Dangling dongles and Chromebook battery life
Posted September 4, 2016on:
It might be an understatement to say that I have put my Toshiba Chromebook 2 through the wringer over the last few weeks. I have tested its ability to:
- Connect automatically to more secure wireless networks  
- Connect to on-demand VPN
- Connect to peripherals
In further testing the Chromebook for facilitating events, I have discovered that its battery life suffers.
When I facilitated workshops in August, I tested my Chromebook’s ability to use a USB LAN dongle and an HDMI-to-VGA dongle.
The Chromebook detected the LAN dongle automatically and switched away from wifi, but I kept getting “page not found” error messages in Chrome. This did not happen to me at home, so I guessed there might have been something wrong with the cable or LAN point at the venue I was at.
I could not test the battery drain of the LAN dongle as I went back to using wifi for the sessions. I suspect that it will take a toll on battery life as the dongle is also a travel router that creates an ad hoc wireless network. The dongle felt warm to the touch just after a minute of being plugged in, but that was the extent to my investigation.
However, I was able to test the HDMI-to-VGA dongle to project what was on my screen.
Each workshop I conduct is three hours long. A full work day is seven hours with a lunch break in between. I reset my online resources during lunch, so there is hardly a break for my Chromebook.
With the HDMI-to-VGA adapter plugged in, my Chromebook is no longer an all-day device. It will last the morning workshop and lunch, but it cannot make it through the afternoon one. The Chromebook battery is almost exhausted by the first afternoon hour.
From the start, I bring the brightness level of the screen to just one above dark, the wifi is constantly on, and the Chromebook is largely a passive device for showing resources (e.g., Google Sites, online timer) and collating contributions (e.g., Padlets, Google Docs).
I have used the Chromebook for hours at libraries, cafes, and other wifi spots where I can get work done. At home I use it for streaming YouTube videos or Netflix shows. In both cases, the battery rarely goes down past the 50% charge mark. This puzzled me because such uses seem more active than relatively passive workshop use.
The main difference was whether or not I was projecting my screen. At the moment, this seems to be the battery guzzling factor. Unfortunately, I have no idea how to mitigate this issue.