With each new operating system in recent history, Microsoft has promised better battery life. We tested this back in the early days of Windows 7 and found that while Vista was generally a step back relative to XP, Windows 7 fixed much of what was wrong and even managed to beat XP in several tests. With the Windows 8 Consumer Preview now available, we thought we’d run a quick test on a laptop to see if things have changed much. Let’s just get this out of the way, shall we?

Internet Battery Life

Okay, that’s a pretty poor showing, but what’s really going on here? We’re using the same Sandy Bridge laptop that we tested back when Sandy Bridge first launched, a Compal manufactured unit with an i7-2820QM processor, 4GB RAM, and an Intel 160GB G2 SSD. So the hardware hasn’t changed, but battery life is much worse right now—and that last part is important: right now. We did a few tests of battery life with the Windows 7 preview and it didn’t look that great, but drivers and optimizations weren’t finalized, and Windows 8 CP is definitely in that same category. But there’s more to the story than just Windows 8.

As part of the Windows 8 CP experience, we’re also given the privilege of running the Internet Explorer 10 Consumer Preview (IE10CP). As we’ve noted in the past, the choice of browser can certainly have an impact on battery life, and that likely goes double when we’re looking at beta software for the OS and browser. I also performed an in-place upgrade from Windows 7, so it’s possible that could negatively impact battery life as well.

I've only had a chance to run the battery drain test once so far, so consider the above results very preliminary. I'm going to test it again, as well as go back and retest with Windows 7 (and IE9) to see if there are any other changes. The battery may not be performing as well as it did last year (though it seems to be fine based on HWmonitor reporting 2% wear level), but we'll hold off on any final verdicts for now. While I continue to look into battery life over the next few days to see if perhaps I missed something, it doesn’t look like Win8 CP with IE10 CP is going to do anyone any favors in terms of accessing the Internet while unplugged.

Update: In case you need further explanation, the results above are simply a first test of battery life using IE10 CP. I reran the test a second time and it improved slightly (263 vs. 250 minutes), but I'm still testing. There is also a newer Intel driver that I've now installed, which may help quite a bit for IE10. The above results do not say anything about idle battery life, battery life using Metro apps, battery life during video playback, etc. I am working on testing those items as well, and I have a second laptop that I'll be using to provide additional results. All we can say right now is that after first installing Win8 CP via an upgrade to Win7 and when using IE10 with Flash enabled, battery life looks poor—like, Safari browser on Windows levels of poor. That can and very likely will change before the final release, and the fixes will likely come in the way of driver updates as well as improvements to the browser.

Update #2: I've added results from a second laptop where I have done a clean install of Windows 8 CP. This time the laptop is the ASUS K53E with an i5-2520M processor. I did retest with Windows 7 running Internet Explorer 9 first, and I also swapped out the hard drive for a 64GB Kingston SSDNow V100. Results are much better than with the first laptop, but there are a few remaining elements I need to test. Again, consider all these results preliminary, but at least it does appear that Windows 8 with IE10 battery life may not be quite as bad as my initial results indicate. (Note also that using IE9 in place of IE8 actually improved battery life with the K53E and the V100 SSD—Win7 with IE8 scored 333 minutes. I'm not sure if that will always be the case, however, as I seem to recall seeing IE8 get better battery life on at least one laptop I tested.)

Things still waiting to be tested: first, I haven't finished retesting the i7-2820QM with the latest Intel HD Graphics driver [Update #3: the new driver did not change the result], second I need to retest it after doing a clean install of Windows 8 rather than an upgrade, and third I need to retest with Windows 7. [Update #4: I did a clean install of Windows 7 on the i7-2820QM and reran the Internet test twice. The first result was 393 while the second was 425, so other than variance between runs (possibly the fresh install somehow played a factor on the first run), it doesn't look like battery quality has deteriorated. The graph has been updated with the latest numbers.] I'll hold off on reporting idle/video/alternate browser battery life for a future article.

Final Update: After running numerous other tests in Windows 7 just to verify the numbers we had there (and in the process of working to put together graphs for a larger article), I started with a clean install of Windows 7, finished the benchmarks, and then did an upgrade to Windows 8. This time, the battery life is much better--358 minutes compared to 263 minutes from the original upgrade. It's likely that the original upgrade had a lot more stuff left over that somehow impacted battery life. Now, the numbers are much more in alignment with the results of the K53E laptop. We'll have full details on several battery life test scenarios in a future article, but there's still a drop in battery life right now of around 15-17%, mostly likely because of differences between IE9 and IE10CP.

And just as an aside, I know that Windows 8 isn’t final by any stretch of the imagination, but while the Metro UI (and UI changes in general) seems like it would work great on a tablet, I’m ready to go on record as saying I think it sucks for traditional desktop and laptop users. Without a touch interface, Metro feels weird at best and downright awful at worst. What’s more, getting a touchscreen for a desktop or laptop isn’t actually something I’m clamoring for. Does using a 24” or 30” touchscreen on my desktop sound enjoyable? Not at all, and a 15” laptop touchscreen wouldn’t be much better. Maybe it would help me build up a bit of arm strength, but that’s about the only upside. Add on fingerprints—a personal pet peeve that smartphones and tablets still suffer from—and I’m more than happy to stick with the “boring” old Start Menu. That’s just my initial impression of course; anyone else have similar—or different—feelings after playing around with the Win8 CP?

