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