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Better battery life could see laptops take tablet market share

Get ready for next-gen Windows laptops and tablets

Intel Haswell chip

The latest generation of Intel laptops should offer vastly improved battery life, and that in turn may infuse the traditional Windows laptop with a new lease of life. Could Haswell laptops replace ARM tablets?

We recently surveyed PC Advisor readers on their tablet use. Interestingly, only 1 percent of the 19,000 respondents selected 'work' or 'email'. The modern, post-iPad tablet is a nice device, but it can’t to replace an existing laptop or PC when it comes to business. Far from being the one device to rule them all, the tablet is an additional device to carry.

Despite the benefits of iPads and Android tablets, they are gadgets. They're great consumption devices that allow you to watch movies, browse the web and play games, but they're not better than your laptop or PC when it comes to productivity.

iOS and Android tablets are great at portability. They can be a good compromise choice: if you need to present to clients, you can load up the presentation on an iPad. Your work will look brilliant on screen or projector, and you won't need to carry a charger. But you won't be able to do much work as you travel. That may be a price worth paying to not have to lug around a heavy and power-hungry laptop.

That may be about to change. The second generation of Ultrabooks is here and blessed with Intel's fourth-gen Core 'Haswell' processors. Haswell offers performance benefits, but the principle leap forward is in battery life.

Seven-day battery life

Intel is insisting that before any laptop can be granted Ultrabook branding it has to hit some tough minimum benchmarks. Ultrabooks have to be able to stay on standby for more than seven days, for instance, and at idle for more than nine hours. And Intel wants Ultrabooks to be able to play HD video for six hours without recharging.

iNTEL hASWELL lAPTOPIntel also believes that the 4th-gen Core processors are perfectly designed for all-in-one PCs, especially those such as the Sony Tap 20 in which the screen can be detached and laid flat on lap or table. This means in real-world situations the 4th-gen processors in laptops and all-in-one PCs could be drawing less than half the power do even the best Ultrabook laptops now. If PC makers use that feature wisely it could mean a big break through in battery life. And significantly better battery life in smaller, slimmer cases could take a big bit out of the market for tablets. Why would you carry an extra device when you can carry around your full-spec PC?

Recently at PC Advisor we've reviewed a selection of Haswell laptops. By no means are they all Ultrabooks - some are gaming machines, others all-purpose PCs. But they all benefit from Haswell processors. We've tested out their battery lives and performance to see if Intel's claims are true, and the laptop is fighting back against the tablet.

And if Haswell doesn't do enough for battery life right now, graphene batteries may do so in just a few years. Graphene batteries could potentially take only a few seconds to charge a PC for a whole day. See: Graphene battery tech: charge your smartphone in 20 seconds.

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