Battery Life Comparison
You Want a Tablet That Goes On, And On, And On
A tablet computer is now much more than just an entertainment device. As organizations and government agencies adopt mainstream tablet usage, the demand for efficient hardware components such as the battery has become really important. Consumers now take it for granted that a tablet computer or phablet will have at least 6.5 hours of battery life with heavy use - and the single biggest complaint about mobile devices is how soon they run out of juice.
The race for the longest battery life has become as important as that of the fastest processor, bigger RAM or higher screen resolution. This page will help you understand some of the key characteristic of tablet batteries and if these little details should influence your tablet purchase.
[UPDATE - I've partially solved the problem of my tablet running out of energy by buying a 2-USB port in-car charger. Read my review here.]
Battery specs vary between manufacturers. At first, it may seem a little confusing, but there are a few details you need to watch out for. Battery capacity is simply the amount of charge a unit can store – something like the fuel capacity in your car. It is usually measured in Ah or Ampere Hours. However, in the case of tablets, most manufacturers rate in mAh or milli ampere hour. For example, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 battery is rated 7000 mAh. The battery is likely to last a lot longer with higher mAh so when using our charts to compare by capacity, higher is better.
In addition to mAh ratings, most manufacturers also provide additional battery consumption information such as video play, audio play back and standby time.
Continuing with the same analogy of a car and its fuel capacity, your car is likely to have better mileage if you drive it on lower revs, accelerate and brake smoothly. Similarly, your tablet computer's power consumption is directly dependent on how power hungry the various components in your tablet are.
While manufacturers' power ratings are a good indication of how long the battery will last, you may also need to adjust screen brightness, reduce the volume, close the number of apps running in the background, change settings for syncing (and so on) to maximize your tablet's battery life.
Battery Life Benchmark Tests
Most battery life tests will involve running videos continuously at bright screen settings or running a graphics-heavy game till the battery dies. Depending on the reviewer, there will be different methods of doing the tests and different results.
In our reviews we take into account our own experience of the device, plus the maker's specs, and results from others in the industry. We try our best to be accurate, but some variation is inevitable.
Battery Care – How to Improve Battery Life
Calibrating your tablet battery is one of the most important steps to ensuring longer battery life. Check your tablet manufacturer's documentation to see if there are any recommended methods of calibration. Battery calibration and maintenance techniques will vary depending on whether the battery is made of lead acid, lithium ion or nickel base. One of the most popular and effective ways of calibrating your battery is to charge and discharge the battery completely the first few times and then ensure that you discharge the battery completely at least once every three months. Once the tablet is completely charged, do not leave the charging cable connected to the tablet. As far as possible, keep the tablet in its ideal operating temperature range as it will help keep the battery performing at optimum levels.
Having said that, many people have their battery plugged in to a charger most of the time and don't suffer any loss of battery performance as a result. It's probably better to have the battery charged 'too much' than to let it go to zero too often.
Apple has a guide about maximising battery performance here.
March 2016 update - Android users should look into an app called Greenify - it's said to do wonders for improving battery life.
Further tips for Android users include:
- use dark screen backgrounds
- turn off vibrate and haptic feedback features
- never use third-party (i.e. suspiciously cheap) batteries
- turn off wifi, 4G etc when not needed
- turn off auto-sync
- don't use auto-brightness
- don't keep your tablet in a hot place
- if you aren't going to use your tablet in a while, let the battery level fall to about 40%. That's ideal for long-term storage.
- recent evidence suggests one of the worst battery hogs is the Facebook app - try uninstalling that for a few days and see if you can notice the difference. Some users are reporting 20-30% savings just from that one trick.
Can You Use Your Tablet While It's Charging?
Yes, it's completely safe to do so. If you're running something that demands a lot of power, like a 3D game, your tablet might start getting hot. If that happens, use your common sense: either unplug the charger or stop the game for a while.
The following links take you to tablet PCs with battery life: