Get the Most Battery Life for Your Buck
How long a laptop lasts on its internal battery is one of the most important considerations for PC shoppers. Business travelers and students are often at the mercy of their computer’s remaining juice, since so many conference rooms, airplanes, and classrooms are woefully short on accessible power outlets. Just a few years ago, it was necessary to buy and charge an external battery pack to get long battery life, or to insist on a machine with a removable, swappable battery. But today, even many thin ultraportables with sealed-shut chassis show impressive endurance away from an AC outlet.
These recent improvements in laptop battery life are thanks to CPUs and other components that are more power-efficient than ever. (It’s not just new battery technology that deserves the credit.) That’s especially true of Intel’s 8th and 9th Generation Core processors, which power most of the longest-lasting models currently on our list.
A laptop that can last for more than eight hours without a trip to a power plug should be enough to get you through a day’s work, but that’s not good enough to make it to the upper echelons today. Each of the laptops and 2-in-1s we’ve selected lasted for more than 14 hours on our tests, which means that they can survive a full day at the office and still offer plenty of juice for your commute or for watching videos on the couch. (Maybe both.)
In addition to being a critical specification, battery life is one of the toughest to measure. If you’re watching movies all day long, you’ll get far more unplugged time than someone who’s editing images nonstop in Photoshop. We test battery life based on a very specific scenario: watching movies stored locally at 50 percent screen brightness and with airplane mode turned on. If you’re frequently performing more CPU-intensive or graphics-hammering tasks, you’ll want to shave an hour or two off of our results.
Know Your Form Factor
Our top 10 list is stacked with traditional laptops and convertible designs with 360-degree display hinges. Detachable Windows tablets tend to be underrepresented, and for good reason: There’s simply no room for a large battery in such a small enclosure. One notable exception is the Microsoft Surface Book 2, which includes two separate batteries, one in the tablet and one in the keyboard base. Together, they eked out an impressive 17 hours of battery life in our testing, but you’ll get far less than that if you’re using the tablet by itself.
Of course, no matter what kind of laptop you’re in the market for, you can always add a few minutes or a few hours to your unplugged time by changing your computing habits. It’s a bit like driving more conservatively to save gas. For some ideas, take a look at our tips for improving your laptop’s battery life.
Want the Best Battery Life? Consider a Mac
Apple’s MacBook and MacBook Pro lineups have a reputation for excellent battery endurance, and Cupertino’s current offerings are no exception. Most of the portable Macs we’ve tested recently can manage more than 14 hours away from an outlet. Which one you should choose depends on your budget, your portability needs, and your usage patterns, but you can’t go wrong on the battery-life front with any Apple ultraportable. (And remember, Macs can run Windows, too.)
Other manufacturers are more hit-and-miss. The top honors for battery life among Intel-based Windows laptops of the moment go the Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1 (21 hours!), but many competing machines run down much more quickly. We’re also seeing an emerging class of “always on” machines based on low-power Qualcomm Snapdragon processors that have outlasted most Intel-based Windows and macOS laptops we have tested. (See for example our review of the Samsung Galaxy Book2.) But know that these laptops are meant more for lightweight mobile computing with a continuous internet connection, and are far from power models meant for CPU musclework.
Ready for Our Recommendations?
If you have a long plane flight, a conference, or a final-exam period ahead of you, or if you’re just too busy to linger around a power outlet for long enough, any of these laptops will keep you productive throughout the day and into the evening. For a look at the wider laptop landscape, check out our very latest laptop reviews, as well as our picks for the top business notebooks and the best budget laptops.
Pros: Excellent battery life. Core i9 processing muscle. Sleek, thin all-metal design. Beautiful display with automatic color-temperature adjustment. Roomy SSD.
Cons: High starting price, and painfully expensive as configured. Limited I/O options.
Bottom Line: With the addition of an Intel Core i9 processor, the sleek 15-inch MacBook Pro is now one of the most powerful desktop-replacement laptops you can buy, making it an excellent choice for well-heeled, on-the-go creative pros.
