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Study compares claimed laptop battery life and reality

by Mark Tyson on 31 March 2017, 13:01

Tags: Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Acer (TPE:2353), ASUSTeK (TPE:2357), Hewlett Packard (NYSE:HPQ), Dell (NASDAQ:DELL), Toshiba (TYO:6502)

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A newly concluded investigation by Which? magazine has found that "the battery life claimed by laptop manufacturers rarely lives up to reality". The well known consumer magazine tested 67 modern laptops over the past year and has squirreled away this battery stamina data which shows that almost all laptop makers overstate the battery life available to user. Sometimes battery estimates were not just minutes but hours in deficit, some batteries only lasted half of their claimed endurance.

The Which? tests are use a standard method of actively browsing the web over Wi-Fi and the battery is run through the tests at least three times from full capacity until it is completely drained. Unfortunately Which? doesn't detail its standard settings such as brightness, or what browsing software was used - these things can have a big impact.

Chart from Which? magazine

Above you can see the distillation of the magazine's 67 tests into chart form. You might initially think the Apple battery is unfairly highlighted in green but that colour simply represents that it, on average, exceeded the claimed battery life. For Windows laptops Asus looked the best with its actual figure for battery stamina nearly an hour longer than closest next placed rival Acer. The Which? tests stats were compiled from the following machines (number of reviews in brackets): Acer (8); Apple (3), Asus (8), Dell (10), HP (12), Lenovo (20), Toshiba (6).

After reaching out to the laptop manufacturers Which? received a range explanations that you might expect. For example Dell mentioned that "every individual uses their PC differently," and HP said its own tests were accurate and run using "real life scripts and runs on real applications like Microsoft office."

If you are in the market for a laptop then it's wise to seek out reviews, and doubly wise to look closely at reviewer battery life tests. HEXUS always includes a real-world Power Draw and Battery Life section in laptop reviews - including charts for video encoding, gaming, and general use where appropriate.

HEXUS Forums :: 19 Comments

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For that to be a fair represntative test the Mac should have been running windows ;)

I can't see how this is news - nobody I know uses a laptop how they get the tests to say battery life should be. It's a strange thing as 99.9% have the brightness up far higher for starters…
Just like MPG and broadband speeds they will get round their false claims by saying ‘up to’
Just like MPG and broadband speeds they will get round their false claims by saying ‘up to’
I've always disliked these sorts of criticisms. I'm fully aware claimed numbers can usually only be achieved under specific circumstances. But I also know full well how to tweak and monitor battery consumption such that my laptops have pretty much always managed to match or exceed their claimed battery life numbers. My Dell, Samsung, HP, Acer, Fujitsu and Toshiba laptops have all managed to live up claims if you know what you're doing.

Therefore I'd rather know the true maximum it can achieve rather than some dumbed down number made for “typical” consumers. And I also hate those new rules on broadband speed claims. A claim of “Up to 16Mbps” or “Up to 24Mbps” or “Up to 40Mbps” will tell me exactly what technology it uses and I can measure my line to determine how much I'll actually get. A rating of “Up to 14Mbps” based on 10% of customers getting that average speed tells me nothing useful. Is it using ADSL1? ADS2? VDSL1/2? 16Mbps cap? 24Mbps cap? Who knows. By rating it down they get an excuse to fob off customers on a faster 24Mbps line with a fault reducing their speed to 14Mbps because well, they never claimed 24Mbps did they!

I want to know what my equipment is capable of, not some obfuscated “average” crap, especially when it's easy enough to access reviews or tests under specific conditions.

Now for the average consumer, I'd prefer at the very least, consistent and comparable battery life tests across all manufacturers. In the same way motorcycle helmets are tested by an independent third party using identical procedures for all manufacturers.

Maybe they should introduce a manufacturer-independent standard like CIPA which is used for camera battery life testing.
Honestly, I've always found my Apple devices to perform better than expected with regards to battery life. I can't say the same about my Dell XPS 13
Anyone who buys something based on a claim by a company, should always expect to be disappointed.

I would suggest that these claims are tested externally, however as we know from the MPG scandal, even these can be easily rigged…

Maybe the only way to achieve any fair results would be to test things bought ‘commercially’ and at random, and apply standardizing methodologies; but does anyone really care?