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  • madseven7 - Thursday, March 1, 2012 - link

    I was really excited about metro. Thinking this would be great on everything. Now having used it on the desktop (limited time usage), I'm pretty bummed about it. Not good on the desktop. It kind of reminds me about Unity in Ubuntu; great idea but not practical. Mouse and keyboard not good for metro. Too many clicks and mouse movements to where I would like to get too. It takes me longer to get to where I want to go.
    I'm going to keep trying windows 8cp and become more familiar with it. Maybe it'll grow on me but for now,
    I'll stick with windows 7 but hopefully MS will change how metro and desktop work together in windows 8.
    Reply
  • B3an - Thursday, March 1, 2012 - link

    If you actually bothered to use it for longer than about 5 seconds you might realise it's good. And how about learning keyboard shortcuts? Even with mouse clicks it's often quicker, but again you've not bothered to find these methods out. Reply
  • madseven7 - Friday, March 2, 2012 - link

    LOL...Like I've said, I've used it for a short period. I'm continuing to use it be find it a little hard to find some of the shortcuts. I do like it but sometimes there are so many mouse movements it actually takes longer to get to where I would like to get to. I still think its better suited for tablets than a desktop computer. Reply
  • GoodBytes - Thursday, March 1, 2012 - link

    My laptop has ~11h of battery life on idle, minimum brightness, wireless on, Win8 64-bit. W00t!
    That up from ~10h in Windows 7 64-bit, and that is up from 9h from Vista 64-bit.

    My laptops is the Dell Latitude E6400 (~4 years old, but battery was changed last year)
    - 9-cell battery
    - Core 2 Duo P8400 2.2Ghz
    - 4GB of RAM DDR2
    - Windows 8 64-bit
    - Nvidia Quadro NVS 160M
    - No Bluettoth card
    - No web cam
    - LED back light screen non-glossy
    - Dell Extended battery life power scheme loaded (This Windows power scheme turns off power to the SD card reader, optical drive, reduce power of USB, turns off firewire).
    Reply
  • guidryp - Thursday, March 1, 2012 - link

    I downloaded the Preview and tried it on my desktop.

    Hate it.

    I really think Microsoft is going to face bigger push-back on Win8 than they did on Vista.

    It seems this change is massively controversial, seemingly love it or hate, I can't judge by comments if more love it, or more hate it.

    Has there been any polling?

    I am hoping with enough pushback Microsoft has a contingency to give us a less metro infected desktop.
    Reply
  • faizoff - Thursday, March 1, 2012 - link

    For the Metro UI I really like the option for multitasking seeing as other touch interfaces mainly iOS doesnt have option.

    Though I'd hope for some adjustment allowed for sizing the windows. Right now the ratio is locked which seems to be 75:25 between 2 windows. I'd like that to change to at least have a 50:50 option. I wouldnt mind even allowing 3 windows to be opened as well. But this is an improvement from the Developer's preview and I'd like to think it's headed in the right direction.
    Reply
  • shriganesh - Friday, March 2, 2012 - link

    Win8 tries to address all usage patters, form factors and almost all input forms. When working in a non-touch device (desktop/laptop) we don't need metro at all! If we have a tablet/touch enabled ultrabook we can load the metro interface and play with it when we want. It we have an ARM tablet we only have the metro interface! Reply
  • stephenbrooks - Friday, March 2, 2012 - link

    Jarred said: "What’s more, getting a touchscreen for a desktop or laptop isn’t actually something I’m clamoring for."

    Couldn't disagree more with this. I'd really like to see touch become standard on all screens, because I like having the option to prod the screen as well as mouse, keyboard etc. (particularly when a dialog box comes up with a big "OK" button I'd like to just poke it rather than move the mouse).

    As for your comments about the screen becoming covered in finger prints, I'd hope the proliferation of touch should encourage screens with sturdier and easier-to-clean surfaces.
    Reply
  • georgewillow - Friday, March 2, 2012 - link

    Windows 8 looks great for tablets, but it's is a disaster for a PC OS. Metro should be a separate product or if nothing else at least an option. It's reminds me of Media Center, I mean you could at least make it optional like that. It's not optional by forcing the start screen. I typically use the start menu to search for a program and arrow down to select and press enter to launch. People are saying that you can do the same thing in Metro, but it's not true. The start screen search does not provide the same results as the Windows 7 start menu. Try searching for printers, uninstall, or system. They don't appear with the Windows 8 start screen search. What about the recent activity's that pop out from the side of a W7 start menu pinned app. For me I use remote desktop and virtual PC a lot and the last connections or machines are right under the arrow. Much more efficient. Also, how about this workflow to restart a PC - mouse over lower left, click to launch start screen, mouse over to lower right, mouse up to settings, mouse down to power, click restart. That's just ridiculous. Lastly, have you all noticed that IE is not the only duplicated program. There are metro and desktop versions of Remote Desktop and Windows Media Player. In each case the metro version only makes sense on a tablet or touchscreen. It's just extra bulk to a desktop OS. I also can't believe companies are going to be thrilled that the default start screen is pretty much dedicated to your personal life and has nothing to do with business. Reply
  • Jeff7181 - Friday, March 2, 2012 - link

    I haven't had a chance to play with it, but with everything I've seen about the new UI, I can't say I'm interested in it. In fact, I imagine it could be undesirable enough that I may just continue using Windows 7 for a while longer rather than upgrade as soon as it's available. This would be a big change for me as I've be an early adopter of Microsoft OS's since Windows 98, having skipped only Windows ME.

    I have a feeling Windows Server 8 is going to have all of the "under the hood" improvements that Windows 8 will have, but with a more traditional UI. If that ends up being true, I may just end up using Windows Server 8 on my laptop and desktop.
    Reply

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