laptop-battery-champs

Battery Life is an Important Laptop Feature

When consumers are surveyed about the most important features on a new laptop, long battery life often appears on the list. Perhaps more telling, poor battery life frequently tops the list of why laptop owners are unhappy with their current mobile computer. I know I’m always a bit disappointed when I test a laptop and its battery runs down after five or six hours. That’s just not long enough to get through a typical work day, so carrying the power adapter and always being on the lookout for an available electrical outlet will become a part of ownership.

Why worry about battery anxiety when there are laptops that will go all day on battery power alone? No having to lug an adapter around, no wires and no fighting for free power outlets. I’ve put together a list of four current laptops that are absolute champions when it comes to battery life.

macbook-air-battery-chanp13-Inch MacBook Air

I’ve always been a fan of Apple’s MacBook Air for personal use—I’m on my third one, the latest 13-inch MacBook Air. The sub-Full HD display is its weakest point, but when working I usually have it hooked up to a big, high resolution display so that doesn’t bother me. The backlit keyboard is great for typing, the trackpad is smooth and a good size, and unlike other Apple laptops, the MBA still offers full-sized USB ports for legacy accessories. It offers plenty of speed and power as well, although I always max my configuration with the maximum RAM available and a Core i7 CPU.

Besides its compact size and sturdy build, one of the star features of the 13-inch MacBook Air is battery life. Apple rates it at up to 12 hours of continuous use and the company is not exaggerating. I take the MacBook Air to meetings, conferences and camping (all places where power can be a problem). It has never let me down, without the need to resort to battery-saving measures like turning down the display brightness.

Dell XPS 13

Dell’s XPS 13 has been an extremely popular ultra-portable laptop since it made waves at CES 2015 with its InfinityEdge display. There’s a lot to like about a laptop that fits a 13.3-inch display inside a case small enough to be mistaken for an 11-inch model. Despite its diminutive size the XPS 13 offers a premium mobile computing experience, with high quality materials (including machined aluminum, carbon fibre and Gorilla Glass) and high performance components like Intel Core CPUs and SSD storage. In other words, choose this laptop and you should be pretty happy with both its looks and its capabilities.

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But the XPS 13 has also made a name for itself as a laptop that sips battery. That is especially the case with the latest iteration, without touchscreen support (touch capability does add to demand on the battery). The newest XPS 13 with a Kaby Lake CPU and higher capacity, 60-watt-hour battery has been hitting 13+ hours in real-life testing, which is very impressive. If you opt for the touchscreen version, that seems to knock battery life down to 9 hours or so, which is still respectable and more than most users would need to get through a day of use.

lenovo-thnkpad-t460-battery-chanpLenovo ThinkPad T460

Lenovo’s ThinkPad series has a reputation of being business-friendly, extending way back its days of IBM ownership. The ThinkPad T460 follows in this tradition. It’s not a particularly sleek or light computer and its display doesn’t do as good a job with colour as others. However, the ThinkPad T460 has many fans among those who need to be productive while on the road. The keyboard is known for providing an excellent typing experience and offers both a built-in touchpad and the iconic red ThinkPad pointing stick. Although the case isn’t fancy (no machined aluminum or gold options here), the laptop is solidly built. Performance is more than up to the needs of the typical business user.

But the reason the Lenovo ThinkPad T460 lands on this list is its truly amazing battery life. It has a unique configuration of a built-in non-removable battery, combined with a removable battery (available in two capacities). The removable battery is depleted first, so users can hot swap for a fresh one without having to shut the laptop down. When equipped with a 6-cell removable battery, the ThinkPad T460 is capable of clocking 17+ hours without plugging in. That’s enough for two full works days …

Microsoft Surface Book

Microsoft didn’t just design an all-new, high performance, convertible laptop when it released its first PC—the company also launched a laptop that clocks impressive battery performance.

The Surface Book is known for a few things. There’s that innovative Dynamic Fulcrum Hinge, of course, the engineering marvel that makes the Surface Book a solid laptop but also lets you release the PixelSense display at the push of a button for use as a standalone tablet. There’s the flagship look and feel of the device, crafted from Magnesium. Performance is also a strong suit, with Intel Core processors and the option for a discrete Nvidia graphics card. Many users love the touchscreen support and included Surface Pen stylus.

microsoft-surface-book-battery-champ

But what’s equally impressive is that fact that Microsoft managed to put together such a technologically and visually compelling laptop, while also offering excellent battery life. You won’t see numbers like this if you opt for a model equipped with a video card (that’s a serious power drain), but the Surface Book is capable of going 16 hours between battery charges.

If you’re shopping for a new laptop, don’t forget to factor battery life into your decision. It may or may not be a big concern upfront, but the fact that poor battery life ends up being a major cause for people wanting to replace their laptops is a good indicator that it’s worth considering at the start of the buying process.

 

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Brad Moon
Editor Computing solutions
I’m a long-time electronics and gadget geek who’s been fortunate enough to enjoy a career that lets me indulge this interest. After 13 years as a product manager with a leading Canadian tech company, I transitioned into a full-time career of writing about technology. I’ve contributed to a range of publications and websites including Forbes, Wired, Gizmodo, Lifehacker, About.com, MSN Money, the Winnipeg Free Press, InvestorPlace Media, Shaw Media and—combining technology and my three kids—I’ve been a Core Contributor to the award winning GeekDad blog since its launch in 2007.