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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  • bk212 - Sunday, March 4, 2012 - link

    -You feel it's okay to have 20 icons in your Start menu but tiles on your Start screen are bad?? At least with Metro Start screen, you don't even have to click a Start button.
    -Once again, typing on Metro Start screen does search also only better.
    -Right clicking on Start screen brings up all apps option for alphabetical list.

    To each his own. MS can't please all one billion users. Just thought that the "sucks" comment was overly harsh for respected website like anandtech.
    Reply
  • kyuu - Thursday, March 1, 2012 - link

    "I am so sick of these "power users" who try Metro for 10-20 minutes, and then say they hate it."

    ... Are you serious? This is a site frequented by "power users" and run by "power users." You think Joe Consumer who can barely operate his computer well enough to use Facebook and check his email is spending time on a site like this?

    "You know what? I used to hate brussel sprouts as a kid, but I tried them enough that now I love them."

    Cool, good for you. Brussel sprouts still taste like ass to most people, though granted my tortoises love them. Myself, I'm not interested in trying something that tastes awful over and over until I develop a taste for it. I'd rather just eat the food that tastes good in the first place. Are we getting tired of this analogy yet?

    "Do you really think average joe consumer will complain as much as you. [Blah blah blah...]"

    You may be right, but on the other hand, "average joe consumer" is quite averse to change and may not be interested in relearning how to interact with their computer when they've been trained to use the desktop model for the past 20 years. Especially when the new UI doesn't offer any compelling functionality compared to the classic desktop and actually seems to just complicate things unnecessarily.

    "As for the battery life (what this article was supposed to be about), it is obvious Jarred did not do his homework here. I would suggest he retracts this, and runs a proper set of tests."

    Wow, people are way too ready to jump down people's throats without actually reading the article. All the issues people like are you pointing out were pointed out by Jarred himself *in the freaking article*, it was specifically labelled a *preliminary* look at battery life, and he said he is going to do a more thorough set of tests and come back with the results later.
    Reply
  • Braumin - Thursday, March 1, 2012 - link

    If average joe consumer was so averse to change, then why is the iPad selling so well to average joes? If we listen to you, average joe would still be running Windows 98 because that is what he grew up with. You know what? People figure stuff out, and adapt.

    You would think people as technically smart as the ones that visit this site would actually try something for a while before they complain about it, but that is definitely not the case.

    And no, a couple of hours of playing around is not enough.
    Reply
  • B3an - Thursday, March 1, 2012 - link

    Completely agree. Even though i'm a "power user" and likely even more so than the vast majority of people here, i'm proud to say i'm one of the few thats actually not scared of change.

    On desktops the Metro UI is not even replacement for the desktop UI so i dont know why people are bitching about this, because it's not like you dont have an option to choose whatever UI is best suited to your needs or input method. Simply use whichever is best for you.

    And as for the Start menu thats not even needed anymore! Glad it's gone. The one and only thing i used the Start menu for was search, and for searching Metro is a vast improvement.
    Reply
  • madseven7 - Thursday, March 1, 2012 - link

    I'm sorry but even in a *preliminary* look at batter life you do not use an outdated test where you know certain variables have changed and then compare it to something new. That is not an apple to apples comparison, and then say the OS sucks at battery life.
    Where in the article does it say he used a new battery? After a year of use (maybe heavy usage) do you not think that the battery wear level may impact this *preliminary* battery review or "quick look".
    I guess an hybrid car with new power savings from 2012 with a 2012 battery will perform worse than a new hybrid car from 2012 with a 2011 battery.

    8
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, March 1, 2012 - link

    2% wear level is what the battery reads, and as noted the big problem right now appears to be IE10CP. Reply
  • c4v3man - Thursday, March 1, 2012 - link

    I rarely gripe about a post here, but this is pretty pathetic. The test was run once, and was on an upgraded install, to beta software. The only way you should test something like this is by doing a clean install on both platforms, and testing back to back. Even if the battery wear is listed at 2%, batteries age in storage, especially if stored under sub-optimal voltage levels. The Wear level is rarely anything more than an estimate...

    And beyond that, the article is about battery life, and you take a jab at Metro at the end? It doesn't fit in line with the article, and comes across as someone who is simply attacking the platform prematurely.

    Test it out for a week, doing scientific tests, and get back to us. Even as a "pipeline" article this is incomplete, biased, and out of line for Anand's standards. Sure you might get some extra traffic, but it's amazingly unprofessional.
    Reply
  • madseven7 - Thursday, March 1, 2012 - link

    totally agree Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, March 1, 2012 - link

    Sorry you feel that way, but pipeline posts are exactly for stuff like this. I suppose you'd rather not know that Win8 CP with IE10CP has substantially worse battery life than Win7 + IE8/9 right now? I'm rerunning the test right now, but the funny thing is you call this unprofessional because I actually spelled out exactly how I tested.

    When I've tested battery life in several scenarios, I'll wipe and do a clean install and retest, which will then put to rest any of your notions that the upgrade install somehow hurt battery life. (10 to 1 odds that it didn't.) Then after running those tests I'll wipe and reinstall Windows 7 and run the tests again, to verify that the age of the battery hasn't substantially altered the results. (100 to 1 odds that Win7 still wins the IE9 vs. IE10 comparison for battery life by a huge margin.)

    As for the jab at Metro at the end, it's a blog, and in a blog I get to tell you what's on my mind. And after playing with Windows 8 for a bit on a laptop, I don't like it. It feels like an interface designed for a touchscreen being pushed on a non-touch platform. Disagree? Great. That's what opinions are for. That doesn't make it unprofessional, though.
    Reply
  • madseven7 - Thursday, March 1, 2012 - link

    Did you happen to see the link one of the posters posted. Tested on different laptops and with better results on all the platforms (one of being a macbook air) Reply

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