Battery running low. On a rickety Irish Rail train with no outlet in sight. Notebook or netbook about to die. Little you can do about it but tap away at the keyboard until you’re left with a black screen and an over-priced chicken and stuffing sandwich to distract you when it does so. It’s moments like this that have led to articles like this.
We decided it was time to look at some expert views to help guide both notebook and netbook owners on what’s the best bet for getting the most out of their battery between Windows XP and Windows 7. The men who work in the bowels of Komplett Towers are usually the best to ask these kinds of questions and thankfully Shelton and Ryan – our two RMA guys to the uninitiated – gave some answers and didn’t complain about me distracting them from more important things.
The Canuck Buck Shelton (as absolutely nobody around here calls him) said that “from a ‘keeping current’ standpoint” he’d prefer, if getting a newer notebook, to go with Windows 7. Asked to explain, he said, “It’s a hell of a lot better than Vista was and I generally enjoy it as an alternative to XP. I think though, as Marc (fellow Komplett blogger) recently pointed out to me, XP was never truly written with notebooks in mind, so even though it has less features and is less demanding on the hardware, it’s not as efficient and may end up sucking up a bit more power over time.”
For his part, Ryan – mentioning that you have to remember that battery performance will of course vary from netbook to netbook and notebook to notebook – said that “Windows 7 has more power saving features, if the hardware supports”, but added that’s “pretty much the only thing it offers over XP,” when it comes to trying to save your battery, at least.
Starting with netbooks, of the advice we saw online, Tom’s Hardware had a great test to see what’s best for saving battery power when working from a netbook. They looked at Acer’s Aspire One D150 and in amongst the mix of facts and figures they said that (while this was at the time a release candidate version of Windows 7), “Windows 7 looks decidedly bad in this discipline. Idle runtime, simulated with Battery Eater’s Reader test, is shortened by 2.5 hours by moving to the newer OS. That’s unacceptable for a mobile platform.”
Using the ASUS Eee PC 1005HA Netbook LegitReviews decided to question the Microsoft company line that “Windows 7 is supposed to offer battery life that would be acceptable on a netbook”. With that in mind, they began testing away. They installed the Intel GMA Graphics driver and the ASUS ACPI driver in order to give the best comparison possible and said the monitor settings were the same at just under 50% brightness in battery saver mode.
“Windows 7 performed very close to what Windows XP did,” the review said, “Windows XP only lasted nine minutes longer than Windows 7 at idle, but both lasted over 10 hours on our ASUS Eee PC 1005HA! Our movie playback test showed a slightly larger difference of 26 minutes, but we were still satisfied with the results. Our overall impression is that we were not overly impressed with Windows 7’s battery life performance, but it did not disappoint, either.”
In an article headed ‘Windows 7: Bad for Netbook Battery Life?’, Laptopmag told how, when it tested things out on the Toshiba Mini NB205-N310, Windows 7 didn’t look all that once again. It said at the time that, “When we ran our standard battery test on the Toshiba NB205 under Windows 7, it lost more than three hours. Under XP it got an amazing nine hours and 24 minutes, but with Windows 7 it only lasted for 6 hours and 15 minutes. Installing new Win 7 drivers from Toshiba only resulted in an extra half hour or so (6:53). We also noticed a bit of a drop-off with another netbook we tested: the MSI U123. This time it was less dramatic: 8:14 in XP vs. 7:41 in Win 7.”
Also looking at the NB205’s capabilities, Liliputing – who live and breathe compact computing, said that, “What’s interesting is that Windows 7 does give users far more control over their advanced power settings than Windows XP. But the operating system also incorporates more graphics and animations that could be taking a toll on battery life. But that doesn’t really explain very much either, since most netbooks, including the Toshiba NB205, ship with Windows 7 Starter Edition which disables many of those graphical effects.”
A ComputerWolrd report which picked up on LaptopMag’s figures commented that complaints over Windows 7 performance have surfaced on netbook user forums such as eeeuser.com, for Asus Eee users and AspireOneUser.com for Acer netbook users.
Moving on to notebooks where – considering the lack of coverage online for tests between the notebook performances of XP and Windows 7 – the choice doesn’t seem to be as clear cut. Last December though, using a Dell Latitude D630 notebook and also factoring in the performance of Vista, Tom’s Hardware were “surprised to see such diverse results”.
Saying, “Keep in mind that the test notebook was the same in all three runs and that we used very comparable power schemes (balanced/portable), Windows XP with Service Pack 3 clearly provides the highest application performance, and Windows 7 doesn’t seem so superior anymore. We can only assume that Windows 7 tries to be conservative on performance in an effort to maximize battery life”.
They then look at some runtime stats (pictured) and they say that their assumption from above “seems to be true”. Windows 7 does indeed, the report says, provide the highest runtime of the three operating systems, while the fastest setup, based on Windows XP with SP3, actually provided the least endurance on battery. The difference isn’t really significant, it argues, but on a notebook like the one Tom’s Hardware used (with powerful 9-cell battery) the runtime variance between Windows XP and Windows 7 was as much as 28 minutes. “This is quite a lot,” they point out, “if you imagine trying to finalize a presentation on a transatlantic flight”.
As both Shelton and Ryan, along with several online experts, pointed out, the most important thing for most users is to get their settings correct in order to maximise the battery in whatever netbook or notebook the have. In the greater scheme of things though, Windows 7 for your notebook and XP for the little fella should keep you powered up for long enough to keep you happy.