Stick with XP? Windows 7 Battery Life Worse on Netbooks

toshiba_nb205_shBack in August when we started testing the final version of Windows 7, we noticed that several netbooks didn’t last as long on a charge with the new OS installed as with Windows XP. Microsoft claimed that Win 7 notebooks would see longer battery life than Vista, and for the two full-size systems we upgraded that rang true. The Dell XPS Studio 16 only got an extra few minutes, but the Gateway NV lasted an extra hour. Netbooks have been a different story.

Recently we tested Windows 7 versions of the Toshiba mini NB205 and ASUS Eee PC 1008HA, and now  HP’s Mini 311 with Windows 7 has been released. The results don’t look good. In each case we tested the three systems using the LAPTOP Battery Test (continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi) and in each case the Windows 7 machines got less battery life:

Netbook Win XP Battery Life Win 7 Battery Life
Toshiba mini NB205 9:24 8:51
ASUS Eee PC 1008HA 5:40 4:43
HP Mini 311 5:43 4:52

For those scoring at home, that’s an average drop of 47 minutes, and you can get a lot of work (and play) done during that kind of time. We’re not the only ones who’ve noticed this trend. Our friends at Liliputing and JKOnTheRun – both of whom use the aggressive Battery Eater test to measure longevity – also noted that endurance  on Win 7 netbooks has been lackluster.

So should consumers make the switch? In the case of the NB205, the difference in our test was small enough not to matter, especially given that you’re still getting over 8 hours of juice. But on a system like the Eee PC 1008HA and Mini 311,  the loss of about an hour is significant.

Microsoft may want netbook owners to leave XP behind, and we dig new Windows 7 features like taskbar previews, but those who cherish their long battery life are going to be tough to convert. As we test more new netbooks we’ll continue to keep track of battery life deltas between Win 7 machines and their XP predecessors. Over time, we’re hopeful that driver updates and more fine tuning of Microsoft’s new OS will yield longer runtimes, but right now we’d have to say that the over-the-hill XP is still looking good.

UPDATE: For those who’ve suggested that turning off Windows 7′s more graphically intense features such as Aero Glass would improve the battery life, Kevil Toefl found that this wasn’t the case:

“…using Windows 7 with all of the advanced Aero features off not only makes your netbook look like a Windows 95 beta, it doesn’t help run time in any noticeable way.”

More importantly, Brad Linder points out why this thinking is flawed for most users:

“…if the only way Windows 7 netbooks can match the performance of netbooks running an operating system that’s nearly a decade old is to disable running services and tweak other things beneath the hood, then Microsoft has a problem…”

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  1. lol Says:

    Were you using the Toshiba Power Saver on the nb205?

  2. K. T. Bradford Says:

    No, we don’t use the power-saving features on any of the netbooks or notebooks we test so that we always have the same baseline.

  3. Mike Says:

    If Microsoft and/or Toshiba create power-saving software then why on earth would you disable it? This isn’t a ‘real-world’ scenario!

    That is like comparing a naturally aspirated car to a turbo-charged car and then removing the turbo! For an honest comparison you should at least add a column for XP with power saving features enabled and a column for Windows 7 with power saving features enabled.

    Another analogy would be comparing boot times but disabling ‘quick boot’ in the BIOS. Then the laptop with 4GB of RAM will take way longer than the laptop with 512MB of RAM to boot because of the POST memory test.

  4. Zentech Says:

    Well is this really a surprise to anyone? I’d much rather loose the battery life and use Win7 than have to go back to XP. Also, this is far from a thorough comparison..just FYI :)

  5. K. T. Bradford Says:

    The problem is, Mike, that the power saving options don’t work the same across all notebooks and netbooks. In order to devise a test that approaches fairness across all systems (and thus useful comparisons), you have to have the same conditions across the board.

    Users will always be able to tweak power settings to get more or less battery life. And if each user were to compare battery life from XP to 7 with their tweaked settings being exactly the same, they’d probably notice a drop as well.

    Take a look at the battery tests JKOnTheRun and Liliputing did – it’s a different kind of battery test than ours, yet they ended up with the same result — a loss in battery life. In situations like this, you need to compare apples to apples, that means same settings to same settings.

  6. tumbleone Says:

    What kinds of eye candy were enabled or disabled during these test (for both OS’s)

    Windows 7 will automatcally disable aero glass and transitions if you set you run on battery power on regular laptops.
    (Is this true for netbook?)

