Melting down marketing lies: Here’s how long your new laptop battery will really last


Battery life is arguably becoming a laptop’s most important metric. Processor speed is confusing – different architectures have different performance at different clock speeds. Discrete graphics is even worse. But the battery? More is better! Everyone knows that. And manufacturers have latched on to it as an important marketing tool.

This has led to amazing claims. Six, seven, eight hours or more – some modern laptops pose with endurance numbers rivaling tablets. There’s just one problem. No one checks to make sure advertising and reality match. Manufacturers can claim anything they’d like.

We’re going to take manufacturer claims to task by examining 10 recently released laptops and comparing their claimed battery endurance with the results we received during our reviews. Let’s see if these laptops can back up their boasts.

The Contenders

We wanted to have a well-rounded list of laptops for this comparison, so we’ve picked ten recently reviewed models. Some are Ultrabooks, some are desktop replacements, and some are luxury portables. Here’s the list of competitors and the battery life listed by the manufacturer on its website. Not every laptop we’ve reviewed is marketed alongside a battery life number, so we’ve picked laptops that claim a definite number. The text below is quoted from manufacturer marketing or spec sheets.

If we average all of these numbers we come to a total average battery life of 7.3 hours (rounding up slightly). That’s quite robust. Many of these laptops are portable because manufacturers usually send us high-end models for review rather than stripped-down desktop replacements, but even so, seven hours is excellent.

Now let’s see if these claims are met.

Real battery life

For the purposes of this comparison we are going to be using the numbers generated by our Battery Eater Reader’s Test benchmark. This is not a strenuous workload. It opens a document and scrolls through it endlessly. We leave Wi-Fi on and display brightness at 70 percent. We also engage the most aggressive power-saving mode available. These conditions should result in solid battery life results.

In the table below we’ve compiled our results and the difference, both for each laptop and for all laptops as a whole. Let’s take a look.

Digital Trends battery life benchmarks

What we find most interesting about these results is how well they break down by manufacturer. The Asus laptops are off by exactly 10%. The HP laptops are off by 16 percent and 15 percent. The Sony laptops are off by exactly 15 percent. Only Toshiba and Lenovo show significant variance, but both are consistent in the direction of their results – the Toshiba laptops underperformed and the Lenovo laptops beat their estimates.

Lenovo’s IdeaPad U400 is the real surprise thanks to an insanely low manufacturer claim of four hours. We applaud Lenovo for apparently being more realistic about real-world results, but at the same time, Lenovo’s laptops offered shorter run times than the competition.

Interpreting the results

The overall variance is negative 11 percent, but if we exclude Lenovo, the difference increases to negative 14 percent.

Does this mean that you should expect at least 14 percent less than what is claimed? Yes, it does. Though these 10 laptops are obviously only a small portion of the market, in our experience it is rare for any laptop to meet its claimed maximum life under any conditions that involve active use of the laptop.

Even expecting 14 percent less than what is claimed may be hopeful. The benchmark reference in this article is the least demanding of the two we use. Placing a heavy load on the processor is going to eat through the battery even more quickly. Playing a game, for example, can cut battery life below 50 percent of what is claimed.

Manufacturers account for this by using the words “up to” in their advertising. With that said, some manufactures walk a finer line than others. ASUS claims the UX31 can achieve 7 hours or more on the specifications page of its website. Toshiba claims that Z835 offers up to eight hours of “non-stop browsing, emailing, doing and enjoying.” These claims are simply incorrect.

Though it’s possible that a laptop will meet or exceed its claim, you shouldn’t expect it. Instead, you should expect a laptop to come in below its maximum by at least 14 percent and – more realistically – around 25 percent.

A silver lining

All of this sounds a bit doom-and-gloom, so let’s end on a high note. While we do find that laptops fail to meet their quoted endurance in our battery life benchmarks, there has been an upward trend in real-world battery life.

Five years ago you’d be lucky to achieve three hours with a basic desktop replacement, but the worst battery life we recorded among the systems in this comparison was a tad over five hours. The average buy should find this to be more than adequate. Even if claims are not being met, real-world battery results do not fail to impress.

Product Review

Why spend more? The Yoga Chromebook outdoes most laptops for $600

The Yoga Chromebook features great build quality, a 1080p display, and all-day battery life. All that for $540? That’s right, but there’s one catch.

Here are the best laptop deals for December 2018

Whether you need a new laptop for school or work or you're just doing some holiday shopping for a special someone, we've got you covered: These are the best laptop deals going right now, from discounted MacBooks to on-the-go gaming PCs.
Product Review

How does the sleek MateBook X Pro hold up to the modern day competition?

Huawei impressed us with the MateBook X, a solid competitor to the 12-inch MacBook that beat Apple at its own game. Now, Huawei is taking a shot at premium 14-inchers with the MateBook X Pro, but it’s not without oddities – like a…
Product Review

It's not the sharpest tool, but the Surface Go does it all for $400

Microsoft has launched the $400 Surface Go to take on both the iPad and Chromebooks, all without compromising its core focus on productivity. Does it work as both a tablet and a PC?

Not just for Lightroom anymore, Loupedeck+ now works with Photoshop

Loupedeck+ can now help photographers edit in Photoshop too, thanks to physical controls for swapping tools, running actions, and more. The photo-editing console expanded to include Photoshop in the list of compatible editing programs.

Turn your Raspberry Pi into a Steam streaming hub with Valve’s Steam Link app

Valve's Steam Link app is now fully supported by Raspberry PI hardware, meaning that just about anyone with a few dollars to spare can build their own Steam streaming box in a matter of minutes.

Amazon takes $300 off Intel Core i7 Surface Pro 6 in latest sale

If you're looking for savings on the Surface Pro 6, Amazon is the place to shop. It currently is discounting the Intel Core i7 variant of Microsoft's latest 2-in-1 by $300, though no Type Cover is included.

Here's our head-to-head comparison of Pandora and Spotify

Which music streaming platform is best for you? We pit Spotify versus Pandora, two mighty streaming services with on-demand music and massive catalogs, comparing every facet of the two services to help you decide which is best.

Our favorite Chrome themes add some much-needed pizzazz to your boring browser

Sometimes you just want Chrome to show a little personality and ditch the grayscale for something a little more lively. Lucky for you, we've sorted through the Chrome Web Store to find best Chrome themes available.

Don't keep typing the same thing -- learn to copy and paste with these shortcuts!

Looking for useful Windows keyboard shortcuts? The most common are the cut, copy, paste and undo shortcuts compatible with all kinds of tasks. They can save you an awful lot of time if you learn how to use them.

Latest Facebook bug exposed up to 6.8 million users’ private photos

An API bug recently left an impact on Facebook users. Though the issue has since been fixed, some of the apps on the platform had a wrongful access to consumers photos for 12 days between September 13 and September 25. 

You can now get a Surface Laptop 2 for $800 at the Microsoft Store

Along with deals on other variants, starting configurations of Microsoft's Surface Laptop 2 are now going for $800 online at its retail store, cutting $200 from its usual $1,000 starting price. 

Need a monitor for professional photo-editing? These are the very best

Looking for the best monitor for photo editing? You'll need to factor in brightness, color accuracy, color gamut support and more. Fortunately, we've rounded up the best ones for you, to help you make an educated purchase.

HDR monitors are beginning to have an impact. Here are the best you can buy

HDR isn't the most common of PC monitor features and is often charged at a premium, but the list of available options is growing. These are the best HDR monitors you can buy right now.