by Andrew Heinzman on
If you find yourself constantly plugging and unplugging HDMI cables from your TV, then it may be time to buy an HDMI switch.
Your laptop might be the coolest ultraportable, detachable, convertible, whatchamacallit-able thing on the block. But that doesn’t mean a lot if its battery dies halfway through an email. These are the longest-lasting laptops on the market.
Thanks to a dual-battery design, the reliable old ThinkPad T-series takes the crown easily in 2018. But we’ve also made selections for a couple of other common categories, if the button-down IBM aesthetics don’t appeal to you. The longest-lasting Chromebooks and Mac laptops can also be found below, as well as more sleek Windows machines that are easier to slip into a backpack for an all-day out-of-office experience.
Once the reliable workhorse of the working world, the ThinkPad T-series is looking a bit long in the tooth, and seems to be yielding ground to various Surface and MacBook models. But with Lenovo’s Power Bridge architecture, the new T480 beats just about everything else when it comes to longevity.
The key is a dual-battery design: a 3-cell internal battery that can’t be removed, and an extra 3-cell that can, allowing the user to swap out a fresh battery without shutting the machine down. That secondary battery can also be upgraded to a thicker 6-cell version. Lenovo claims this nine-cell combo can last for an almost unbelievable 30 hours of continuous use. Reviewer battery stress tests say it’s more like 17, so expect 20+ hours of more regular use. That’s still enough to put every other modern machine to shame. A customized ThinkPad T480 with an 8th-gen Core i5 processor, 14-inch 1080p non-touch display, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD can be had for under $1000 at the time of writing, though prices from Lenovo’s online store tend to fluctuate quite a bit. You can go for the bigger T580 if you need more screen space, but skip the popular “S” variants of either model: they don’t include the double battery feature.
Windows runs on Snapdragon processors now, and the 850 version inside the Lenovo Yoga C630 was built from the ground up for the demanding needs of a full desktop OS. This convertible laptop isn’t a powerhouse—don’t depend on it for thirty Chrome tabs or a huge Photoshop project. But what it lacks in power it makes up for in endurance.
According to Lenovo’s promotional materials, this sleek 13-inch model can go 25 hours on a single charge. That’s probably a bit optimistic, but older Snapdragon-powered Windows machines have been known to get 15+ hours, so 20 seems entirely possible if you can stick to Microsoft Edge and other S-mode applications. As a bonus of its mobile-based architecture, the Yoga C630 also includes built-in LTE capability and a fingerprint scanner at no extra charge.
The HD touchscreen, 4-8GB of RAM, and maximum 256GB storage are fairly typical, and using Windows on Snapdragon may require some adjustments to your workflow. But if you need something that can go the distance without weighing you down, this is it.
Chromebooks are generally less power-hungry than their Windows counterparts, but they don’t handle high-end specs like the ones you’ll find in the Pixelbook line all that well. If you want a ChromeOS device that can last for an intercontinental flight, check out this low-end R 13 model from Acer.
According to professional reviews the battery can last around 11-12 hours with normal browser. Again, the low-powered mobile hardware is helping hit that mark: this one uses a Mediatek chipset instead of Intel. But unlike Windows, all ChromeOS and Android apps compatible with the more robust models will work here. A convertible touchscreen design and USB-C for charging are nice perks, but with just 4GB of RAM, you might want to keep an eye on the number of tabs you’re using.
Mac laptop selection is pretty limited, and none of Apple’s offerings can go the distance of the Lenovo models above. But if you insist on macOS and you want the best possible battery life, the newly-introduced MacBook Air is your best bet.
Despite coming with a more powerful processor than the smaller 12-inch MacBook, the extra space and weight in the 13-inch Air gives it 20% better battery life, to a maximum of 12 hours for web browsing. The new Air is also a better deal than the smaller MacBook, and some users will appreciate its more svelte build and lack of battery-gobbling Touchbar versus the more expensive MacBook Pro models. The 256GB SSD upgrade is pricey but beneficial; otherwise, the default Core i5 and 8GB RAM design should suffice for most users.
The ThinkPad and Yoga models above are great for pure battery life, but the former is a bit big and heavy while the latter lacks hardware punch. If you need something in between them that can still stay on for a full workday and beyond, we recommend the Dell XPS 13 as a happy medium. It uses the latest Core i-series processors with plenty of RAM in the mid-range configurations, while still being a compact thin-and-light design that’s much-loved among power users. The battery will last somewhere between 10 and 15 hours for regular work, so feel free to leave the power adaptor at home if you’re heading out for an evening at the coffee shop. Even if you’re shopping for price, try to find one with at least 8GB of RAM for better performance. But skip 4K touchscreen display upgrade: pushing four times the pixels and powering a touch sensor will cut the battery life considerably.
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