    I think most people who use laptops don’t configure their power settings from the default. For these people they will get the benefit of the newer/more stable operating system with some UI benefits as well as a boost in battery life.

    Your tests provide facts but their relevance to the end user is low.

  7. Lisandro Says:

    Those systems can’t run Aero, right? If Aero is enabled, it may be the culprit for the battery drain.

  8. mark Says:

    My HP 2140 with the tiny 3 cell battery gets basically the same battery life as the machine did with XP. Also the power management is much better with 7. If you set the netbook dwn for a few minutes it hibernates much better overall I thinp 7 on this machine works better.

  9. K. T. Bradford Says:

    @Lisandro, the NB205 has Windows 7 Starter on it, so there isn’t much Aero to interfere. What I find most interesting is that Kevin at JKOnTheRun put Win 7 Ultimate on his NB205 and Brad at Liliputing used the Win 7 Starter version from Toshiba, but they both got almost exactly the same score on the Battery Eater test. So the Areo effects may have less to do with the battery life then you’d think.

  10. K. T. Bradford Says:

    @tumbleone, I don’t know if it’s true that Win 7 does disable those things by default on all systems. Perhaps for the system you own, or perhaps you enabled that on your laptop but it isn’t enabled by default. I will check, if you like.

    But you actually proved my point with your comment — most users don’t configure their power settings from the default. When we test, we disable any proprietary power tweaking options and just go with what the operating system itself does. The only changes we make is to stop the laptop from going into hibernation or shutting down before the battery is completely out of juice. We also set the screen brightness to 40%. Other than that, we don’t tweak. So what do you think we’re doing that stops us from getting the benefit of the operating system?

  11. Dragon Z. Says:

    Did you update the drivers to the latest ones for the test? It may narrow the difference if the new drivers (I suspect coming out continuously now) start working – but, of course, I am not at all sure. It would also be interesting to see a test that USES the power management apps that ship with asus netbooks, eg., as they can be downloaded for clean win7 installations as well. Though one might wonder if we use SHE on both xp and win7, and if these would do their job, the result would be no different at all… :)

  12. John Spartan Says:

    surely, and probably MS-DOS 6.22 consumes much less battery power than Windows XP, so let us return to ms-dos.

    It is the natural evolution can not have everything and the problem is the batteries, no operating system

  13. K. T. Bradford Says:

    @Dragon Z – the units we tested came from the manufacturers in both instances. Kevin Toefl installed Win 7 on the NB205 himself and downloaded the appropriate drivers from Toshiba.

  14. Mike P Says:

    Dragon Z – To your point, we noticed even worse performance on netbooks when we first tested them with Win 7–As we noted in our review of Windows 7 (http://www.laptopmag.com/review/software/windows-7.aspx?page=9), the NB205 got just 6:15 on the battery test. Considering it’s now at 8:51, that’s a marked improvement.
    It seems like the gap has most to do with drivers. As the manufacturers improved their drivers, battery life improved. This issue isn’t as big with Vista machines running Win 7, since the operating systems are much closer in design. There’s just a greater difference between XP and Win 7, and the OEMs are still working to close that gap.

  15. John Says:

    Errr yeah, you forgot to mention which version of W7 you’re using..
    With W7 starter, which is intended for netbooks, the battery life should actually improve somewhat, or remain the same. .

    Not really a surprise that this is the outcome with a diff w7 version..

    so, unreliable testing?

  16. K. T. Bradford Says:

    @John, if you read the thread or click the links to the reviews you’ll see that the systems we tested had Home Premium except for the NB205 which had Starter. Kevin’s NB205 has Ultimate, Brad’s has Starter, and everyone’s Eee PC has Home Premium, I believe. So three different versions of Windows 7 and yet the results are the same: loss of battery life.

  17. JudaZ Says:

    Rather pointless test. Of course a new operating system will demand more power …

    Ms claims that W7 gets better battery time then Vista, and it does… didnt mention win XP.

    My 10 year old Nokia phones still have better battery life then a new 3G phone….should I stick to old tech , b/W screen and zero features…because of battery life?

    Well i use these new features that the old model could only dream of, so i´ll rather have a modern phone…and i´ll rateher have a modern OS like W7.

    The batteries will be bad within a year anyway .. so the benifits of 8hours will be less a factor when the battery only last 15 min on any OS a few months down the line.

  18. K. T. Bradford Says:

    @JudaZ, for some people battery life is more important than the benefits gained from Windows 7 — with netbooks, anyway — and some don’t see the new features as benefits. Also, not all batteries are rubbish after a year. The one on my NC10 still gets great battery life.

