Ouch. I thought the 170-180W on the M4700 and W520/W530 were heavy enough.
Yeah, it's heavy for sure... especially when I throw the 90W PS into the backpack too. But with a lit bit of customization the 17" M6x00 series has room on board for 4 SSDs and 32 GB memory.

That's plenty of horsepower to run a few virtual machines on the road. My record so far is 21 VMs running simultaneously, but normally I try to keep it to 14 or fewer.
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Old Mar 6, 15, 5:38 pm
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Originally Posted by cubbie View Post
I had this problem some years ago with a hefty HP Pavilion model. Billed as a great device for enjoying audio and video, great big screen for watching movies, but connected to an airplane power outlet, charging couldn't keep pace with use, even for less power-intensive activities such as working in Word and Excel. It was probably here on FT in this forum that someone explained to me that the computer needed more power than it could draw from the airplane outlet. Even on a fairly short trip, like Chicago to Washington DC, I was alarmed to see how quickly the battery ran down.
I'm pretty certain that what you experienced wasn't exactly that the outlet's power couldn't keep up with use. The outlet probably turned itself off, so there wasn't any power available at all. I don't think airplane outlets have current limiters; they just shut down if an appliance draws more than around 75 watts.

You can think of airplane outlets as being connected to one-amp circuit breakers, as compared to the 20- or maybe 15-amp breakers that supply typical American outlets. Two space heaters can pop a residential breaker; two laptop chargers (or one big one) will pop an airplane one.
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Old Mar 6, 15, 9:20 pm
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You must be right, ajGoes, though I didn't understand it at the time or when I wrote my post earlier today. I do remember that the laptop drew more than 75 watts. What I guess I didn't remember was that it wasn't just a matter of charging not keeping up with the power draw; it wasn't charging at all.
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Old Mar 7, 15, 10:45 am
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Originally Posted by nkedel View Post
The Dell 130W supplies I tried have tripped the breaker on CX (77W) and AA (77W and 738) as soon as they were plugged in, whether or not the laptop itself was attached, and if attached, on or off.
I have a Dell Precision with the nice 17" screen. It takes a 130w supply and it won't even boot if it detects the old 90 watters. I believe it will charge with the older supplies, but won't operate.

Some of the 'compatible' replacements apparently don't identify themselves correctly to the laptop, and the machine doesn't want to do anything.

I don't take the Precision with me on a flight if I have any idea that I'm going to be using it in flight. Plus, it's a bit hefty - makes a good desktop replacement, though.

If I really need to do something in flight, I have a Fujitsu LifeBook with a 10" screen and a 75 watt PS - like a tablet except it's got all the things a 'real' computer has (CD/DVD, USB, 1394, etc.)
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Old Mar 9, 15, 8:41 pm
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Originally Posted by nightster View Post
Hi there,

New here, but hoping someone can help as I am tearing my hair out!

I've just bought a new Dell laptop and was horrified to recently find that it requires too much power to use on flights!

Apparently the normal flight power socket gives around 75 watts and my laptop requires 125 watts.

Does anyone have any experience of this issue? Is there any way around it?

I wish I knew this before buying the laptop, I would have bought an alternative!

THANKS in advance,

Rob.
Been there, done that actually. It's why you pay for better engineering. Return the Dell. Buy a Macbook Pro, load bootcamp and windows if you need it. Now the same processor laptop works with way less power.

In my case, I stopped using a fancy dell Precision laptop and changed to a 15" MBP with a stunning retina display, better keyboard, trackpad and overall design.
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Old Mar 10, 15, 2:19 am
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Originally Posted by ou81two View Post
Been there, done that actually. It's why you pay for better engineering. Return the Dell. Buy a Macbook Pro, load bootcamp and windows if you need it. Now the same processor laptop works with way less power.
Not the same processor as the higher configs of the precision.

In my case, I stopped using a fancy dell Precision laptop and changed to a 15" MBP with a stunning retina display, better keyboard, trackpad and overall design.
The newest generation of 15" Precisions (both the big M4800 and the thinner M3800) has a higher-resolution display option that exceeds the retina ones in the Mac, and the IGZO displays used by Dell are excellent. Still a bit behind the Macs in color reproduction for graphics arts use, but much better than prior Dells and even higher resolution and contrast where that matters more than color reproduction accuracy.

Better keyboard is very much subjective. I find Mac keyboards pretty terrible, as with every other extra-thin laptop. Not that the Dell Precision ones are great; Lenovo are much better.

Better trackpads have more to do with the software than the hardware.

Overall design is very much subjective as well, although the big tank-like Precisions are built very much for function over form. While the keyboard isn't up to older Lenovo standards, the new-as-of-last-year W540 is much thinner and lighter than prior comparable machines. It's also priced better than the Precisions, at least with the midrange GPU and screen options.

As for the DISADVANTAGES of the Mac, they're not subjective: half the maximum memory, a much slower top processor option, much smaller GPU than the mid-line or top options, and significantly reduced expandability. If your workloads need those, the MacBook Pro isn't even an option.

(For some very specific workloads, the PCI-E SSD in the Mac is much faster than a conventional SATA one, and potentially faster than a 2 drive RAID0.)

Models of the MBP 15" with a discrete GPU can also throttle if using full CPU and GPU, as they can pull at maximum load more than the 85W maximum of the magsafe adapter

If you don't need those advantages -- 32gb of memory, the gigantic GPU or CPU -- there are lighter and/or cheaper options on the PC side, including the Precision M3800 which is about the closest copy of the 15" MBP you can find on the PC side (sadly, priced about the same as the 15" MBP.)
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Old Apr 2, 15, 8:39 pm
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Originally Posted by nkedel View Post
The Dell 130W supplies I tried have tripped the breaker on CX (77W) and AA (77W and 738) as soon as they were plugged in, whether or not the laptop itself was attached, and if attached, on or off. The machine model in question is the Precision M3800 and the power supply was except for the 738 the XPS-style mini-plug one (says DA130PM130) on the back; on the 738 it was an older PA4E that I tried because of the problems with the XPS-style adapter... didn't work either.
Yep, I have the same laptop and 130W adapter. What was odd was that last year on a QR 777, I'm pretty sure it worked but this year, it had the same behavior: the brick itself (no laptop attached) would trip the breaker. It did look like they remodeled so maybe the universal power system is 'safer' now.

On my next international flight, I had a 45W adapter for a different Dell. I was able to use that adapter on my M3800 on the new AA 777 (though it gave the usual warnings). It wasn't great (then again the inflight wifi was satellite based so that wasn't that great either).

I'm complaining to Dell to see if they can do anything about it (like decrease the initial spike and provide power management software to ramp things down) but what will probably work better is using buying a 90W adapter and carrying that around too.
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