You might be looking forward to the official availability of Windows 7 with bated breath, but netbook manufacturers could have cause to grit their teeth if analysis into comparative battery life with Windows XP holds true for the finished product.

In a test carried out by Laptop Magazine, laptops and netbooks were given both Windows XP Service Pack 3 and the latest build of Windows 7 in order to compare performance between the two. While the laptops were almost unaffected by the change, the same couldn't be said for the netbooks.

One of the devices on test - a Toshiba NB205 - was capable of running the battery benchmark test for an impressive 9 hours 25 minutes under Windows XP, but this dropped by over three hours to 6 hours 15 minutes once Windows 7 was installed. An upgrade to the drivers available from Toshiba clawed back half an hour, but the result was still heavily in favour of Windows XP.

Another netbook, the MSI U123, told a similar tale: with 8 hours and 14 minutes of available runtime in XP, a move to Windows 7 dropped it to 7 hours and 41 minutes. While this represents far less of a dramatic drop than the Toshiba suffered, it is still likely to disappoint anyone looking forward to the next generation of Windows 7-based netbooks.

The blame is unlikely to fall entirely at the feet of Microsoft's latest operating system, however: a lack of mature drivers for much of the hardware in the netbooks is more likely responsible for the dramatic drop in battery life in the Toshiba, as evidenced by the half-hour increase seen once newer drivers were installed. As we approach the official launch date of Windows 7 - and certainly as manufacturers prepare netbooks with the operating system pre-installed - we should see the quality of drivers improving, with the battery life reaching the dizzy heights that were attainable under Windows XP.

There's more good news if you're still looking forward to Windows 7's release: despite the loss of battery life, the test revealed a noticeable increase in hard drive performance and the time applications took to open under the new operating system.

Do you think that Windows 7 will be the operating system that saves the netbook market or kills it? Will you be upgrading your portable systems when the official release rolls around? Share your thoughts over in the forums.
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