Pros: Integrated stylus. Thin and light. Stylish metal design with multiple color options. Optional 4K display. Webcam privacy filter. Dolby Vision (HDR) support. Excellent battery life.
Cons: No SD-card reader. Ships with some bloatware.
Bottom Line: With a revamped hinge, an integrated stylus, and a sleek design, Lenovo’s Yoga C930 2-in-1 convertible laptop is even better than its winning predecessor.
Pros: Proximity sensor streamlines sign in. Sturdy, sleek chassis. Thin screen bezels, and relatively large 14-inch screen. Excellent touchpad and keyboard. Three-year warranty. Prime-time battery life.
Cons: Relatively low maximum screen brightness. Lackluster audio quality.
Bottom Line: With a deluxe chassis, keyboard, and touchpad, paired with a snappy sign-in feature and superb battery life, Dell’s Latitude 7400 2-in-1 is a top contender among business convertibles.
Pros: Premium build quality. Thin and light. Very good battery life. Quick charging.
Cons: Expensive. Finicky touch screen. Anemic speakers. No Ethernet port.
Bottom Line: The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon offers premium features in a slim and attractive package that business users will love-just be prepared to open your wallet wide for this top-notch ultraportable laptop.
Pros: Premium alloy construction. Elegant convertible design. Sharp high-resolution touch display in new larger size. Discrete Nvidia GTX 1060 graphics. Very long battery life. Multiple configuration options. Xbox wireless controller receiver is integrated.
Cons: 16GB RAM maximum. Surface Pen is an additional purchase. Adding SSD storage is pricey. Some finicky issues required troubleshooting in our tests.
Bottom Line: The Surface Book 2 is a feat of design, a top-of-the-line premium convertible 2-in-1 laptop that’s fast, long lasting, versatile, and portable. It’s even up for gaming.
Pros: Light but sturdy aluminum design. First-class keyboard, performance, and battery life. HDMI, USB-A, and Thunderbolt 3 ports.
Cons: No 4K screen option available. Balky fingerprint reader. The usual game-resistant graphics.
Bottom Line: Dell’s 13.3-inch Latitude 7300 is a plain-looking but excellent business ultraportable with a battery-sipping screen, a comfortable keyboard, and a wide array of upgrade options.
Pros: Compact footprint. Potent Intel “Ice Lake” CPU and Iris Plus graphics. Optional AMOLED screen. Well-positioned power button. Wi-Fi 6. Digital pen included. Long battery life.
Cons: Chassis is thicker than its predecessor’s. Clumsy touchpad. Cumbersome USB port.
Bottom Line: Nifty design flourishes, strong performance and battery life, and a reasonable price make the latest HP Spectre x360 13 a first-class convertible laptop.
Pros: Compact, trim design. Superior build quality. Exceptional battery life. Sharp touch display.
Cons: Limited selection of ports. Performance isn’t quite as fast as some competitors. Touchpad clicks are loud.
Bottom Line: Much the same as the original, Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 2 remains a sleek ultraportable with a top-notch build, a stellar screen, and a very long-lasting battery. Add a port or two, and it would be a superstar.
Pros: Astoundingly light for a 17-inch laptop. As compact a footprint as possible for the screen size. Outstanding battery life. Excellent display. Comprehensive port selection.
Cons: Boring, plain design. Feels flimsier than the alloy body suggests. Uncomfortable touchpad. No touch-screen option. Relatively pricey.
Bottom Line: LG’s Gram 17, astonishingly light for a 17-inch laptop, delivers excellent battery life and a glorious screen. But the relatively high price, the plain design, and some quibbles with the keyboard and touchpad keep it from stardom.
Pros: Excellent battery life. Thin and light. High-quality AMOLED display. Included keyboard cover and digital stylus.
Cons: Dull color scheme. Computing performance inadequate for anything other than basic productivity.
Bottom Line: With a power-sipping Qualcomm Snapdragon 850 processor, the Samsung Galaxy Book2 Windows tablet offers excellent battery life and LTE connectivity, but it suffers from lackluster computing performance.