Short Battery Life Sinks First Windows 8 Notebooks

Confusing dual-mode operating system, no Start button, counter-intuitive 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.

For all of Windows 8's strengths, its one major weakness might be something no one saw coming; significantly worse battery life than the previous generation of PCs. Laptop Mag's Michael Prospero breaks down the drain in detail.

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 1.8kg) lasted 6 hours and 52 minutes on the LAPTOP Battery Test (Web surfing via Wi-Fi, screen at 40 per cent brightness). The average thin-and-light (12 to 14 inches, less than 3kg) 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 favourite 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 $US1699 and weighs a mere 1.3kg, but lasted just 4 hours and 10 minutes. For that much money, I expect at least twice the endurance. There's an optional $US150 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.

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    I have a Windows 8 RT Surface and I've not noticed any battery issues and I've had it last a good 9 hours just reading books and with Wi-Fi turned on. The Win8 Pro from HP, they've added a second battery built into the case that can incrase usage by another 3 to 4 hours.

      i wonder why they needed a secon battery. and fyi win 8 rt is a slimmed down os, that runs on ARM chips which are designed to use little power so the batt life cant be compared to the desktop x86 chips that use waaaay more power and do more complex processing.

    Anything to bad mouth Windows 8....

      Agreed. May as well wrap up the article with a "this was written on a MacBook" tagline.

        Oh boo friggen hoo. Cry me a river. Don't like the message, blame the messenger. Real mature approach. Your hate won't change how crap these products really are. Enjoy.

    Im yet to see a full in depth review of Windows 8 from some places? Its like its been forgotten?

    5 Hours = Short battery life??? We must have short memories. Count ourselves lucky, I remember my Gateway 2300 Solo 133mhz used to last about 2 hours (if I was lucky) on batteries, and that was with an nearly a 1KG extended battery. Used to carry around 2 spares with me and even then I couldn't work a full day on the road without plugging into power at some point.

    Last edited 18/12/12 11:27 am

    In upgrading both my ultrabooks from Win7 to Win8, I didn't notice any battery life falloff at all. If the average has changed, it must be because manufacturers are putting lesser batteries into devices, presumably to keep costs down. My Series 9 gets more than 5 hours on full brightness with only an 80% charge (Samsung setting to increase battery's longevity).

    You do realise that you're comparing an Operating system that isnt a month old compared to one which is over 2 years old?

    Then theres the other obvious conclusion which - Windows 7 (and OSX incidentally) had dysmal battery life on launches.

    Oh no! Only 6h20m of battery life, crisis! I'm yet to experience more than 2.5 hours of life from my win 7 laptop since brand new. Admittedly it's a pretty well decked out laptop, but seriously, 6 hours is more than long enough to find a power outlet for the 10-20 mins it takes to recharge.

      Oh no! Only 6h20m of battery life, crisis!

      Exactly. It wasn't too long ago that a 3-hour battery life was a groundbreaking achievement.

        My 2 year old laptop only has a battery life of 1h30m...

        Last edited 18/12/12 12:42 pm

          my 5 year old HP dies when i take the power cord out

          ... yes i know battery is crooked

      I have a Toshiba 18.4" Laptop. Has 1 hour 20 mins of battery life. I'd kill for even close to 6h20min

        Yeah my Toshiba's only a 15", but decent graphics card and all. If the card kicks in, I've got 30 mins of power at the most.

    Hey, don't blame the gestures for the crappy OEM implementation of touch screens. Seriously the fantastic Windows 8 gestures are pretty hard to pull off on most Windows 8 touch screen devices I've tried. All the ones I've played with in store have not been sensitive enough at the edge of the screen except HP. Sony was the absolute worst, with an edge of screen gesture working once out of about 30 tries.

    Also on battery life, do you really expect a laptop with similar hardware and a new OS to get better battery life when you add a touch screen to the mix?

    Christ almighty.

    We're talking differences of a few minutes?

    Ugh, get over it. Windows 8 is good, deal with it and move on. An operating system isn't worth the stress.

    "The average of all these systems: 5 hours and 8 minutes. That’s hardly what I’d call all-day endurance."
    Wait what? Laptops are suppose to have batteries that last all day these days?
    And that first graph. What. Just, what. Comparing the 6:52 to the 6:20, that's 92% of the battery life, yet the graph makes it look like it has less than half the battery life??

    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!
    Fine, you try designing a tablet that runs an intel processor and has a whopping huge battery in a 10.6", 13mm thick device then.

    Then they go and blame Windows 8 for the poor battery life, when their own evidence suggests it's the touchscreens to blame. Which makes sense.

    This article just seems like a big joke. Like most articles about Windows 8 I guess.

    I think I'll wait for windows 9

      By the time Windows 9 comes out (might be next year), they may have Kinect like things in laptops, thus decreasing the battery life further.

    This article's a joke. You can smell the authors bias and disdain for W8 in the first paragraph.

    Confusing dual-mode operating system, no Start button, counter-intuitive 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.

    Which was the thin & light that got 6 hrs 40 mins? It's name isn't mentioned under the 2 graphics below the first one.

    Touch screens use up more battery by the way, that's why the numbers are lower.

    New operating system primarily designed for portable devices teamed with new 13-17" touchscreen LCD = lower battery life. Hmm, let's blame the operating system. *facepalm*

    Benchmarking a touch based Intel I3, I5 or I7 device for web surfing via Wi-Fi with a screen at 40 per cent brightness is probably the most pointless benchmark on the planet. It's like taking a Formula 1 motor car and seeing how many miles to the gallon you get when it doesn't go above 30 miles per hour. If I wanted a car with great milage I would buy a Fiat Panda (ARM based device) not a Ferrari (Ultrabook).

    0_0 Entire MINUTES worse than the average! This is a harbinger of doom. We're all doomed. Unless of course, we buy holy Mac Pro computers which will save the world, our souls, and all the girls.

    wow, it really only occurred to me just when I saw the title of this article, but you guys have made a lot of negative articles on Windows 8 - kinda seeming like either Windows 8 is shit or you guys have a bias. I'm going with the latter. Disappointing.

      If the writer is from the US Giz then it's bias. Look at the review they did for the Win8 Surface, it was an article that should never have been written and was .

      The AU Giz did such a great job on reviewing the Surface.

      Get with the times. It's been cool to hate Windows 8 for aaaaages :P

    @Author... Never have I seen in a forum where pretty much every response has called out blatant bias and agenda behind an article. Usually you see an article get called out and it's mostly a minority few fanboys who can't seem to get past some facts about their beloved company. But this article is such absolute garbage that I cannot believe it can from a reputable tech site! No wonder people are posting about it. I'm not going to go into all that's wrong with the article because SO many others have already pointed them out. All I'm going to say is that I thought better of Gizmodo Aus. /end rant!

    Wow this is one misleading article, from the first few negative comments to the first graph which indicates 30mins less battery life is a 50% reduction in battery life( according to the graphs)

    Then again cant hate on Gizmodo as this was done by

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