Battery life is a key consideration for many of us when buying a laptop, and ending up with one that runs down in a matter of hours is pretty annoying to say the least. A number of misconceptions about how long laptop batteries should last, and how you should look after them, have been circulating for many years – we tackle some of the most common below.
If you’re looking to buy a new laptop, don’t forget to check out our guide on how to buy the best laptop for you.
- Manufacturer battery life claims
Laptops come with headline battery life claims from the manufacturer which sometimes sound a bit too good to be true, and, according to our testing, they definitely are. Our experts often find battery life claims that are hours longer than the real story when we put them to the test in our lab. For example, in a recent test the Acer Aspire Timeline U M3 claimed up to eight hours of battery life but we got less than five browsing the web over a wi-fi connection. Claims are normally benchmarked results given under specific circumstances – take them with a pinch of salt.
- Disconnect the charger when the battery is full or it will damage it
In short, you just don’t need to do this – laptop batteries will stop charging when they are full. The battery technology used is much cleverer than it’s ever been before. Compared to 10 years ago say, you can now trust that you can leave your laptop plugged in and it will take care of itself.
- You need to let the battery drain completely before charging again
Again, this is just not true. Like the above, this myth still exists from older battery technologies which are no longer commonly used. If you’re using your laptop at home you should leave the laptop plugged in making sure it’s running at full speed with the laptop battery setting on ‘high performance’ (see ‘Check your power setting’ in the tips below).
- Laptop batteries can always be easily replaced
There’s no getting away from the fact that the running time on a single charge will get shorter over time. After a few years you might want to replace the battery, but it’s not always as easy as all that. On a standard laptop it’s generally possible to replace the battery – costing between around £50 and £100 depending on your model – and they’re easy to fit at home. Ultrabooks however, tend to come with built-in batteries which you won’t be able to replace yourself and normally require you to send your laptop back to the manufacturer to be fitted – whether or not you’ll be charged may depend on if you’re within your warranty.
- Extended battery life claims
Not exactly a myth, but these claims are worth looking out for as they refer to how long the laptop battery will last under very specific circumstances (some might say rather unlikely ones), as opposed to the ‘normal’ claimed battery life. You might see battery life claims of weeks, or even up to a month on some laptops, most likely on ultrabooks. The Asus ZenBook UX31E, for example, claims up to two weeks of ‘standby time’ with open files and other data kept safe in the memory. While the Acer Aspire S3 claims to conserve battery life for up to 50 days in Sleep mode. Though you can expect a longer battery life in sleep mode, the exact times claimed should be viewed with caution in terms of how they’ll stand up in a real life situation.
Getting the most out of your laptop battery
- Check your power setting – your laptop should automatically switch to a power saving option when you’re running on battery but it’s worth checking. In Windows 7 or Vista check you’re not on a ‘High performance’ option in the Power Options settings – this can be used when using a power point but if you’re using the battery ‘Balanced’ or ‘Power Saver’ are more suitable, though the latter may affect overall performance.
- Lower the screen brightness – this will reduce the rate of your battery’s power consumption. Brightness buttons will be marked with a sun icon.
- Switch off wi-fi and bluetooth – turning these connections off when you’re not using it can improve battery life.
- Eject CDs and DVDs – the spinning disks can eat up battery power so avoid using them when away from a power point where possible.