  19. Matthew Says:

    i’ve notice my laptop lasts longer on 7 then xp. You’re test laptop could have been doing something in the background draining the battery. Also when the first time you tryed the test on xp the battery wear for example 10% and now when you test windows 7 your battery wear is form example 40% you get different times. do the test again with windows 7 for laptops and windows xp

  20. canon Says:

    Windows 7 is great on my desktop but I don’t really see the point in having it on a netbook which is built for portability and simple tasks. On my netbook, all I care about is battery, load up times, getting a wireless signal quickly to go on my web browser. I’m never going to use the DX11 capabilities on my netbook. What we need is a light weight OS to match with the hardware, and in that regard XP > Win7. It doesn’t matter how new it is, Win7 is just another operating system.

  21. Chris Rice Says:

    Windows 7 really has some nice features for multitasking, but it cut my battery life in half on my Sony NW120J laptop. I used to get right around two hours of battery life while I had Vista installed. Now with Windows 7 the battery life is only an hour or so. This is a significant drop for me. Also, when i installed Windows 7 it disabled the volume and brightness keys on my keyboard and there is no way to turn them back on (at least that i could find). Overall, I like Windows 7 more as far as features but the battery life is really a killer, especially when on trips.

  22. Jimmy Says:

    Windows 7 will drain the battery quite a bit more when first installed it constantly accesses the HD building some databases and what not. On desktops this goes on for over 24 hours before it settles down if you just leave it alone and running. When you start doing stuff on the computer this task gets moved to the background and if you are constantly using the computer can continue for up to a week. I’m sure the constant HD access has alot to do with the reduced battery life.

    If you are just doing fresh installs and then jumping right into the battery testing I think the results would be a bit skewed and over time the battery life would end up increasing significantly under W7 as compared to what it was for the first few days after a fresh install.

  23. Vishal Says:

    Volumes and brightness. It looks like you need some new HID drivers for Win 7. Check on Sony’s website.

    You are getting better performance oN Vista than Win 7. Are you sure? There maybe more variables here.

  24. Marco Says:

    Interesting test, I think that Microsoft was never really good in optimizing their software.

    could you test a macbook, installed in Win xp and windows 7 and then compare it to the Snowleopard battery life.
    I would really know if their machine & operating system has better battery life than the classic PC computers & windows.

  25. Dave K Says:

    I have an Acer Aspire 5738z which was running Vista. Got a free upgrade disc to Windows 7 which I have used and have noticed a dramatic decrease in battery life. I used to get between 4 to 4.30 hours on a charge, now I get about 2.45 tops! I can’t say that the system is any faster and haven’t really noticed any real advantage over Vista. I would say if you’re happy with the performance on your laptop with Vista don’t bother upgrading. I wish I hadn’t!

  26. Michael D Says:

    I have the exact same experience as Dave K on my dell inspirion 1525 laptop, I have the extended battery and used to get about 5 hours of battery life with vista, I bought the windows 7 upgrade and I also don’t notice any real benifit from windows 7 over vista, or over xp for that matter but now my battery only lasted about 3:30 (1 1/2 hours less). I reformated and reinstalled my recovery DVD from dell for windows vista and it went back up to 5:09. I don’t know how ms can say it lasts longer than vista, maybe I will try to install xp pro if I can find the drivers and see what happens.

  27. MBC Says:

    I recently upgraded my Samsung N120 netbook from XP to 7, and have seen my battery life drop from over 9 hours to about 5. I very much like Windows 7′s features and am waiting to hear back from Samsung for any configuration guidance.

  28. Owen Finn Says:

    Well – I’d say this test is certainly flawed:

    - I picked up a ASUS 1001p a few weeks back. Took Win7 Starter off, and threw on a copy of XP. Tweaked it all I could, and used it for a week. Decided after a week to test the battery life, and got 7:50 total (WiFi on, running processes, etc.).

    Then on a whim I restored the laptop to the original state, with Win7 Starter. Did some power tweaks, put it on power-saving mode, and ran the same test the next day. Result? 8:35.

    Real-world tests are necessary, not some “purists” ideal of what needs to be done to show Win7 is some horrible monster that eats power and money. I’m really disappointed in this site for trying to hoodwink readers.

  29. Jeff Says:

    Okay.. First of all the benefits of windows 7 on netbooks is astonishing. From the way you can dock windows to the way the taskbar minimizes real estate and lets you easily navigate all open applications. Real estate to me on this tiny netbook is crucial, something lackluster on windows xp, and windows 7 addresses this big time.

