With many schools choosing to offer remote learning this fall, either full or part time, 2020’s back-to-school shopping season is very different than in years past. As ubiquitous as laptops seemed in classrooms and on campuses before, they will become even more pervasive in students’ lives as they rely on them for virtual learning. Students who don’t wish to be chained to their desks throughout the school day will need to consider the value of solid battery life as one of the critical factors in choosing a laptop, as it will give them the ability to move from room to room without needing to hunt for a power outlet.
A laptop with good battery life used to be mean a skinny, under-powered notebook that sacrificed performance to squeeze every extra minute out of a charge. Obviously the more powerful a system is, the more power it draws, and the less time a battery can handle supplying that power.
But research into extending battery life — not to mention work from processor manufacturers — has yielded huge dividends over recent years, and while the super-svelte portables and the laptops designed for basic productivity tasks (think Chromebooks) still provide the most time between charges, there are far more systems that boast solid battery life without sacrificing nearly as much performance as they once did.
Because impressive battery life can be found in pretty much every category of laptops these days, we’re here to help you figure out which ones actually provide the best battery life for different laptop types. After all, students choose from a wide variety of notebooks, everything from Chromebooks to 2-in-1 hybrids to gaming laptops. Check out a dozen of our picks for laptops with the longest battery life below.
A business convertible laptop with a number of features — and a price tag to match — the Latitude 7400’s most impressive spec has to be its battery life. While laptop review sites have varying methods of battery testing, top reviewers are getting at least 13 hours of juice from the system.
Though its eighth-generation Core processors options aren’t Intel’s latest, they’re still powerful Core i5 and i7 options. Step up from the base configuration, and you get 8GB or 16GB of RAM, 256GB or 512GB solid-state storage, a full 1,920×1,080 14-inch display, and a larger 60Whr battery that can maximizes battery life. Regardless of configuration, once you do reach the end of your charge, Dell claims the ExpressCharge feature provides an 80% recharge in a just an hour.
$1,579 at Dell
In a world of snazzy luxe notebooks and dirt-cheap laptops, it’s hard for a solid mainstream laptop to stand out. But that shouldn’t stop you from looking past Acer’s Aspire family, which offers all-around quality at a reasonable price While the Aspire 5 won’t stand out in most areas, long battery life is its calling card. In its review of the Aspire 5, our sister site CNET got over 8.5 hours of juice from its battery.
That finding is close to the 9 hours Acer claims for the Aspire 5, and is noticeably higher than most sub-$500 laptops provide. You also get decent performance from Intel Core and AMD Ryzen processors, and Acer even throws in a full HD 15.6-inch screen to boot.
$313 at Amazon
Need a little more battery life and don’t mind a bit less performance than the Aspire 5? Acer has you covered with the Swift 1, a 2020 version of what we used to think of as the type of laptop that would sport good battery life: It’s pretty cheap and small, and won’t be confused with a $2,000 gaming laptop in the performance realm.
Nonetheless, the Swift 1 is more than competent for basic tasks, which you can perform all day thanks to its battery life. CNET’s testing found that the laptop provided more than 9 hours of life between charges, close to the 10 hours that Acer claims for the Swift 1. It manages to hit that figure by using lower performance, but more efficient Intel Pentium and Celeron processors, though Acer does throw in a full HD 14-inch display even on the base configuration.
$379 at Best Buy
Just from its name along, the MacBook Air should have the best battery life of Apple’s laptops, right? Not anymore, as the latest MacBook Pro models have surpassed the svelte Air. One advantage of the MacBook Pro’s bigger size is that Apple can squeeze a bigger battery within it, and in the case of the 16-inch version, it’s much bigger: 100Whr compared to the 58Whr of the 13-inch edition.
While you’re supposed to get an extra hour of battery life from the bigger MacBook Pro, it also has more room for top-notch components that can quickly erase that advantage. If you want a more consistent 10 hours of battery life, the smaller MacBook Pro might be the ticket if you’re set on an Apple laptop with the top battery life.
$1,149 at Amazon
Asus isn’t the first name when you think of business laptops, but that might change with the ExpertBook B9450, which weights a mere 1.9 pounds and promises up to an astounding 24 hours of battery when it launches in the coming weeks.
To go up against the likes of the Lenovo ThinkPads of the world, a full day’s battery life definitely helps, as does its meeting of MIL-STD 810G durability standards. Other cool features include a LED number pad that’s built into the trackpad area of the keyboard and, like the Dell Latitiude 7400, a quick-charging mode that recharges the battery up to 60 percent in just 40 minutes. Designed around the principles of Intel’s Project Athena initiative, the ExpertBook B9450’s combination of top battery life and design savvy could make it a business laptop worth considering compared to the more traditional players in the market.
$1,700 at Amazon
Google rolled out the Chromebook concept years ago around a cheap laptop with minimal specs that could offer excellent battery life using the efficient Chrome OS and cloud-based apps. While it’s succeeded wildly with that concept, its own forays into Chromebook systems has taken a different tact, emphasizing higher specs and a higher price tag.
Its Pixelbook Go costs more than many mainstream Windows laptops, thanks to specs like Intel Core processors, superior keyboard and a full HD 13.3-inch touchscreen display. It’s also one of the increasing number of Chromebooks that offers Google Play store integration for access to Android apps. In terms of battery hours, Google claims 12 hours between charges, but ZDNet’s own Matthew Miller says he’s been getting closer to 10 hours. He’s also been using it as his daily laptop, which should say something about the effectiveness of Google’s approach.
