RealTime IT News

Bad Marks for Windows 7 on Netbook Battery Life

Windows 7's official launch is still two months away, but a pair of recent reviews may point to a chink in the new software's shining armor.

The problem is that its battery life, particularly on low-powered netbook computers, seems to be shorter under Windows 7 than under the venerable Windows XP.

The most recent review, released Monday by Laptop Magazine, found that Windows 7's battery life was generally better than Windows Vista on full-fledged laptops, but performed dramatically worse than XP on the netbook it tested.

"It looks like most netbooks may be optimized for Windows XP, and without the proper drivers, some netbooks get dramatically worse battery life when running Windows 7," the magazine concluded.

The magazine's blog provided more detail on the matter. "When we ran our standard battery test on the Toshiba NB205 under Windows 7, it lost more than 3 hours. Under XP it got an amazing 9 hours and 24 minutes, but with Windows 7 it only lasted for 6 hours and 15 minutes," the blog post said.

Since their introduction in late 2007, netbooks -- lightweight, ultra low-cost laptops designed for simple computing and Web surfing -- have been on the classic "hockey stick" growth curve of burgeoning popularity.

To date, most netbooks come with XP, but Microsoft has touted Windows 7 as the natural replacement for XP -- which it would dearly like to kill off, both for reasons of support and of profit.

Yet challenges emerged early on with such a plan. In July, a review of the "Release Candidate" version of Windows 7 in Tom's Hardware Guide found battery-life problems similar to those later confirmed by Laptop Magazine.

The site's findings saw dramatically poorer battery life under Windows 7, calling it "unacceptable for a mobile platform."

As with Laptop's review, Tom's suggested that native Windows 7 drivers may help fix the problem.

So far, however, the signs aren't promising. Laptop Magazine said it used new drivers in its testing but saw only marginal improvements.

Despite the disappointment, both sites showed some optimism that the problems would be solved, particularly now that manufacturers have the final "Released to Manufacturing" Windows 7 code to work from.

The hope is that by the time Windows 7 ships in October, OEMs will be well underway in producing compatible drivers.

Microsoft officials had no direct comment on the reviews except to point to Windows 7 documentation the company has made available to device driver developers.