iPad Air reigns supreme for tablet battery life – Which? test lab

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 edition) outpaced the iPad Air in our recent fastest tablet test, proving markedly more speedy than its competitors. But how would it fare in our famed battery life test?

We put the Note up against the Google Nexus 7, Tesco Hudl and, of course, Apple’s iPad Air – alongside several other tablet contenders. Our lab experts measured how long the battery in each device lasts when browsing the internet and watching video. Read on for the full results.

Tablet Best Buys – our verdict on the top performing tablets

Tablet battery life

iPad Air offers hours more battery life

Our testing found that although Apple’s iPads might not be best for speed, they outclass the opposition in terms of battery life.

The iPad Air, iPad mini with Retina display and iPad 2 all performed better than the Android alternatives for web browsing. On a full tank, Apple’s iPad Air will last for 658 minutes of web-browsing – beating the 483 minutes offered by the longest-lasting Android tablet we tested, Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 edition). Likewise, the iPad mini with Retina display features an impressive 614 minutes of internet usage, while Apple’s three year old iPad 2 managed a sterling 590 minutes.

Of course, no one uses their tablet just to check the football scores. With TV streaming services like BBC iPlayer and Netflix proving phenomenally popular, how much video a device can play in one charge is hugely important.

The iPad Air proved victorious in this test as well, offering 777 minutes of battery life – that’s enough to watch the entire extended Lord of the Rings trilogy in one sitting. Apple didn’t achieve quite the same dominance in this testing category however, with Amazon’s Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 (714 minutes) finishing in second place and the Google Nexus 7 (669 minutes) mustering third position.

How Which? tests battery life

Each time we test a tablet we check the battery life for web browsing over wi-fi, with 3G (if applicable) and for video playback. To ensure parity across products we set their screen brightness to 200 nits (a reasonable daytime brightness level) using a light meter. We’ll also test how long the battery takes to fully recharge.

Although we wouldn’t expect you to continually browse the internet until your tablet runs out, our results do offer the best comparative verdict available. Just because a tablet features a high-capacity battery, it won’t necessarily be frugal with that extra power. Hence the new Nexus 7 and its 3950 mAh battery outperforms the iPad 2’s 6930 mAh battery for video use.

What makes for better battery life?

The bigger a tablet is in size the more likely it is to offer a better battery life. This is simply because 10-inch tablets have more space for a higher capacity battery compared to their 7-inch cousins. That said, sizeable tablets also have bigger screens to power – so operating system efficiency is really important when creating a truly great device. Operating system updates can similarly alter tablet battery life.

With the iPad Air, Apple has clearly been able to strike the right balance between design and battery life. It’s only 7.5 mm thin and yet still manages to offer a 8820 mAh battery that works well in conjunction with iOS 7. That said, there’s more to tablet performance life than the ability to watch a lot of films using it. Read our iPad Air review to find out how our test lab experts rated its screen, available storage space and camera.

More on this

Samsung beats Apple’s iPad Air to fastest tablet title – our test results
Tablet reviews – our expert verdict on the latest products
How we test tablets – watch our video to find out

Categories: Tablets

40 replies

    1. Hi Thomas,

      We did consider including the Surface 2 but decided not to. This is because it contains elements of a laptop that would render the test less comparable. Ultimately, we wanted the graphic to be as fair as possible.

      It’s a good question though. Thanks for asking.


    2. And the number of parts they can fit inn one and keep battery time just means its doing a better job. I dont see any reson not to have it in this test.

    3. Hi Rain, I’m afraid I didn’t understand your comment! What has the number of parts got to do with it? Do they have more than comparable products? As Robert said it “contains elements of a laptop” the line has to be drawn somewhere.

    4. They didn’t want to test the tablets that would beat the iPad air because then their graphic would look weird , singling out a non-Apple product is uncoo

    5. This is outrageous! Surface 2 (Windows RT) is a direct iPad competitor. Surface 2 Pro (Win8.1) would be a more a laptop (and therefor does NOT have such good battery life). But the writer of such an aticle should know these differences. Excluding the Surface 2 (again, not the Pro) is just silly, sorry.
      One might suspect this article is sponsored by Apple as AFAIK Surface 2 at least for Video has much higher running time than even the iPad (says for example the Engadget review).

