Windows 7: Bad For Netbook Battery Life?

win7-netbookIn our review of Windows 7, we tested the OS on three different machines from netbooks to mainstream notebooks: a Toshiba mini NB205-N310, the Gateway NV5807u and the Dell Studio XPS 16. When comparing our usual suite of benchmarks (overall performance, graphics performance, application open times, battery life, efficiency) between Windows Vista or XP and Windows 7, the mainstream notebooks often did very well but the results were more mixed with the NB205 netbook we tested.

The biggest surprise was the loss of battery life. When we ran our standard battery test on the Toshiba NB205 under Windows 7, it lost more than 3 hours. Under XP it got an amazing 9 hours and 24 minutes, but with Windows 7 it only lasted for 6 hours and 15 minutes. Installing new Win 7 drivers from Toshiba only resulted in an extra half hour or so (6:53). We also noticed a bit of a drop-off with another netbook we tested: the MSI U123. This time it was less dramatic: 8:14 in XP vs. 7:41 in Win 7.

The long battery life achieved by netbooks that get more than 6 hours of life is partially due to high-capacity or higher cell count batteries, but also to manufacturer’s drivers. Since it’s still early days with Windows 7, it’s understandable that driver updates are not yet available or as efficient. That does beg the question of whether netbook owners should wait a while before upgrading to this new operating system. 6+ hours is still decent, of course, but if you bought the NB205 with the 9-hour battery life in mind, you may regret the loss of those extra hours.

We did observe snappier performance from Windows 7 on the NB205, particularly in the application open tests and hard drive speed. And the U123 saw an increase in energy efficiency.

By the time the OS is available in October, many manufacturers may have driver upgrades to ensure your netbook is able to take full advantage of Windows 7. Consumers may want to hold off on upgrading until they can download them, especially if battery life is key.

Once you do upgrade, you’ll likely find it worth the wait. We were impressed with the improved look and feel, wireless access, UI, and multitouch capabilities. Read our in-depth review of Windows 7 here.

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  1. Fanfoot Says:

    Did you try disabling aero glass? I wonder if that might be part of the problem. Seems unlikely that would drop battery life by 3 hours though…

    Its likely a significantly bigger O/S than XP. So the disk may be accessed more. I wonder if either testing with 2GB of RAM installed or perhaps even using an SSD would reclaim some of the battery life… Again, seems unlikely this can explain three extra hours though…

    I wonder if we’re going to start to see blogs of all the services and features in Windows 7 you can/should disable on your netbook to get the best battery life/boot time… just like we do with XP.

  2. Armando Says:

    interesting, i’ve tried win 7 in my asus eee 1000ha and didn’t noted major battery life changes, almost 30 min less in 7 witout aero theme (it automatically enables when i plug it on)… with the drivers that win 7 installed by default

  3. a Says:

    Maybe in a fresh installed W7 the indexing service is indexing files so that must be the cause.

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