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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  • Dennis Travis - Thursday, March 1, 2012 - link

    Agree with you on the Metro interface. Feel it would be an excellent Tablet OS, but on a desktop or even traditional Laptop? Not for me!
  • Baron Fel - Thursday, March 1, 2012 - link

    I totally disagree about metro's usefulness on a laptop or desktop. Only been using the CP for a couple hours and already I love task switching with a mouse and the corners, its super intuitive and smooth.

    The live tiles look great and have lots going on with updating info. I thought IE10 would be totally useless for desktop use, but its actually a pretty immersive browsing experience. Not as good for browsing hard as IE9 desktop but still great.

    I see no appeal in touchscreen desktop displays (yet anyway), but a laptop with touch would be amazing, especially with a form factor like the Lenovo Yoga. Metro on the Zune HD and WP7 is quite enjoyable to use, Id love to interact with my laptop in the same way while still having desktop apps and input. Metro apps on the desktop will be pretty weak but they'll be great on laptops like the Yoga.

    even after only a couple hours use (and almost no use of the dev preview) the only real way the UI messes me up is that I reflexively hit start and then my computer whenever I need to manager folders and such. Going to take some time to unlearn that reflex.
  • MonkeyPaw - Thursday, March 1, 2012 - link

    I've only tried W8CP for 20 minutes or so on Virtual Box, and I'm having a hard time getting on board with the start screen. I have serious doubts it will ever pass the Wife Test, as it's a very big departure from normal. The live tiles might be nice for some, but they don't do much for me. It's not like opening the application takes that long.

    I will still continue to try it and see if it grows on me, but I get a bad feeling this will be another Vista for MS. It should be more stable than Vista thanks to a mature driver model, but I see this really causing a lot of pain and suffering for those that are used to the way things were. Having to unlearn things is one thing, but having to unlearn acceptable ways of doing things for the sake of different is a whole different matter.

    I just get the feeling MS is changing things for the sake of changing them.
  • apinkel - Thursday, March 1, 2012 - link

    Yeah, I'm in the same boat. I'm still reserving judgement since I only got to play with it for about 15 mintues last night but the desktop UI does seem completely alien.

    If I didn't know all kinds of shortcuts I'm not sure how I would have navigated around. Just figuring out how to power down the OS baffled me. Not a good sign so far.
  • daniel142005 - Friday, March 2, 2012 - link

    I would have to agree. The user friendliness of Windows 8 on a desktop is a step backwards. I originally used the developer preview and it at least had a start button still, but with the consumer preview it took me a good 15-20 minutes of using the Windows key to realize you have to move the mouse to the corner for it to show up. I guess in a way it's faster, but if you have multiple monitors it's a pain in the ass trying to get the side panels to come up.
  • niva - Friday, March 2, 2012 - link

    Right on with your comments. I'm really enjoying reading these articles.

    I'm also going to reserve judgement until I get to play with it for a while. A similar experience was when ubuntu switched to Unity, I didn't like it at first at all, but eventually got used to it and now I can't stand the Gnome2 experience anymore. Over time Unity grew more stable and feature rich, now I'm really looking forward to the first LTS with it.

    MS should implement some type of a classic desktop though and at least the ability to reconfigure the desktop regardless of the device. I'm not sold at all on touchscreens for anything other than tablets and cell phones.

    For production sake such as system admin, software dev, art/graphics, monitoring data, etc and working with huge arrays of big displays touchscreens are generally useless.
  • enealDC - Saturday, March 3, 2012 - link

    I haven't played with the preview yet, but as people are commenting I thought of the unity interface for Ubuntu. At first I hated it because it was such a dramatic departure from the classic gnome interface, but after using it it grew on me. Now I can't live without it. Metro sounds like its going to give Windows users a similar experience.
  • alcalde - Friday, March 2, 2012 - link

    "nd already I love task switching with a mouse and the corners, its super intuitive and smooth"

    Then why weren't you using KDE on Linux years ago? :-) Best thing is... you can get that with a traditional interface. Click a button though and you've got a touch interface! You're not forced to use one or the other.
  • Termie - Thursday, March 1, 2012 - link

    Agree on problems with Metro interface. Just installed it on my old laptop, and I think I'd go for it with a touchscreen, but otherwise, I'm not sold.

    I think Microsoft is on to something with the Metro start page, which just makes more sense than clicking on start every time you want to see a program. It's like a the task bar shortcuts scaled up 100 times. But the problem is that far too many critical components of the OS are almost impossible to find, such as the control panel and Device Manager. Furthermore, I flat out do not understand the role of the desktop. It's as if Microsoft realized it couldn't make the metro screen work for computers actually used for work, and decided to have two non-compatible overlapping interfaces built in.

    Unless I can't run future apps on W7, I won't be upgrading to W8 on my desktop. Microsoft simply has to make Metro work or not do it at all for desktop users. I am, however, very interested in using W8 on a touch-enabled laptop, if such models arrive along with the OS.
  • damianrobertjones - Friday, March 2, 2012 - link

    I don't. Oh well

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