    6. Come on Surface 2 fans, everyone knows that is a pile of rubbish. The market already made that very clear, even Microsoft admits it.

      There’s no really good apps for it unless your only wish is using a cut down version of Office.

      The faster you admit this to yourselves the quicker you can move on.

    7. “This is outrageous! Surface 2…is a direct iPad competitor. ”


      Surface 2 weight = 1.5 lbs, iPad Air = 1 lb, iPad Mini = 0.73 lb
      Surface 2 height = 10.81″, iPad Air = 9.4″, iPad mini = 7.9″
      Surface 2 thickness = 0.35″, iPad Air & iPad Mini = 0.29″

      Surface 2 battery life = Up to 10 hours of video playback, i.e. 600 minutes, (from the Microsoft website)

      So, Surface 2 is 50% heavier, 15% bigger, 20% thicker and has 23% less battery life.

      It also costs 33% more.

      And you think it’s a competitor?

    8. Yes it’s a competitor (and a good one), deal with it !!!

      Ok, the Surface is heavier and bigger, but I work on IT, it’s my job and the battery life is better. Also, If the Surface is Bigger, it’s beacause the Screen is bigger and we have an USB port.
      So, before writing some stupidity, sh** the f*** up please…

    9. So a 16GB (14free?) / 479 EUR is 33% cheaper than a 32GB (20free?) / 429EUR Surface 2?!? Sorry but BS.

      Gets even better with 32GB (30free?) / 569 EUR ipad vs 64GB (52free!) / 529 EUR Surface as in this config the OS size is not that important as in base config where MAYBE 16GB (14 free?) iPad is similar to 32GB (18free) Surface. So realistically you should get 64GB iPad which than is 659 vs 529…

      PLUS: Surface has SD card option (32GB for what, 20EUR?), iPad does not. PLUS ipad apps are probably bigger due to 64bit.

      Apple lovers love numbers but cannot calculate them it seems

      (All are prices in Germany but should be similar in any country.)

  1. Which? used to be about value for money. Apple’s products are heavily overpriced and tie users into the equally expensive iTunes video/music/e-book/e-magazine service which once joined is expensive to leave and whose main aim is to tie customers into their products. Apple is being allowed to run a monopoly so why does Which? ignore this and just talk about the headline issues.

    1. Kindle is great on the iPad. For music I mainly use the Amazon cloud app, among others. I’ve never spent a penny through iTunes, though I have used it to load music I already own.

    2. Ian, you’re really misinformed when it comes to the iPad.

      There’s no tie to any Apple services, the iPad actually has the best support for most alternative services with always the latest features often even before other platforms.

      That said iTunes is really convenient to use and the audio quality is always the best, I don’t mind paying a few extra pence for it. For e-books I use Kindle and for movies I use a variety of services such as Sky Go.

  2. Why don’t WHICH take more notice of value for money or cost of ownership. Apple fail hugely hugely on these measures. In car terms, yes.. Porshe are better than Kia but most people can only justify the cost of a cheaper vehicle. Come on WHICH let’s take price more into consideration. I’m fed up with Miele being the best buy when in the real world few people actually buy buy them.

    1. “Why don’t WHICH take more notice of value for money or cost of ownership.”

      Whilst I have criticisms of Which?, I think you’re being unfair here, Patrick. This isn’t a full report with recommendations. It’s simply reporting how long the battery lasts in different tablets.

      Whether or not Apple represents poorer value for money is highly debatable, but it’s useful to have data such as this to help us decide which to buy.

      And we’re not all paupers. I’ve happily used Apple products for decades, have owned a Miele vacuum cleaner, and seriously considered a Porsche.