$648 at Amazon
HP really stepped it up with the latest version of its ultraportable business 2-in-1, which gets a processor boost, receives some significant cosmetic surgery, and still retains superior battery life.
Specifically, the newest Spectre x360 leaps from 8th-generation to 10th-gen Intel Core CPU options, significantly improving its performance. It also loses a lot of unnecessary bezel space, making it 13 percent smaller than it previously was. Even with those changes, the Spectre x360 still provided 10.5 hours of battery life in CNET’s testing, part of the reason it earned our sister site’s Editors’ Choice award.
$900 at HP
Students are always among the early adopters of new technology, and the roll-out of 5G promises to enhance the quality of their streaming-centric lives. Those who want to be on the bleeding edge of laptop connectivity (and with deep pockets) will no doubt be intrigued by Lenovo’s Flex 5G (or Yoga 5G in some markets), the first to feature the service via Verizon’s 5G network.
Beyond 5G’s promise of greatly enhanced Internet speeds, the Flex 5G is being buzzed about because of its top-drawer battery life. Lenovo claims a full day (that is, 24 hours) between charges, thanks to the use of Qualcomm’s super-efficient Snapdragon 8cx 5G Compute Platform Arm-based processor. The downside is that compatibility with Windows apps is a bit hit-or-miss, but if you are obsessed with always being connected — and unplugged — the Flex 5G is set to usher in a new era of on-the-go computing.
$1,399 at Verizon
As with gaming laptops, desktop replacement notebooks with large displays are notoriously power hogs, making “battery life” seem like a bit of an oxymoron. But that was before the likes of the 17-inch version of the LG Gram hit the scene.
It might be built around a 17-inch 2,560×1600 display, yet this Gram manages to weigh less than 3 pounds. That svelteness, along with eschewing the discrete graphics that many desktop replacements offer, helps allow it to eek out some phenomenal battery life — over 12 hours in CNET’s testing. And that was before LG updated the Gram lineup for 2020 and increased the size of the battery in its largest laptop from 72Whr to 80Whr.
$1,850 at Amazon
If anyone knows how to claw the most battery life out of Windows, it should be Microsoft, so it should come as no surprise that two of its Surface devices appear in our roundup. While the world waits for a possible Surface Book 3, it still has the Surface Book 2 to handle productivity duties.
Despite being bigger than the original Surface Book (sporting a 15-inch screen compared to the original’s 13.5-inch display), the sequel manages to provide well over 10 hours of battery life. That’s even when equipped with a Core i7 CPU and GeForce GTX 1060 discrete graphics, as ZDNet’s own Ed Bott found when testing out the Surface Book 2. It owes its fantastic battery life to a jumbo-sized 102 Whr battery, which can also quickly recharge the laptop in relatively little time.
$1,499 at Amazon
Whereas the Surface Book 2 looks to serve as a desktop replacement, the Surface Pro X looks to serve as a very portable traveling companion. Microsoft’s thinnest, lightest Surface device, the Pro X is also one of the few Windows systems using an ARM processor rather than one from AMD or Intel.
You should expect about a dozen hours of battery life from the Pro X, even with a very high-res 2,880×1,920 13-inch display. In our review, the ARM chip managed better performance than you might expect from technology best known for powering smartphones, but the newest Qualcomm SQ1 processor trounced the previous Snapdragon chip that HP used in its Envy x2. There are a couple of disadvantages to the Surface Pro X — namely, full ARM compatibility with Windows apps is still developing, and the starting price does not include a digital pen or keyboard to turn this into a full convertible device. But battery life definitely isn’t one of them.
$991 at Amazon
In 2020, there can even be a winner for best battery life for a gaming laptop, as component makers have squeezed more power out of tinier processors and graphics cards. The current holder of the title is the MSI GS65 Stealth, which comes in at a little over 4 pounds despite packing a six-core Intel Core i7-8750H CPU and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 or 1070 discrete graphics card.
While being just 0.7 inches thick, the GS65 Stealth manages to smush in an 80 Whr battery, which provides several hours of power away from an outlet. Although 6 or 7 hours can’t compare to the other models in this roundup, that’s much better than the 2 or 3 hours many gaming laptops offer. As a result, an otherwise very good midrange gaming notebook becomes a great choice compared to more power-hungry rivals.
$1,930 at Amazon
Unlike the Pixelbook Go, Samsung’s latest Chromebook is based on the original concept: Low power, low cost. The 11.6-inch Chromebook 4 starts well under $300, in large part due to components like Intel’s Celeron N4000 processor, just 32GB of onboard storage, and a run-of-the-mill 1,366×768 screen.
While that might not be cause for much excitement, its battery life should be — Samsung claims 12.5 hours, and though Laptop Mag only got about 10.5 hours in its review, that still was an hour longer than the average Chromebook it’s tested. Samsung has also upped the design quality compared to similarly priced Chromebooks, with an aluminum top and durability features that allow it to pass a number of MIL-STD 810G tests. Better still, you move up to a Chromebook 4+ with a 15.6-inch display (albeit with less battery life) and still only pay around $300.
$243 at Amazon