Windows 11 will mark its first anniversary next month. The operating system has already received its first feature update, and Microsoft plans to drop another set of new capabilities next month. The 2022 Update and its feature improvements are enough for some users to finally pull the trigger and upgrade to Windows 11, while others keep using good-old Windows 10 as they see no solid reasons to migrate or are unable to.
Microsoft has received a fair amount of complaints for controversial feature changes (primarily for crippled taskbar). As most Windows users discuss new capabilities and things Microsoft has taken away (without intent to bring them back), one question remains unanswered: what about energy efficiency? Does Windows 11 give you better battery life?
Like our recent browser efficiency test, it's time to look at how identical hardware behaves when running four different operating systems:
- Windows 11 21H2 (original release)
- Windows 11 2022 Update (version 22H2)
- Windows 11 Dev (build 25201)
- Windows 10 (version 21H2)
To make the test as accurate as possible, we have clean-installed each system on four different partitions before looping PCMark10 Extended three times from 100% to dead battery. We have signed into our Microsoft account and installed the latest drivers available for each version. Each installation had no extra third-party software.
Here is the test device (upgraded from 8GB to 16GB of RAM since the browser efficiency test):
|HP Pavilion 14 x360|
|Processor||11th Gen Intel Core i3-1125G4 at 2.00 GHz|
|RAM||16GB DDR4 3200 MHz|
|Storage||500GB PCIe SSD|
|Screen||14-inch touchscreen. 1920x1080 pixels at 40% brightness|
Balanced, Battery Saver at 20%
|Battery||43Wh with 50 cycles, 0% wear reported|
We have picked PCMark10 Extended to simulate the standard home and office use that includes video conferencing, office apps, photo/video editing, gaming, browsing, etc. Some might argue that PCMark10 might be unoptimized for Windows 11, but remember that not every software you use has already received updates for the newest OS (some never will). We try to see how a single set of software affects battery life in different operating systems.
Before you grab your torch and pitchfork: You might get slightly different results depending on your software and hardware configuration, battery capacity, battery wear, drivers, brightness, power mode etc. Consider this more an experiment rather than a scientific claim.
It appears that those wanting to get the most out of the battery inside their Windows laptop or tablet might want to stick to Windows 10 for some time. Three Windows 11 versions showed the more-or-less identical result, achieving about three hours of life under strain of the PCMark10 Extended benchmark.
As for Windows 10, Microsoft's "previous-gen" operating system showed a notably better result, surviving for an extra 18 minutes. That might sound not-so-impressive to you, but it is an 11% uplift under a stress test. An 11% worse battery life is nothing to scoff at, especially for the operating system that many consider just a Windows 10 reskin.
- Windows 10 - 3 hours 12 minutes
- Windows 11 Dev - 3 hours 3 minutes
- Windows 11 2022 Update - 3 hours 2 minutes
- Windows 11 21H2 - 2 hours 54 minutes
A part of our browser efficiency test also proves that Windows 10 is better at giving you the best battery life. Running a 1080p YouTube video in Microsoft Edge has revealed similar results—when running Windows 10, our laptop lasted 35 minutes longer than Windows 11.
- Windows 10 - 5 hours 24 minutes
- Windows 11 Dev - 4 hours 55 minutes
- Windows 11 21H2 - 4 hours 53 minutes
- Windows 11 2022 Update - 4 hours 50 minutes
Windows 11 is arguably a good operating system, and its latest feature update makes it even better. Still, even one year after the initial release, many users consider Windows 11 raw, and not without reasons. Besides missing some capabilities Microsoft should not have removed, Windows 11 appears to be worse at energy efficiency on some hardware configurations. Microsoft itself says Windows 10 is "a great place to be," so you will be excused for wanting to keep using the old operating system for a bit longer.
On the other side, the 10% difference does not seem like unrepairable damage. You can mitigate the loss by adjusting the display brightness, tweaking your power mode, or using extra features in specific apps like battery saver in Microsoft Edge, which proved itself quite an efficient way to improve battery time. Windows 11 also has the Dynamic Refresh Rate feature on devices with high refresh rate displays that can save some battery juice by reducing the refresh rate without a perceivable downgrade in image smoothness.
Finally, there are customers who love Windows 11 and its features, so a slightly worse battery life is an acceptable trade-off for running the latest operating systems with a much better UI, Android apps support, improved consistency (Windows 8-styled volume/brightness slider is finally gone), new productivity features, significantly improved accessibility, and gaming enhancements. Windows 11 will not make your battery life twice as worse than Windows 10, so it may be worth a try. Although there are scattered complaints about battery life downgrade, we have not heard any wide-spread reports of Windows 11 causing critical damage to a device with an otherwise decent battery life.
Those on the verge of upgrading should also remember that Microsoft allows going back to Windows 10 without reinstalling the operating system and all the apps (unless you perform a disk cleanup). But if you think that Windows 11 currently does not provide a killer feature, there is another reason to stick with Windows 10. Microsoft will keep supporting Windows 10 until October 2025, so you have three more years to decide, and Microsoft has three more years to make Windows 11 (or whatever comes next) better at battery management.
Have you noticed any difference in battery life after upgrading from Windows 10 to 11? Would you accept a slightly worse battery life for a fancy UI, animations, and new features? Share your thoughts in the comments.