A few weeks ago Kevin Tofel from jkOnTheRun and I ran a few tests that seemed to show that netbooks running Windows XP get better battery life than those running Windows 7. Our test machines were the Toshiba Mini NB205 and the Asus Eee PC 1008HA. In both cases, the hardware was virtually identical, the only difference was the operating system. And in both cases, the computers lasted 30 to 60 minutes less when running Windows 7.
The other day I was talking to Laptop Magazine’s KT Bradford, and she said she had been noticing the same thing. Yesterday, she weighed in with a blog post that showed pretty much the same thing Kevin and I had found. The Toshiba NB205 loses about a half hour of battery life when you switch from XP to WIndows 7, and the Asus Eee PC 1008HA loses nearly an hour. What’s more, the HP Mini 311 with NIVDIA ION graphics went from 5:43 in the Laptop Magazine battery test to 4:52.
Some folks have suggested that the problem isn’t the operating system itself, but rather all the fancy graphical effects and extra processes running in the background of Windows 7. But that wouldn’t explain why the Toshiba NB205 suffers. The Windows 7 versions Laptop Magazine and I tested were running Windows 7 Starter Edition, which doesn’t have most of the fancy graphics and animations found in Windows 7 Home Premium.
More importantly, if the only way Windows 7 netbooks can match the performance of netbooks running an operating system that’s nearly a decade old is to disable running services and tweak other things beneath the hood, then Microsoft has a problem since most users won’t even know that it’s possible to adjust those settings. They’ll just wonder why their shiny new netbook doesn’t run as long as their old one.
It’s possible that the problem isn’t entirely with Windows 7. It could also be with the interaction between the operating system and the hardware found in most netbooks. The Asus UL30A, for example, uses an Intel CULV processor instead of the Atom chip commonly found in netbooks, and it runs for nearly 10 hours on a charge. I haven’t tested that laptop with Windows XP, but it’s clearly possible to design a machine that will run Windows 7 and get stellar battery life. But if you want an Intel Atom powered netbook that gets good battery life, all the evidence I’ve seen suggests that you might want to stick with Windows XP… for now, at least.
Have experienced the same thing? Or have your experiences with Windows 7 and battery life been different? Let us know in the comments.