Friday, September 25, 2009

Dell XPS M1530 Battery Replacement

Commentary: Dell's XPS M1530 Laptop Battery is not performing and needs to be replaced. Should an off-brand battery be ordered? The answer is Yes. I ordered from BatteryEdge.com and after several months, I am still pleased with the results.

My Dell XPS M1530 is still my dream laptop and after 18 months, I still love the machine. But the battery has not lived up to expectations. The 6-cell battery, which used to run a about 2 hours at "best performance," went to 1.5hrs and is now down to 5 minutes.

Related article: Dell Slim Power Supplies Also details the proprietary nature of Dell AC adapters.

I expect the batteries to degrade with age, and at first, I was disappointed with the battery. But I have now come to the conclusion that the battery worked hard and simply died. It was not treated well because in the first year of its life, it spent most of its time plugged into the charger. As described in this article, Battery Care and Feeding, this was not the best thing to do. As I've researched on the web, a twelve to eighteen month battery-life seems to be the norm and all agree this is too short. But there are only 6 little batteries in this case, and it has to drive a large, power-hungry device. None-the-less, the decline of the battery was precipitous.


$140: About 13% of the original Laptop Price!

Here is the real pain: Dell wants $140 for a replacement (ctrl-Click to open new window). This makes for expensive on-going maintenance. Because of this, I've begun searching for a more reasonable way to replace the battery pack. It is a shame I have to do this because I would prefer to log onto Dell's site, click a few buttons and have a new battery on the way, paying with my existing Dell credit. A message to Dell: Happy customers are repeat customers; we expect batteries to fail but don't want to be robbed when they do.



The question comes down to this:
Are Off-brand batteries as good as Dell's?

In my opinion: Dell does not make their batteries -- they buy them like everyone else and the insides are standard. As long as you are buying from a reputable company (and are not buying low-ball price with rebuilt/recycled batteries), you should be getting identical equipment.

BatteryEdge.com

-Author's note:  BatteryEdge.com is no longer in business.  Since this article was written, I have purchased two other batteries from third-parties and have been pleased.

Because of Dell's high replacement costs, I have decided to buy a third-party 6-cell battery through BatteryEdge.com (now defunct - no longer selling batteries)Formerly, I had also suggested PacificBattery.com but even though they seem to have a good reputation on the net, they have been unresponsive to several emails and phonecalls.The website was clear and easy to use
Total cost: $56 + 5 Ground ($61)
Shipped UPS Ground, arriving on time (5 business days)

(This is from BatteryEdge)
New replacement laptop battery for Dell XPS M1530/D1530 TK330
$56.00 plus $5.00 Ground Freight (Dell is $140 + Freight)Condition: Brand New OEM Equivalent
100% New Cells; never rebuilt or recycled
Voltage: 11.1 Volts
Capacity: 4800 mAh
Battery Type: Li-ion 6 Cells
Warranty: 1 Year Warranty, guaranteed to meet or exceed the original OEM specifications.

The battery is a near-exact replacement of the original Dell, including the rubberized foot pad, arriving 90% charged. After a brief top-off, the battery on Balanced power-mode shows 3 hours total time (screen dimmed), 2.75hrs (with the brighter-screen setting). Although it will take a few days to re-calibrate the battery and confirm, these values match a new Dell battery.

A Close, but not Perfect Fit:

The new battery fits *tightly* into the XPS slot, taking noticeable pressure to lock the battery into place. Although this was acceptable, it could be improved.

I wondered why it was tighter. I measured various dimensions using a .001" metal micrometer and compared the old battery with the new. Most measurements were the same, within the limits of where the tool could measure, but I did find two possible differences. Both batteries have a lip on the inside edge. On the BatteryEdge, the lip extended a consistent 5000th of an inch wider than the Dell (this is the thickness of a sheet of paper). This could be normal manufacturing variance, but I believe this edge touched the case-slot and prevented the battery from fitting as well as it should.


I milled the edge by hand using a long metal file. I am not necessarily recommending you need to do this -- but I filed the edge because I knew how and wanted to see if the fit improved, which it did, but the battery still takes some pressure to lock into place.  (Update:  A second purchased battery, from another vendor - now forgotten - fits better - TRW 2015.)

The only other area which could account for the snug fit are the two locking posts (interior dimensions) and because of positioning, I could not accurately measure. My bet is there is variance along this dimension. Only having a sample of 1 makes this hard to generalize.

What about Rebuilding yourself?

After much research, it seems like too much trouble to rebuild the battery. The battery cases are welded shut and can't be opened without mutilation. Replacing the batteries involves careful soldering and there are circuit boards to worry about. The batteries will explode if you accidentally cross polarities or get the soldering iron too hot. The cost for the parts is about $35, approaching an off-brand purchase. Here is a DIY link.

The batteries are 3.7v Li-Ion (these are not standard AA batteries),
Sony EnergyTec US18650GR;
Panasonic CGR18650,
LG ICR18650,
Samsung. ICR18650, and others.



(Illustration: www.notebookreview.com)

AC Power Supply Issues:

Dell (especially on the XPS M1530) has a proprietary AC adapter, which is generating a lot of ill-will throughout the user community. Both the standard Dell 90-watt power supply and the Dell Slim Power Supply (Keyliner reviewed), has a "center data-communication pin" on the business-end of the plug. The pin is a hair-thin wire that is easily damaged or broken and its purpose has not been disclosed. Although this is not the case with my battery, when the pin breaks, the laptop will not charge. Most think this is a way to keep third-party manufacturers from duplicating the power supply, but I now believe they legitimately needed to transmit wattage information along this circuit -- although they could have done this in a less proprietary manner.

In a separate article (not posted here), a tech at batteryedge.com said most of the batteries returned to their company are perfectly good - it is the AC adapter that was malfunctioning. This website offers suggestions on how to test the AC adapter: www.laptopparts101.com, see links on right-side. The website is somewhat superficial and does not speak directly to the XPS, but it has a variety of information about laptops and parts and you may find it interesting.


My overall impression of BatteryEdge.com:
BatteryEdge is a reputable company selling a quality product and I would do business with them again. As of late-April 2010, I have had the battery for several months and it is performing marvelously. I am still pleased with the purchase.

Update:
In June, 2010, I noticed the battery was failing. Symptoms: discharged after a few minutes of use; a 100% recharge only took 10 minutes, but total performance was lost. Windows 7 suggests I should "replace the battery". I sent a polite note to BatteryEdge customer support. The next day, I got this reply:
"I am sorry you are having problems with the battery. I have issued RMA #XXXX for the return of the battery. A UPS prepaid shipping label will be emailed to you. Please note that it can take up to 3 days for the label to arrive in the email. Once you receive the prepaid shipping label , print it out and tape it to the package. Drop it off at a UPS drop off location. As soon as we get it back we will send you a replacement battery. Be sure to use the label within 10 days."
You can't complain about this type of service. This was a good company to order from, and when something went wrong, they stood behind their product. I am still pleased. Replacement Review here.

Update: 2011.06: For another laptop I ordered a new set of batteries. Delivery was about 4 days later than expected (they were moving warehouses), but other than that, no issues.
Related Articles:
Dell Slim Power Supplies Also details the proprietary nature of the AC adapters
Dell XPS M1530 Windows 7 Drivers
Laptop Battery Care and Feeding
Original Review Dell XPS M1530
More on the Dell XPS M1530
Link: Disassembling the XPS M1530 (Dell)

4 comments:

  1. After repeated attempts to reach PacificBattery, I've given up on them. Their link for the XPS M1530 is still broken.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Well my 6-cell battery died too, so I bought new dell 9-cell battery. What is strange old one battery has a label: "Made in Korea" and new one has a label: "Made in Japan".

    I hope new one will live longer.
    (Maybe that Korean factory is producing only for OEM - to ship with notebook - short lifetime to earn more money from selling new batteries)

    ReplyDelete
  3. My 9 cell died in about 14 - 15 months from purchase. Since I happen to have two XPS M1530, I tested with the two power adaptors. The problem stayed with the 9 cell (older) battery pack.

    In my case, I have continued to use it plugged in, but started looking into getting another 9 cell pack.

    As for weight/size, it is heavier and as for size it is actually very good and doubles as a heat circulator (it elevates the back of the computer almost 3/4" from the desk).

    M.P.


    Any recommendations?

    ReplyDelete
  4. The batteries are made by the lowest bidder, as are all things in life. You have to understand Dell is a global manufacturer so it's not odd at all that one was made in Korea (samsung/lg) and another is made in Japan (sony).

    Batteries have a 1 year warranty from Dell. Like ALL products with a warranty, the warranty is generally developed with the livespan of the product in mind. This is especially true with consumable items such as batteries. Laptop batteries generally have a lifespan of 18-24 months at MOST, under normal usage. It will drop considerably if you keep it "topped off" more as these are considered charge cycles regardless. Use your batteries, that's what they're made for. Keeping it plugged into the wall is just wasting its life. Also on top of that the chip inside the lithium ion batteries controls the charging and keeps track of how many times its charged, how old it is, how hot it gets, etc. If any of those go out of spec it kills the battery. Why? Because you've all see the Dell laptop with the sony battery light on fire in the middle of a conference. That's why. Better safe than sorry.

    As for the power adapters causing the battery death? That's true. But it's not a defect, it's by design. Batteries last longer when you charge them slowly. When you charge them quickly, you get the benefit of a full charge faster, but the detriment is that it generates more heat, a lot more heat. Heat kills the batteries and as stated above it's one of the specs the battery keeps track of before self-terminating. This is Dell's "Quickcharge" technology. With the appropriate adapter your batttery will charge faster, giving you a nice charge of like 80% in 40 minutes (not really sure but its close to that). You can turn quick charge off in your BIOS so it always does a long charge. That will preserve your battery but it will take the full 2-3-4 or however many hours to charge. It's a feature, not a flaw. If you use it, know the benefits and the cons.

    ReplyDelete

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