January thru June is the mad book writing season for me. This year I have four books to update for publishers, plus another four of my own. And later on, yet another book for a corporate client.
Writing and updating that much is a task that takes up 10 to 14-hours a day, six to seven days a week. Typically, I get up at 6:30, write some, take the kids to school, and then write (with breaks) until 10pm.
To celebrate the completion of the first two books in this marathon, I rewarded myself with the Zen Micro MP3 player from Creative. It's small, cheaper, and more-featured than the otherwise eqivalent 5GB Apple iPod. For me, the dealmaker was the "special edition" that included most add-ons at no extra cost (extra battery, deskstand, power supply, etc). Yah, I got the one with black faceplate; the only other model in stock at London Drugs was hot pink.
But today I have bad news to relay: a flaw in the Zen Micro's power management means that the 12-hour battery life does not occur under normal operating conditions.
Now, we are all used to manufacturer's overstating battery life by as much as 50%, but this case is different:
* When you run the Zen Micro continuously, you get 12 hours of battery life.
* When you run the unit for a hour a day, you get 6 hours battery life -- the opposite of what you'd expect.
Creative explains that the Zen Micro performs the following power saver functions:
1. After a user-adjustable time of non-activity, the Zen Micro goes into sleep mode. This is a shallow sleep mode that allows it to wake up in 4 seconds when a button is pressed.
2. After 24 hours (not user adjustable) of inactivity, the unit goes into deep sleep mode. This reduces power consumption, but takes longer to wake up -- 15 seconds. Also, the automatic bookmarking is to the nearest song, not to the exact point.
Why a wait of 24 hours? Creative claims that waking up from deep sleep mode take more power than the power wasted being in shallow sleep mode for 24 hours. Members of the nomadness.net forums disagree. Tests by electronics professionals showed Creative's explanation wrong:
* Shallow standby consumes about 1 hour of playtime every 20-24 hours.
* Calculations show that a single battery charge can do over 400 cold boot-ups.
Creative then came up with other creative reasons for shortened battery life:
* Corrupted MP3s
* Greatly fragmented disk drives
* Using older firmware
But independent tests showed these claims to be false, too. The clue seems to be a high-pitched whine given off by the Zen Micro during shallow sleep mode. What is it?
One idea: "The power loss as well as the high-pitched noise could well come from the current transformer that must be present in the ZM to supply the memory used during the live standby (a component that sits between battery and memory and sizes the voltage and amperage coming from the battery down to the lesser current the memory needs). If it operates very inefficiently (apparently not uncommon in cheaper electronic gadgets), it could indeed consume the power the ZM loses during standby."
You can read a detailed summary of the problem at Jan's Web site.