    2. Thanks for your comment Gradivus,
      If you read more of the comments on here I think you will see I am not alone in my opinion. I have worked for Which? myself (many years ago) and they used to flag up “best on test” but then recommend the best buy based on all criteria including cost. This seems to have been lost recently with too much weight given to small incremental improvements regardless of cost. I too own a Miele vacuum cleaner, they are good value but consider their washing machines outrageously expensive. I don’t own a porsche, my dog would ruin it.
      You don’t have to be a pauper to want your buying descisions to represent a good use of your hard earned cash. In my humble opimion Apple rarely deliver on this.

    3. Patrick,

      My comment wasn’t directed at you personally; I’d noticed several people seemed to be criticising this very short report unfairly. At the end of the day it’s a brief comparison of battery life, not a full test of tablets and, as commenters, we should recognise that.

      Otherwise I agree fully 100% with most of what you say. The one exception…

      I worked in the IT industry for over three decades. True, Apple have seriously ‘lost their way’ in recent years. But I still believe Apple products stand head and shoulders above the competition for consumers.

    4. Hi Patrick,

      We do flag products that are good value for money. In Which? magazine we put a ‘great value’ sticker on products that are a fantastic price and do a good job but aren’t always Best Buys. Similarly, we talk about the price and value of a product in the verdicts of our online reviews. You’ll also find plenty of posts around here that highlight cheaper products, such as

      Our tests are set up to show which products are the absolute best. In this very specific post we pulled out a single part of our test – speed – to show that the iPad Air is faster than other tablets. It would be unfair of us to penalise the iPad based on price. It’s up to readers to decide if having a speedy tablet, extra battery life or any other feature is worth the extra cost to them. Some people will want the extra speed, some people won’t.

      We will offer an opinion on price and how a product matches up against cheaper competitors in our full reviews but our testing information rests on results from the lab rather than our opinion.

      Hope that helps,

  3. What I never understand with Which? reports is how you value a little bit better performance at any cost. It’s always the extremely expensive Apple devices costing many hundreds of £’s instead of the best value device by a mile -: the Tesco HUDL – @ most £119. 7″ devices fit neatly in the pocket and are ideal for people on the move,. When at home I’d always use my 17″ laptop instead of the Hudl, it’s horses for courses. Please stop being so snobby.

  4. IPad air maximum battery 10 hours (600 minutes) on the site Apple it is written. Then how to manage to have figures superior to the value of the claims of the very mark. Thus how to obtain 658 or 777 it is supernatural

  5. Interesting data. It would be interesting to repeat these tests with product that has been in use for a year or two.

    My experience with Apple is that not only is battery performance great out of the box, it is also great after one several years of use. I don’t know about the others.

  6. Ah ah ah, this “test” is a piece of s***.

    I’m not a fan of Microsof but where are the Surface 1 & 2 ? The both tablets have a better battery life than the iPad Air…

    And please, the Surface are not PC, it’s fraking tablets, like the iPad Air or the Nexus !!!

  7. Good god. At last! I cant remember how many times in the past two years I have critisised “Which” for its obvious bias towards “Apple” products.

    For the massive difference in price between an “Apple” product and many of the excellent budget tablets out there in the wild I would be disgusted if their products didn’t have better specs. In some cases – Apple Ipad air V’s Nexus 7″ or Kindle HDX the Ipad costs over £200 more

    As most of our population are suffering from years of “Austerity” thanks to the Bankers’ criminal (though unpunished) catastrophe, I would consider that “Which” should be concentrating more and more on the best value for money aspect of any report.

    I also made the comparison of how silly it would be to judge a Ford Fiesta against a Rolls Royce. Obviously the Roller is going to win hands down in every aspect but how many Rollers are sold every year and at what Price?

    Get your act together which start representing the majority 95% of the population not the top 5% that got us into this mess in the first place.

    1. For heaven’s sake, can’t the people posting on this thread use their brains?

      This is NOT a report on tablets. It is a comparison of tablet battery life. BATTER LIFE, and battery life alone.

      At the end of the second paragraph there is a link to a full report on tablets. IF you follow this link and READ what the report says, you’ll find that two of the top five tablets (there’s only 2% difference covering the top five) are not Apple products.

      And the most expensive of the top five is NOT an Apple product. But the cheapest of the top five IS an Apple product.

