Short Battery Life Sinks First Windows 8 Notebooks

Confusing dual-mode operating system, no Start button, counterintuitive swipe gestures? None of these things spells doom for Windows 8. What will kill Microsoft’s newest operating system is the abysmal battery life of the systems on which it’s supposed to perform the best.

Leading up to the launch of Windows 8, we saw progressively longer endurance on the two most-portable categories of notebooks. As of September, the average ultraportable (a notebook with a screen size of 11 to 13 inches and weighing less than 4 pounds) lasted 6 hours and 52 minutes on the LAPTOP Battery Test (Web surfing via Wi-Fi, screen at 40 percent brightness). The average thin-and-light (12 to 14 inches, less than 6 pounds) was right behind, at 6 hours and 40 minutes.

However, when we started adding Windows 8 notebooks to the mix, those averages receded faster than Steve Ballmer’s hairline. By November, the ultraportable average dropped by half an hour, and the average thin-and-light decreased by 10 minutes.

[More: Windows 8 OS Full Review]

Of the first 11 Windows 8 laptops/sliders we tested, most of which were ultraportables, six lasted fewer than 5 hours on a charge, and only two made it past 6 hours. The average of all these systems: 5 hours and 8 minutes. That’s hardly what I’d call all-day endurance.

Even our favorite Windows 8 notebooks had sub-average endurance. The Dell XPS 12 lasted 5 hours and 46 minutes, and the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga died after 6 hours and 18 minutes.

The cause, of course, could have been a number of reasons: Windows 8, touch screens or both.

Let’s compare the Toshiba Satellite P845t-S4310 and the Toshiba Satellite P845-S4200. Both notebooks have the same CPU, RAM and hard drive, but only the former has a touch screen and Windows 8. And guess what? The non-touch, Windows 7 version lasted 1 hour and 24 minutes longer.

Next, there’s the HP Envy 4-1030US Ultrabook and the Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4, which also have identical specs. Battery life: 6:18 for the Envy 4 versus 5:36 for the TouchSmart. How about the Acer Aspire V5-571P versus the Acer Aspire V5-571, which also have the same CPU? Interestingly, both have an equally poor endurance of about 4 hours and 10 minutes.

The worst offender is the Acer Aspire S7, a 13-inch ultraportable that costs $1,699 and weighs a mere 2.8 pounds, but lasted just 4 hours and 10 minutes. For that much money, I expect at least twice the endurance. There’s an optional $150 sheet battery for the S7 (which adds to its size and weight, natch) that Acer should consider including for free.

To be sure, this is a fairly small sample size, but these are the notebooks that are supposed to get consumers excited about Windows 8. You would think that notebook-makers would want to put their best foot forward, no?

Microsoft isn’t helping matters, either. Their just-announced Surface Pro tablet, the flagship Windows 8 device, will have an expected battery life of just 4 hours. I’ve heard the company boast that the Surface is the first tablet you can actually do work on. Not if it’s out of juice, you can’t!

A number of challenges face OEMs and Microsoft when it comes to the adoption of Windows 8, from design to pricing. But solving all those issues will be moot until they fix the most basic requirement for any laptop — good battery life.

Reviews Editor Michael Prospero oversees every product reviewed by LAPTOP Magazine. Read his regular column at www.laptopmag.com/labrat, and follow @mikeprospero on Twitter.

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  1. Barrett1134 Says:

    Not sure why the expectations would be much higher… This is par for the course for battery life for most laptops these days. The added touchscreen capabilities to these laptops does require more juice so that is natural. Since when have laptops with these kinds of capabilities had “all day endurance”? I suppose the manufacturers could ship with larger batteries but they often times leave that to the consumer to purchase as they add extra bulk and weight.

  2. Thethad Says:

    Your ultraportables graphs in the first panel are terribly misleading. By looking at the bars only, you would figure over a 2 fold drop in battery life occurred when you actually are losing 1/12 to 1/18 of your battery life.

  3. Anant Malik Says:

    Windows 8 has been made lighter than 7 increasing battery life. Plus, touch may require some battery. How much more battery life do you want? Anybody can see ur graphs are skewed anti-windows 8. The writer of this article is iDiot.

  4. Charles Says:

    Actually is does not Mr. Rat

  5. NosRokanaske Says:

    It would probably be helpful to note that a good amount Ultrabooks that run Windows 8 run a higher resolution that those that ran Windows 7. I’m not 100% sure if they generally have a higher resolution, but the time i spent browsing for Ultrabook now compared to when there was only Windows 7, i found it easier to find higher resolution displays. As others note, the touchscreen probably draws more power out as well. Also, someone else has noted, those graphs are terribly misleading. Possibly one of the worst graphs i have ever seen. I’m missing only 30 minutes at most. Those times are assuming constant use i believe and anyone with common sense would bring a charger if they intend to use to for a very extensive period of time. It goes against the whole “all day endurance” but if i were to be typing extensively over a long time i would prefer to use a desktop. Thats just my thing.

