Long-term device testing reveals unexpected benefit

I turned on my Plantronics headphones after four months, you’ll never guess what happened next!

Old gadgets
Credit: Marcin Wichery / Flickr

It’s the middle of January and I’ve been at home the past two days taking care of two sick children (ah, the joys of fevers, coughs and other fluids), but still found some time to take a look at some “long-term testing” of some devices that I’ve had here in the Cool Tools Testing Annex (aka my home). “Long-term testing” is the phrase I’m using for a couple of reasons - it sounds cooler than “Things I’ve forgotten about” or “Devices that are still here laying about waiting for me to do something with.”

 For some of the devices, I was curious to see whether they would still work, how long it would take for them to get back up and running, whether I still had all of the cables/power chargers, etc. In today’s technology/gadget space, refreshes and new products come out at such a rate, that something that was hot six months ago is suddenly ancient, unless you’re using it on a regular basis. You typically don’t notice this on phones, tablets and PCs that you use on a regular basis (except for the 2- to 3-year-old notebook that slogs to a crawl), but with other devices, the cobwebs (literal and figurative) can creep in.

Plantronics BackBeat Pro headphones Plantronics

First up, I found a pair of Plantronics BackBeat Pro headphones. I reviewed these Bluetooth, noise-canceling headphones in August 2014, and since about mid-September they’ve been sitting inside its traveling case in my bedroom. I last used them on a business trip that month, taking advantage of its active noise cancellation features to drown out the noise on my flight, but since then had forgotten about them during the packing/unpacking phase. But this was a good time to test out Plantronics’ claim of its “Deep Sleep mode” for the headphones - the company says that with a full charge, the headphones will still carry a charge for up to 180 days (up to 21 days of regular use while in its “standby mode”). I usually scoff when I hear claims like this, but now had an opportunity to try this out.

A quick estimate (and Google search) found that it was about 133 days between Jan. 21 (yesterday) and Sept. 10, 2014 (the day I had last charged the headphones). Sure, it wasn’t the full 180 days, but four months is still a long time for a battery to drain on a device not plugged into a charger. I turned on the headphones and was floored when the voice inside the headphones announced “Battery high”. Wow! I did need to access the BackBeat Pro user’s guide online to figure out how to re-pair the headphones to my phone, but once I did that I was enjoying the wireless headphones after a four-month hiatus. I had already given these headphones a 5-star review in August, but this proves again how awesome these headphones are.

With such enthusiasm, I jumped into the next gadget to update, a Google Nexus 7 tablet. This 7-inch Android tablet has been sitting in a storage box for a couple of years - I forgot that I even had it (a reporter who had attended a Google event had given this to us for “long-term testing”). After recharging the tablet overnight (fortunately, the tablet still was connected to its charging cable/adapter, but it wasn’t plugged in), I decided to plow through the Android OS updates I’m sure it needed. Before it could get to the updates I needed to re-authenticate with my wireless router, and then re-login to my Google account, which took several minutes. But once the device was back “on the grid”, I could begin the OS upgrades. Slowly, the tablet updated itself to the Jelly Bean OS, then it went through three more OS updates (versions 4.4.2, 4.4.3 and 4.4.4) before deciding it needed to update from Jelly Bean to KitKat (version 5.0.2). This took about three to four hours, and drained about half the battery, but now I think I have a fully functioning Android tablet again. Several Google apps also updated.

I then moved onto the next two challenges - two Windows notebooks. I had a Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro notebook that was sent to us in October 2014, but hadn’t been updated since November. I also had a Lenovo Y50 Touch notebook (a 15-inch version with a very nice 4K display) that also hadn’t been updated in about as long. With Windows updates coming on a very regular update, the first challenge was to do those updates - over the course of about 60 days I found that I needed to install 23 required updates, seven recommended updates and seven “optional” (yet important) updates. While the updates went relatively quickly (compared to the numerous tablet OS updates), I did noticed on the Yoga 3 that several of them had “failed to install”, with this very odd note in the “Windows Update” area: “We found new updates today, and we’ll install them for you soon. We’ll continue to check daily for newer updates.” I really don’t know whether the failed updates are installed or not. Other apps (from Microsoft and Lenovo) also updated in the Windows UI (the interface with all the boxes, not the “desktop” area). On the Y50, I only had 31 updates to install, and those seemed to go much better than the Yoga 3 Pro updates. Additionally, I was pleasantly surprised to still have a 69% charge on the notebook after having it be idle for about two months. 

This experience left me with two take-aways: be ready for a long update process with tablet and PC OS updates; and second, that battery technology is improving from what I expected (or at least the drain rate).

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