In trying to make them cheaper, the company has to cut cornersIntel still hasn't quite managed to get ultrabooks at the price level everyone is hoping for, so it needs to continue coming up with ideas for more affordable components.
So far, whatever concessions Intel and its partners made have been just that: concessions. In order to make them easier to sell, some drawbacks had to be agreed on.
The first wasn't really that painful: using plastic cases instead of aluminum ones.
A more recent compromise was in favor of not using solid-state drives, known for their expensiveness. Sure, there will be SSD models, but around half of all ultrabooks sold this year (2012) are expected to use HDDs.
Now, Digitimes says that the quest to bring ultrabook prices down has led to the replacement of the batteries normally chosen for them.
There are two new solutions: a 16650 cylindrical battery and a prismatic lithium-ion battery.
The latter would be the least cost-friendly of the two, but it is quite small: 60mm x 80mm (2.36 x 3/14 inches) and of 5-6mm-thick (0.19 – 0.23 inches).
There is also the advantage of supply: more companies actually produce such batteries compared to how many suppliers exist for 16650 cylindrical ones.
On the flip side, 16650 cylindrical batteries (16 mm / 0.62 inches diameter) are cheaper, though only Sanyo makes them, in Japan.
There is a second source: China-based BAK, but it might have trouble gaining the certification of potential clients.
So far, Acer has adopted 16650 cylindrical batteries, so its rivals might want to select the alternative. The long-standing collaboration with Sanyo doubtlessly helped.
Lenovo's IdeaPad 530 is going to use prismatic lithium-ion batteries, but in limited volumes, whatever that means.
The report didn't explore the repercussions on battery life, but we're pretty sure there is at least some loss of lifespan involved, unless makers compensate for it by using less demanding hardware.