It should come as no surprise that battery life is one of the key things we look for in a laptop. What is surprising is which laptop brands and models take the top spots. They're not always the usual suspects.
Why are we so obsessed with battery life? More than screen size, processing power or number of ports, it's the first thing many laptop buyers think about before making a purchase, whether its school laptops, business laptops or gaming laptops. After all, you don't want your PC shutting down in the middle of a Netflix binge or while taking notes in a long lecture class, and carrying around a battery backup is just a hassle.
|LG Gram 15||13 hours, 58 minutes||See at Amazon|
|Asus NovaGo||13 hours, 12 minutes||See at Amazon|
|Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon||13 hours, 7 minutes||See at Amazon|
|LG Gram 14 2-in-1||12 hours, 35 minutes||See at Best Buy|
|Samsung Notebook 9 Pro||12 hours, 30 minutes||See at Best Buy|
Unfortunately, modern laptops are coming up a little short. Nothing we've tested since April 2019 has broken into the top 5. While at one time Apple's MacBooks (the MacBook Air and the Apple MacBook Pro) controlled much of the top of this chart, the current winner comes from an unexpected place. LG's Gram series is best known for being very light, and the 15-inch LG Gram 15 is no exception at 2.5 pounds (even slim 15-inch laptops are usually over 4 pounds). But besides that, it ran for almost 14 hours, which is exceptionally good. Part of the secret is that a larger 15-inch body just has room for a larger battery along with the larger screen and larger keyboard. Apple, on the other hand, just squeaks into the top 10 with the 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro — again, helped by a 15-inch body that can hold a larger battery.
Read: Best 2-in-1 PCs in 2020 for when you need a laptop and tablet in one | Best college laptops for 2020
We do have some additions to the top 35, though. The latest 13-inch Apple MacBook Pro and a couple of Acer Swifts made it well past 9 hours. The HP Spectre x360 15, equipped with one of the first 15-inch OLED screens we've seen, surprised us at about 8.5 hours, but the other two models were gaming laptops so we can't tell yet if there will be a pattern to the screen's battery performance.
And though it's pretty far down the list at no. 38, the Dell G5 5590 has the best battery life we've seen in a gaming laptop — a segment notorious for its miserable performance in that respect.
So many factors go into determining a laptop's battery life that it's hard to predict in advance how different laptops or different models of the same laptop will last based on specs (i.e., keyboard, hard drive, retina display, number of USB ports, fingerprint reader) or price. How the manufacturer implements power-saving measures for the processor, screen, networking and peripherals can have a big impact, for example, in addition to the usual suspects. And how you use it has the biggest affect: bingeing video is an obvious drain, but so is running the CPU at top speed for crunching numbers or keeping the screen brightness cranked all the way up.
However, there are a few rules of thumb when it comes to selecting a device that will last you all day:
- The brighter and higher the resolution of the screen, the more power it uses. So the typical 1,920×1,080 screen on a sub-$500 laptop uses a lot less power than the flashy 4K, 500-nit display on a pricier model.
- For Intel Core processors, the Y series uses less power than U which uses less power than H, and newer CPUs tend to have more battery optimizations than older ones.
- Discrete graphics are more battery-intensive than integrated.
- A backlit keyboard may have a small impact.
- LPDDR memory uses less power than standard DDR — the "LP" stands for "low power," after all — and a device with this type of memory will have longer battery life.
- Gaming is the most common of the big battery-draining activities you can inflict on your laptop.
- You can also extend the battery life of your device by adjusting settings like making it go to sleep or turn off the display after a smaller interval and reducing the display brightness.
And keep in mind, battery life isn't everything. The Snapdragon-based Asus NovaGo lasts all day, for example, but we still felt it made too many compromises to get there.
Based on the extensive battery testing conducted in the CNET Labs, these are the PCs with the longest battery-life scores that we've seen over 2018 and 2019. The top five current performers are below, and a full list of the top 35 (up from our original 25) can be found below the five leaders.
Now playing: Watch this: LG Gram 15 delivers a big screen and battery without… 1:45
Our master list includes Windows and MacOS laptops, Windows two-in-one hybrids and Chromebooks running Google's Chrome OS. Not included are Android or iOS tablets.
The specific test used here streams a private video over Wi-Fi on an endless loop (no web browsing or anything else that would make our testing inconsistent). Note that these scores reflect the specific configurations we tested, and that screen resolution and CPU choice are some of the major factors that affect battery life.
LG Gram 15
13 hours, 58 minutes
If lightweight, all-day battery life and a large screen size are your top must-haves for your next laptop, the LG Gram 15 is worth the expense. Read LG Gram 15 review.
See at Amazon
13 hours, 12 minutes
The Asus NovaGo makes good use of its Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 brain for longer battery life and always-on cellular, but the performance feels more like a phone than laptop. Read Asus NovaGo review.
See at Amazon
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
13 hours, 7 minutes
Besides adding HDR support and Alexa integration, last year's X1 Carbon update also scored for major battery life. Read Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon preview.
See at Amazon
LG Gram 14 2-in-1
12 hours, 35 minutes
The LG Gram 14 2-in-1 laptop is an ultralight pen-enabled convertible with extraordinary battery life for its class, plus it's really, really light (just 2.5 pounds). Read LG Gram 14 2-in-1 review.
See at Best Buy
Samsung Notebook 9 Pro
12 hours, 30 minutes
It's not the most exciting design out there, but the 2019 Samsung Notebook 9 Pro is a slim, lightweight two-in-one with extra-long battery life, plus strong performance for its size. Read Samsung Notebook 9 Pro review.
See at Best Buy
For the rest of our top battery life performers, see the full list here.
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