Battery watcher

Keep an eye on your laptop's batteries with this free battery meter.

Most laptops spend most of the time tethered to AC power, but folks who use their laptops on the go have to keep one eye on the battery level. If you rely on your laptop--and its batteries--it's worth taking a look at battery monitors, such as Battery Meter 1.0 from Mioplanet. It's a free tool that estimates how long you can run your PC on its remaining battery power as well as how long your batteries will take to recharge.

We all enjoy surprises, but not when it comes to computers, so we selected the installer's option to run Battery Meter at start-up so we wouldn't forget to open it. Most of the time, Battery Meter resembles nearly every other laptop battery display, with an icon shaped like an actual battery with a color-coded graphical display of remaining charge; Battery Meter showed ours in blue for a full charge and even said "full" for good measure. We opened Battery Meter's interface, a colorful green-on-black dialog with time counters for estimated total battery time and time from current state for both charging and discharging our batteries as well as total charge and accuracy in percentages. At the bottom is an interesting map displaying charge and discharge times graphically at a glance. Clicking a button labeled More opened the program's Web site, but we could find nothing else in the way of settings or properties; we also looked for evidence of an alarm or other audible indicator of low battery power, but there didn't seem to be any, and running our laptop's batteries down to critical level to see if there might be some sort of alarm wasn't on the agenda. There also seems to be no way to keep the expanded main view open; it closes as soon as you click your mouse on the desktop or another window. Double-clicking the program merely closed it. We did try Battery Meter on a desktop, too; it worked, showing a full charge on AC power, but didn't display estimated times.

Battery Meter seems to do a good job estimating battery duration and charge time, which is the most important thing. But its eye-catching interface needs some operational improvements, and a few configurable settings and other common options would help, too.

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