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 battery technology that deserves the credit.) That’s especially true of Intel’s newest Core processors, which power many of the longest-lasting models currently on our list. (The chip maker’s 10th Generation CPUs have mostly taken over our picks list, as we have reviewed more and more of them over the course of 2020.)
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.
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 line, which includes two separate batteries, one in the tablet and one in the keyboard base. In the last-generation Surface Book 2, 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. (We recently tested the updated Surface Book 3, and it just missed a repeat performance, logging just under 16 hours.)
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.
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.)
Asus ExpertBook B9450 (30 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 muscle work.
If you have a long plane flight (far less common for most folks here in 2020 than in the past), or a spate of working outdoors 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.
The Best For Mainstream Shoppers Seeking Value
Dell Inspiron 14 7000 (7490)
The Best For Mac Power Users
Apple MacBook Pro 16-Inch
The Best For Style-Conscious Bleeding-Edge Dwellers
Dell XPS 13 (9300)
The Best For the Very Longest Flights
Asus ExpertBook B9450
The Best For Presenters Shopping for a Slick 2-in-1 Design
HP Spectre x360 13 (Late 2019)
The Best For a More Economical 2-in-1 Option
Lenovo Yoga C640
The Best For Business Travelers Satisfied With a Clamshell Design
Acer TravelMate P6 (2020)
The Best For Executives
Dell Latitude 9510 (2-in-1)
The Best For Travelers With Ready Access to 5G Service
Lenovo Flex 5G
at Verizon Wireless
The Best For Frequent Travelers Seeking a Detachable Tablet
Samsung Galaxy Book2
Pros: Packs 14-inch screen in 13-inch chassis.
Thin and light magnesium alloy enclosure.
Intel “Comet Lake” CPU is powerful and efficient.
Nearly around-the-clock battery life.
Cons: Screen could be brighter.
Touchpad a bit noisy when clicked.
Bottom Line: The Dell Inspiron 14 7000’s enviable blend of performance, screen size, and portability unseats the company’s near-legendary XPS 13 as our favorite ultraportable.
Pros: Excellent Retina Display, now larger and with slimmer bezels. Revamped keyboard. Comfortable, XL-size touchpad. Superb audio quality. Powerful Intel Core i9 and AMD Radeon Pro 5500M. Long battery life. SSD storage options up to 8TB.
Cons: Lacks microSD slot, USB Type-A ports. As ever, no touch-screen option. Expensive as configured.
Bottom Line: With a larger display, a beefier graphics chip, and (vitally and finally!) an improved keyboard, Apple’s 16-inch MacBook Pro is a beyond-capable big-screen powerhouse built for creatives.
Pros: Super-light design.
Astounding battery life of more than 24 hours video playback.
Angled keyboard is comfortable for typing.
LED number pad built into touchpad.
2TB of SSD storage.
Cons: Heavy-duty users will want a peppier CPU.
A lot of chassis flex in and around the touchpad.
Finicky calculator activation button.
Bottom Line: A record-setting battery-life monster, the Asus ExpertBook B9450 is a super-light “Project Athena” business laptop with loads of handy connectivity. You can find speedier and better-built laptops, but it’s a great choice for long-haul travelers.
Pros: Sleek styling
Excellent 16:10 display
Narrow screen bezels
Long battery life
Cons: Expensive as configured
Limited port selection
Bottom Line: The 2020 version of the Dell XPS 13 is an excellent ultraportable laptop, with head-turning looks and plenty of power for everyday tasks.
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: Great battery life
Webcam privacy cover
Built-in fingerprint reader
Thin and light
Sturdy aluminum and fiberglass chassis
Cons: Poky performance from Intel Core i3 CPU
Lacks legendary Lenovo typing comfort
Frequent fan noise
Bottom Line: The Lenovo Yoga C640 is a 2-in-1 convertible laptop with tepid performance, but also a reasonable price, above-average build quality, and an exceptionally long-lasting battery.
Pros: Thin and light
Robust port selection including HDMI and Ethernet
Long battery life
Cons: Stodgy styling
Heavy on the bloatware
Bottom Line: Acer’s refresh of the TravelMate P6 is one of the rare business laptops that crams a generous number of ports into a thin-and-light chassis, making it a potential choice for travelers who can overlook its bloatware and stodgy styling.
Pros: Thin and light for a 15-inch laptop
Sturdy chassis, with a luxurious keyboard and touchpad
Nifty Express Sign-In proximity sensor
Long battery life
Active pen support
Cons: Quite expensive as configured
No 4K display option
No option for discrete graphics
Storage capacity tops out at 1TB
Bottom Line: Dell’s Latitude 9510 is one of the thinnest, lightest, and best-looking 15-inch business laptops around, but unless you need the full slate of its enterprise IT features, the lofty price is difficult to justify.
Pros: Excellent battery life
Fanless, silent operation
Occasional app compatibility issues and sluggish performance
Limited availability of 5G coverage
No Wi-Fi 6 or Thunderbolt 3 port
Relatively cramped 256GB storage drive
Bottom Line: Lenovo’s first 5G PC promises superfast download speeds (it depends very much on your location) and delivers extraordinary battery life. But the Snapdragon 8cx-based Flex 5G is an otherwise average 2-in-1 convertible with a whopper of a price tag.
Pros: Long rated battery life.
Thin and light.
Cons: Weak magnetic pen holder.
Dull color scheme.
Bottom Line: With a power-sipping Qualcomm Snapdragon 850 processor, the Samsung Galaxy Book2 Windows tablet promises excellent battery life and LTE connectivity.
Matthew Murray got his humble start leading a technology-sensitive life in elementary school, where he struggled to satisfy his ravenous hunger for computers, computer games, and writing book reports in Integer BASIC. He earned his B.A. in Dramatic Writing at Western Washington University, where he also minored in Web design and German. He has been building computers for himself and others for more than 20 years, and he spent several years working in IT and helpdesk capacities before escaping into the far more exciting world of journalism. Currently the managing editor of Hardware for PCMag, Matthew has fulfilled a number of other positions at Ziff Davis, including lead analyst of … See Full Bio