Cheap laptop batteries: Good deal or risky business?

You can save up to 50 percent with an aftermarket battery for your notebook -- if you dare

  • A good diagnostic test for measuring battery life in a PC is PassMark's BatteryMon, shown below. ('s coconutBattery is a similar program for Macs.) After you fully charge the battery, the program will report the cells' maximum capacity in milli-amp hours.

  • I tested three MacBook Pro replacement batteries for this story (left): one from Apple, one from Laptop Battery Express and one from Laptops for Less. Likewise, I tested replacement batteries for the ThinkPad R50 (right) from Lenovo, Laptop Battery Express and Laptops for Less.

  • Can you tell the difference? The top battery is from Lenovo (still carrying the IBM brand), the middle one from Laptop Battery Express, and the bottom one from Laptops for Less. Aside from labeling and slight variations in color and finish, they appear identical, and all three fit my R50 perfectly.

  • Similarly, the three replacement batteries for the MacBook Pro looked nearly identical and fit perfectly. Apple's battery is on the left, Laptop Battery Express' battery (actually an Apple-branded battery left over from a production run made for Apple) is on the right, and Laptops for Less' is at the bottom.

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