      Frank says “…judge a Ford Fiesta against a Rolls Royce. Obviously the Roller is going to win hands down in every aspect…”

      Sorry, Frank, but NO. The Fiesta will almost certainly beat the Rolls on fuel consumption. And on manoeuvrability, and on visibility, and on running costs, and on depreciation, and on versatility.

      You see, Frank, it all comes down to individuals. What is important to one person is not necessarily important to someone else. This short report is about BATTERY LIFE. That’s important to some people, but not others.

      Read the report, then use your brain!

  8. Hi Gradivus

    I’ve got to admit that you are right on this occasion that the test was about battery life not the tablets other features so I will apologise for my mistake. “I’m sorry”. However the fact is that “Apple” still – in my opinion – gets a very heavily biased coverage in the “Which” magazine.

    I may have chosen the wrong subject this time to make my point but repeatedly over the past few years the magazine has routinely compared “Apple” products against budget tablets that cost Hundreds of pounds less, which is where my Rolls Royce comparison origionated and as I say “I would expect” a better overall quality for a piece of equipment that cost me so much more. That goes for every product, TV’s, Cameras, Washing Machines etc.

    In fact for most other product “Which” usually reviews them according to price range ie: Under £500, under £700 and £700 and above but in this case all tablets are compared together regardless of cost!

    The mag continually refers to their “Retina Display” as something world beating but the Nexus 10 display is much better. “Which” acknowledge this but say that at that level the difference isn’t really noticeable. The recently launched “Kindle HDX” is far superior even above the Nexus 10 but we still have the “Retina Display” highlighted in every article but never the “Retina Display” beating Kindle?

    It could be construed from my defence of other manufacturers that one of the anti “Apple” brigade but let me assure you that I am not. Neither am I in the Nexus, Kindle, or Samsung brigade. I recognise and appreciate quality and innovation in all fields of technology but I also recognise and value – VALUE for MONEY” and I would appreciate an unbiased, critical but fair report on everything that a magazine that I subscribe to publishes.

    Keep up the good work Gradivus, your input has made me reconsider and amend my thoughts. This is essential for evolution and development. I do use my brains but in a slightly different way than you!

    1. Hi Frank,

      Thanks for the kind words. An apology wasn’t really necessary, but gracefully accepted.

      I have been a fan of Apple products in the past but feel that Apple has ‘lost its way’ very badly in the last few years and is now little better than the competition. (Having said that, I know of a few people that hate MS Windows, especially Windows-8, with a passion fit to kill, so perhaps Apple isn’t the only one to have lost its way!)

      On the Retina display – Apple called it that because (allegedly) the resolution was at the limit of human eyesight and there was no advantage in higher resolutions. Of course there are other factors to consider, in particular colour balance and accuracy, but manufacturers so like to play the numbers game.

      I agree wholeheartedly that value for money is an important, but not always the only, factor to take into account in our buying decisions. But this short report openly focuses on battery life alone.

  9. I want a break-down of the testing conditions.
    What background apps were left to run on the Android devices, vs. just about none on the iPad Air?
    Every single tester misses it.

  10. Wow guys that was a tiff and a half on tablet battery lives and Apple.
    May i say i bought an apple mac book pro 6 yrs ago and i must admit it is still working well, most of the time.
    How ever i do have a beef with Apple, their greed and carrot dangling techniques in marketing.
    They all ways seem to be offering a mega advance or improvement of some sort before the last product has stood the test of time , almost as if it is a constant must keep up race to compete with. It seems to me they have and know the next product they will be marketing long before the public do , instead of producing this immediately in 1 hit for use, they appear to issue improvements one at a time to gain more sales , using an over the top selling technique which has now become patronisingly embarrassing for even the most loyal consumer.They perhaps would command a much bigger share of the market with a little more honesty and a little less greed

  11. How do you stress test these? Is it all done manually, or do you have an app that replicates these experiences? I ask becuase I’m looking to benchmark the battery life on an iPad mini under web browsing conditions. Thanks for any help and hello from NYC!

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