Top five laptop battery myths – which did you believe?

by , Senior Money Researcher Computing Helpdesk 16/08/2012
Laptop Battery life

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

    Laptop charger

  3. 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).
  4. 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.Replacement laptop battery 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.
  5. 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.

More on this…

15 comments

Add your comments

avatar

R Jordan

I’d be interested to hear, ref point 4, if you think it’s OK to use replacement batteries from other than your laptop’s manufacturer.

Ref point 5, are you saying that it’s no longer necessary to fully charge/recharge new batteries several times to get the best out of them?

avatar

J HOgan

I replaced the battery in my very old (7 years) Dell Laptop after it stopped charging with a replacement battery from a batery specialist on line, with no problem at all. As it was a bigger battery it’s a whole lot better!

avatar

abmscopes

Hmm, are you definitely sure about modern batteries having no ‘memory effect’ as they used to (i.e. if you don’t let the battery drain completely from time to time, it will ‘remember’ the lowest it has drained to and not work below that level). I still see advice on very recent devices such as smart phones and cameras that tells you to not keep the battery constantly topped up. Would be interesting to find out an ‘official’ view on this from a Lithium Ion battery manufacturer.

Personally I still believe that keeping a battery constantly topped up will shorten its overall useful life and not allow it to hold as much charge. But I would love to proved wrong.

Hi abmscopes – this is the advice of our Which? laptop experts and testers. I’ve also triple checked this with a well-known laptop manufacturer and they’ve confirmed that the in new style lithium batteries the memory effect has been reduced, so there is not the same affect as on older batteries to not letting it fully discharge/recharge over a period of time.

avatar

David

I have seen batteries fail in many laptops, cordless phones etc. when people leave them permanently connected to the mains power. Have you noticed that newer products have the battery built into the product so the user can’t replace it?

I’m not convinced that today’s battery technology is that much better. Best you unplug equipment from the mains the moment the battery is fully charged.

avatar

Magoo

That’s why I have just become an ex-Nokia fan after 11 years of loyalty David.
I have a set of Nokia headphones that cost a not-insubstantial fifty-three quid. They are just over 2 years old now and the inbuilt battery will only power the headset for approximately 90 minutes now compared to 7 – 8 hours when they were new. Nokias’ official answers to this are that the warranty has expired, the headphones are obsolete now and that I should discard them and buy a new set. No tree-hugging green credentials there then!

Up to this point I had been considering upgrading my Nokia N97mini to the Lumia 900. The former has a removable/replaceable battery but on the 900 it is integral.
Taking into consideration the way I have been handled by Nokias after-sales department I don’t think I will be bothering with the 900 as I suspect that they will inform me in 2 years time that I should also send the 900 to a landfill site.

avatar

andrewdeacon51

I ALWAYS work on mains when doing something important like complicated updates. Ironically its the battery that supplies the backup, when the power lead falls out !

avatar

Ritney

I like to use my laptop, in this case acer timeline ultra like a desktop, while I can’t remove the battery, can I leave the charger plug on the power point all the time or should I use the battery energy everytime my battery is full? Notice that my battery is built in type. Thanks

avatar

Tim Gee

Hi Ritney,

If your laptop is a relatively new model you should be able to leave it plugged in without causing the battery any damage.

avatar

Mike

The replacement laptop battery market is a minefield. Finding genuine OEM batteries seems close to impossible – and the quality of many replacements is alleged to be very poor. I have found finding a good replacement extremely difficult.

We need some assistance on this and a feature and some tests would be timely

avatar

David

As per Mike above, finding genuine OEM batteries and or a reputable source of after market batteries is incredibly difficult. One supplier I found purported to sell OEM via EBAY and Branded via Amazon – when asked about the different in their batteries they ducked the question completely.

It would be great if Which? could provide some research in this area – probably help avoid any potential safety concerns too.

Many thanks

avatar

Zero

Is number 2 correct?

I have a Samsung ATIV BOOK 4 notebook which has built in batter(non-removable)
Since i use laptop 90% of time at home
is it ok to plugged in while using?
does it damage the battery when always plugged in?

avatar

Geofrey

Does continuous use of laptop battery beyond its lifespan affect the performance of the machine? ie does it affect the speed at which emails upload or documents open and close?

avatar

Tom

If it is of any interest, has no one noticed, you can run a laptop of the mains without a battery.
It means it is not portable, but a good tablet is lighter and easier to carry. They don’t do every thing but the laptop does.

avatar

sharise

Where does one get the term ‘the battery has fried’ from then if leaving it pluggged in isn’t actually doing any damage? My mum had her laptop for well over 3 years, ALWAYS had it plugged in. NEVER unplugged it. And now it won’t run for very long without the mains plugged in. The same with my friend’s laptop. She insists that it’s because the battery is fried. Just how old do these laptops have to be in order for this to even happen? I’m so confused.. lol

Back to top

Post a Comment

Commenting guidelines

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked

Tired of typing your name and email? Why not register.

Register or Log in