Purchasing a brand new laptop is no easy task. So many fantastic devices come out each year that it can be difficult to narrow down your options. In addition, there are so many aspects of a laptop to consider, from display size and resolution to CPU power and graphics capabilities. Yet there’s one thing that just about everybody needs: a good, long battery life.
Anyone who regularly brings their laptop out and about knows how crushing it is to run out of power when you’ve left your charger behind. Or perhaps you do have it, but there seem to be no power sockets within three square miles of your vicinity. Whether you’re a student working through a marathon of lectures or a traveller bingeing shows on a long-haul flight, it’s always handy to have a laptop that lasts.
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One way to estimate battery life is to look at the battery size of a laptop, which is measured in mAH or Wh. The larger it is, the longer it should keep your device running – in theory, that is. Factors such as display size and brightness will alter how far that full charge will take you, while a demanding CPU will drain battery like it’s going out of fashion. Even the cooling inside the laptop takes its toll.
To help you avoid scrambling on the floor of the nearest coffee shop in search of a socket, we’ve tested hundreds of laptops to find out which ones have the longest-lasting battery. Read on to find out about our testing method and see which laptops get top marks.
Best laptop battery life: How we test
Whenever we review a laptop we run an exhaustive series of benchmarks, one of which is the standardised battery rundown test. The video consists of several scenes from the classic motion picture Spiderman-2 (2004), encoded to H.264 and played on a continuous 20hr loop using VLC media player, with the laptop fully charged but unplugged.
We also turn off all of the Operating System’s battery saving settings, switch the laptop to flight mode and set the display brightness to exactly 170cd/m2. This method ensures that battery tests are as consistent as possible across all devices. The final battery life result is the time on the video upon rebooting the laptop.
To find the very best performers, we’ve compiled a spreadsheet of battery life data on the hundreds of laptops we’ve reviewed over the years. Next, we eliminated the devices which have been discontinued and thus are no longer available to buy. Finally, we selected the top twenty laptops with the longest battery lives and placed them into an easy-to-use chart. So, which laptops achieved the longevity every tech-head desires?
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Best laptop battery life: Results
As you’ll notice in the chart below, almost all of the entries are laptops that have been released in the past 2-3 years. This is a predictable trend; laptop manufacturers continue to innovate year in, year out, designing smaller machines with larger batteries and improved power efficiency. Older laptops simply cannot compete and new technologies are always rolling in; you can expect almost every laptop on this list to be replaced within the next couple of years.
Interestingly, the two leaders are both Microsoft devices; the Surface Pro (2017) lasted 693mins (11hrs 33mins), and the Surface Book 2 15in managed to match that time exactly. Microsoft appears to have a knack for producing devices of Herculean endurance, because it has more entries on this list than any other manufacturer, with 4. The stunning LG Gram secures a podium spot, coming in just 10mins shy of the joint-winners at 11hrs 23mins. After that, there’s a significant drop-off, with the Dell XPS 15 (2017) making it to 625mins (10hrs 25mins) – a more than respectable result for a high-performance 15in laptop.
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You may have spotted the high proportion of Chromebooks (there are 5) in the best battery life chart. Chromebooks tend to be very low-powered devices so it follows that their batteries would not drain as quickly. Apart from Google’s Pixel Slate and Pixelbook devices – which use newer and pricier Intel Core i5 chips – Chromebooks often use processors that have little power and thus demand little of the battery. Take the Acer Chromebook 14 for instance, which has a 1.6GHz Intel Celeron N3060 CPU and made it to an impressive 620mins (6hrs 20mins) in our battery rundown test.
Apple, Acer and Dell all come out well from this list too – each manufacturer has 3 laptops in the list. After the longest-lasting Apple laptop on the market? That would be the Apple MacBook Air (2018). It held out for a solid 8hrs 34mins in the battery life benchmark, making it perfect for students or the Wi-Fi and caffeine-addicted coffee shop workers of the world. Meanwhile, the latest 15in MacBook Pro made a good run of it with a commendable 8hrs 1min.
Remember that there is one major variable that will have an effect on battery life, and that’s the processor. Before reaching for your wallet, note which CPU was inside the model we reviewed – they’re all listed in the chart above. If the configuration you purchase doesn’t have the same specifications, there’s a high chance that the battery life may differ drastically from the model we reviewed.
We should also reiterate that the results shown in the graph were achieved while the laptops were playing a video, in flight mode and with the display set to a fairly low brightness of 170cd/m2. You can’t expect your laptop to get anywhere near the same battery life when you’re gaming or running a whole bunch of demanding applications at the same time.
Best laptop battery life: Best of the rest
For obvious reasons we had to limit the number of laptops we could include in the chart. That’s a shame because there are some brilliant notebooks that almost made the cut. The Dell XPS 15 (2018), which was our favourite laptop of that year, held out for 7hrs and 14mins, showing phenomenal stamina for a laptop powered by a 2.2GHz Intel-Core i7-850H. The lovely Huawei MateBook X finished a mere 3mins behind. The Razer Blade 15 gaming laptop unexpectedly makes the top 30 as well, pacing itself admirably to end up with a battery rundown time of 7hrs 7mins.
Keep a beady eye on this list, as it’s bound to change once we start testing the next batch of laptops on offer in 2019.
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