    Second.. This is NOT a real world scenerio test.. You have to have the power settings that the manufactures have enabled out of the box for that particular laptop when you buy it with that OS on it.. And even if you upgrade the machine with the bare bones win7 OS, you can go to the manfacturing website to that laptop and download the right drivers, applications etc, after your upgrade. You can’t strip this down to bare bones OS, this is not a valid “real world” scenerio test. When that laptop came with XP on it, it likely came with special drivers, power managment software.

  30. K. T. Bradford Says:

    Jeff. No one stripped the netbooks down to bare bones. We left the drivers intact. Also, see long discussion above that answers all of your points. It’s fine if you just like Win7 better than XP. Others don’t. It’s a big, wide world with lots of people and lots of opinions. We’re all allowed our own.

  31. sam Says:

    i upgraded my sony vaio vgn fw21e from vista to 7 and now my battery drains like im using a washing machine rather than my laptop on the same battery.

  32. James Lehman Says:

    I would “PAY” for MS to sell me a copy of Windows Fundamentals with a 7 theme for a netbook. I want a small OS and neither XP nor 7 completely gives that to me.

  33. Mike Behnken Says:

    “I would “PAY” for MS to sell me a copy of Windows Fundamentals with a 7 theme for a netbook. I want a small OS and neither XP nor 7 completely gives that to me.”

    I agree with that sentiment. I just bought the ASUS Ul80VT notebook which is claimed to get “12 hours unplugged” and windows 7 ultimate tells me 6 hours at 100% even on power saving mode with little features.

    This really makes my $850 purchase almost completely worthless because I “upgraded” from a more powerful computer which I have to sell for a huge loss.

  34. Col. Sanders Says:

    Yeah… Windows 7 is an overkill for netbooks. Most people praise its speed and new UI features but, honestly, they don’t really mean that much of relevance on netbooks; Windows 7 actually performs slightly slower on netbooks. Moreover, HD (at least 720p) videos on netbooks running Microsoft’s latest consumer OS are barely watchable–something that makes Windows XP shines.

    It’s no secret that operating systems are designed for current and, most importantly, future hardware and computing needs (as well as trends), not that of the past. That’s what Windows 7 is all about. Netbooks, on the other hand, are mainly about boosting efficiency by means of recycling past technologies.

  35. noman khalid Says:

    Hello!
    i bought sony vaio VGN-SR45h last year.
    its jenuine windows was Visa.
    but i installed windows 7, it had good battery timing in beginning around 3 hours but now it runs just for 20 min .
    Plz anybody guide me to overcome this issue.
    thanx.

  36. nick Says:

    Well not surprises here ofc windows xp does its a more streamlined os (1gb of ram used by 7 to like 50-100mb used by xp). Windows xp has way more drivers and has far better preformance (i have used both on the same machine, win xp trashes 7.

  37. nick Says:

    check out tinyxp

  38. Andy Leo Says:

    Very helpful review!

    I just got an Acer D255 netbook. It came with Win7 and I installed Mint9 and Mint10 to try out. Mint shorted the battery life by half, where Win7 lasted about 7+.

    Now after reading your review I will try XP. As I use this netbook mainly for reading ebooks. Win7 on netbook is nice to have but I think XP is more suitable.

    Thks, Andy Batam Island – Indonesia.

  39. Marcus Says:

    good article, just shows more ways Windows XP is better compared to Windows 7. I feel sorry for any laptop users running Vista.

  40. Mark Says:

    You shouldn’t install a 10 year old operating system on a netbook, especially one made by Microsoft.

    Take a look at the Ubuntu Netbook Edition, MeeGo Netbook or Joli OS (AKA Jolicloud), they will perform even better in terms of battery life than XP.

    Windows 7 is A LOT better than Windows XP. And FYI, netbooks are only shipped with Windows 7 Basic, because Windows 7 Home Premium etc were never meant for netbooks.

  41. Amitav Says:

    I would rather use windows Xp to windows 7. There are lots of third party softwares for Xp
    I can n-lite the Xp to further reduce the hardware load. Use irfan view, foxit reader and vlc media player to to run the nettop as a fullscale laptop.

    If one is not using internet, better stick to Xp. It can serve you for another 6 years. You can save the money in upgrading the hardware later.

  42. jsuto Says:

    are u sure dos is relatively more power friendly for laptop? NO. In a general setting, the cpu run at full blast speed animating an idle blinking cursor ! try it.

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