  6. Andex Says:

    I agree with the author. Thank you for sharing to people who could be mislead by Microsoft and some of its fan-boys who posted above. The battery life in Windows 8 is even much much much worse than the graph for some devices. Remember this is average. Microsoft should go to hell with its Windows 8!

  7. Mark Spoonauer, LAPTOP Editor in Chief Says:

    The average battery life for Ultraportables has actually decreased since we started testing Windows 8 systems. That’s the point of this column. Do you see that as progress? I don’t.

    Perhaps OEMs can work with Microsoft to minimize power impact of touch screens. The Surface with Rt is 4 hours shorter than iPad.

  8. George Says:

    One possible reason with 8 may use a little more juice could be the live tiles. the other would be touch screens. This article is lacking important details to be taken seriously. From personal experience I find windows 8 to be much lighter in resources than windows 7. windows 8 is working much better on my very old Dell D620 laptop than with windows 7. Maybe the guy that wrote this article is loosing money on Apple stock.

  9. Henry Says:

    @Mark Spoonauer: Surface RT lasts four hours shorter than iPad? Are you serious? My Surface with moderate usage lasts 8+ hrs, I doubt iPad can last 12+ hrs even with light usage.

  10. Luc Says:

    “The Surface with Rt is 4 hours shorter than iPad.”

    Not any test site came up with that conclusion. Checkout engadget, anandtech and notebookcheck.com
    In some scenario’s some found it lasted even longer.

    This couldn’t be more opiniated: you take out 1 aspect and average that out of all devices and come to a general conclusion. Great journalism! Just give us the facts and let people decide but not waiting for that to happen anymore with laptopmag.com….

  11. Marc Says:

    My Surface RT last as long as my iPad – 8 to 10 hours, so I don’t know where you get the 4 hours…

  12. Larry Says:

    These charts are awful; I can only assume from them you have an anti-W8 bias (and I’m saying this as a Mac person). There is no consistency between the heights of the bar graphs. If you average out the W7 yellow bars, the total is always are less than the grey W8 bar.

  13. Colin Says:

    This article just made me add laptopmag.com to my adblock blacklist. Between the grossly misleading charts and the ignorant claim that Surface RT gets four hours less battery life than an iPad, I’m pretty sure you guys are useless.

  14. Art Says:

    If you are going to try to use science to make a point, use real science. This is garbage. How about trying to understand why you are getting these results. Does Windows 8 use more power (the implication of the article)? This data doesn’t even come close to showing that.

  15. Bill Says:

    You lose all credibility at unbiased reporting when you
    A) misrepresent your graphs to make the disparity in function seem to be much larger than it is. You basically cut off the bottom 6 hours of the graphs and show the minute differential. This makes it appear that there is a 50% loss in function from 6:50 minute to 6:20 minutes. when in fact the delta is much, much lower. Not necessarily that you have an issue with MS… more that you are making a mountain out of a molehill. Chicken Little- the sky is falling.
    B) you hold the new tech to some higher standard than the old tech. Laptops and ultraportables have NEVER been intended to supply “all day power” (and your 20 minutes longer usage on Win7 really doesn’t bridge that gap, now does it?). Pretty much anything over 4 hours is good. 5 hours is really good and 6+ hours is leading edge. Yes. media consumption devices like the Surface RT, iPad, and Kindles, and such get much longer, but they have much lower procs and functionality.
    C) this is a completely new OS and platform with pretty much zero battery use optimization on drivers or OS to a large degree. Isn’t a decent comparison to show it with the 3-4 years of effeciency gains with Win7 drivers.
    D) The Surface Pro will have a battery life of 4ish hours. in a form factor and power/proc model that no one else could get more than 2 hours out of. Basically, the exact same size as the RT/iPad with a better screen and insanely better proc.

  16. Mike Says:

    Really? You thesis to why windows 8 is not selling is because it lost 20 min of battery life? Really?

  17. Chris82au Says:

    Absolute garbage article! And by the way, CPU’s use such little power compared to the huge big thing that lights up in front of your face (thats the screen BTW) I don’t know how you can call it identical hardware!!! Maybe, just maybe, it could possibly be the capacitive touch screens using the extra power draw your seeing and NOT Windows 8! How about testing on identical hardware (ie exact same PC) then see what happens. Don’t even get me started on those horrible graphs and that awesome first sentence in the article. Bias much!

  18. Rohit Says:

    @Bill Are you Bill Gates?

  19. shai Says:

    another reason why windows 8 must be avoided

  20. Mutumba Sowed Says:

    My studio 1555 has a duo boot config with both windows 7 64 bit ultimate and windows 8 pro 64 bit. I have a new battery about 3 months old. Battery life on windows 7 is about 3 hrs. On windows 8 its about 1 1/2 hours.

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