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Windows Handhelds Power Hardware

Why Does Windows Have Terrible Battery Life? 558

Posted by Soulskill
from the optimized-for-profit dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Jeff Atwood at Coding Horror is trying to figure out why the battery life for devices running Windows is so much worse than similar (or identical) devices running other operating systems. For example, the Surface Pro 2 made great strides over the original Surface Pro, increasing web-browsing battery life by 42%, but it still lags far behind Android and iOS tablets. The deficit doesn't get any better when Windows is run on Apple hardware. Atwood says, 'Microsoft positions Windows 8 as an operating system that's great for tablets, which are designed for casual web browsing and light app use – but how can that possibly be true when Windows idle power management is so much worse than the competition's desktop operating system in OS X – much less their tablet and phone operating system, iOS?' Anand Lal Shimpi is perplexed, too. Atwood is now reaching out to the community for answers: 'None of the PC vendors he spoke to could justify it, or produce a Windows box that managed similar battery life to OS X. And that battery life gap is worse today – even when using Microsoft's own hardware, designed in Microsoft's labs, running Microsoft's latest operating system released this week. Microsoft can no longer hand wave this vast difference away based on vague references to "poorly optimized third party drivers." ... I just wish somebody could explain to me and Anand why Windows is so awful at managing idle power.'"
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Why Does Windows Have Terrible Battery Life?

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  • Easy one... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by unique_parrot (1964434) on Monday October 21, 2013 @04:14PM (#45193093)
    ...because it's old and bloated!
    • by Wonko the Sane (25252) * on Monday October 21, 2013 @04:46PM (#45193567) Journal
      Opening up a covert connection to Fort Meade and transmitting all the user's actions via that channel takes a lot of extra power.
    • Re:Easy one... (Score:5, Informative)

      by AlphaWolf_HK (692722) on Monday October 21, 2013 @04:59PM (#45193729)

      I don't think age has much to do with it. Linux is older than Windows. Remember the current incarnation of Windows is derived from NT, a completely separate set of code from regular Windows originally released in 1993, with Linux originally being released in 1991. Linux wasn't even intended to be a production OS either, it was originally written as a i386 learning experiment.

      Yet Android, which runs on Linux, manages to do much better in battery life.

    • expanding... (Score:5, Informative)

      by swschrad (312009) on Monday October 21, 2013 @05:05PM (#45193825) Homepage Journal

      (1) there is so much cruft under the surface in Windows (fake DOS calls, umpteen levels of virtualism, etc) that the machine expends a ton of cycles doing what is NOP in newer systems not supporting 1980 calls.

      (2) optimization isn't pretty and doesn't sell, so Microsoft is not cleaning house.

      • As a corollary to (1), Microsoft is reluctant to change many underlying pieces for fear of breaking compatibility with applications that depend upon very specific quirks and undocumented APIs in Microsoft applications.

        I mean, that's the only possible explanation for the way that the explorer.exe file manager sucks compared to any of a dozen third party replacements and still hangs when you access some resources. (Having a small portion of your user interface become unresponsive when there's a problem rea
      • Re:expanding... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Darinbob (1142669) on Monday October 21, 2013 @10:34PM (#45196779)

        They are cleaning house. Windows 8 is more efficient than Windows 7 for example, in terms of memory usage. However, Microsoft is so far behind that it will take a very long time before they make decent headway on the cleanup.

  • by jcr (53032) <jcr&mac,com> on Monday October 21, 2013 @04:16PM (#45193111) Journal

    Watch the WWDC sessions on power management in iOS and Mac OS X. You'll get an idea of how much work Apple put into this over the last decade or so.

    -jcr

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      But... but.... but.... Apple doesn't do anything but change the color of their product and sell it as new. Samsung and Google are the only innovators.

    • This is sorta like Apples and Oranges, but... on my 6-year old MacBookPro that I cling to and administrate servers from, the power management is far better on the several-years-old Snow Leopard OS than when I boot it up to the even-more-years-old Windows XP 32-bit.

      So much so, that when I fire up XP it goes into TURBOFAN MODE and CPU temps still climb into nutsack-roasting level. 90 to 100 C for the CPU temps (Core2 Duo) have occurred without too much heavy lifting. So forget about the battery life, the

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        This happens because you don't have the correct Intel thermal profile driver installed. There won't be any unknown devices in Device Manager, but you still need to install it or you will see the behaviour you are getting in Windows.

        Intel allowed manufacturers using C2D processors to customize the thermal profile of the CPU based on what their hardware was capable of. That's how very thin and light laptops were able to use high end CPUs without overheating, but limiting the amount they can ramp up CPU speeds

  • Sheer love of evil! Seriously, though - all the massive background processes. Probably a decades-old stack of services and whatnot they don't have the corporate continuity to be able to change at this point.
  • by jeffmeden (135043) on Monday October 21, 2013 @04:17PM (#45193131) Homepage Journal

    Ah ha: "I just wish somebody could explain to me and Anand why Windows is so awful at managing idle power."

    You make the mistake of thinking that just because the device isn't doing something at the user's direction, that it is idle. How do you think the NSA is getting all of their number crunching done while they shake the bugs out of their Utah data center?

  • ...and android is tailored for power savings on mobile devices.
     
    I have a surface pro, it doesn't have fantastic battery life but I can get a hell of a lot more number
    crunching done on a charge than on an android tablet. Mind you I bought it for use as a mobile
    photo/video editing tool, if all you need is a web browser then you don't need a full featured OS.

    • by Old97 (1341297)
      Mac OS X is a desktop operating system - OpenBSD. And no, I don't experience any lag as things "wake up". So now what do you say? Windows simply doesn't consider power management as a priority. Why does it keep polling every connected hard drive? It's an antiquated core with features continuously layered on. It needs a rewrite from ground up.
  • I am not aware of a phone yet that can run more than one operating system. Comparing a windows phone to an iPhone is a pretty useless thing to do as their hardware is quite a bit different.
    • by gnapster (1401889)

      The Nexus 4 can allegedly run both Android and Ubuntu: http://www.ubuntu.com/phone [ubuntu.com]. I have not tried it, and I don't think there's a dual-booting bootloader yet, but it sounds interesting.

      I know they both use the same kernel (more or less), but the software ecosystem is probably quite different, including the power management.

  • by TWiTfan (2887093) on Monday October 21, 2013 @04:22PM (#45193199)

    Much like Jay Leno, they've built up a LOT of legacy bloat over the decades.

  • by Jmc23 (2353706) on Monday October 21, 2013 @04:27PM (#45193279) Journal
    Someone should introduce them to my laptop running linux!
  • Questions (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SJHillman (1966756) on Monday October 21, 2013 @04:27PM (#45193291)

    A few questions that would be interesting to know the answers to:

    - Is the power consumption deficiency the same across all hardware or does it close the gap on certain pieces of hardware?
    - Is the consumption deficiency gap the same on tablets vs laptops vs PCs?
    - How much can Windows 8 be tweaked to save battery life (IE: disabled unneeded services)?
    - Does it manage power of certain pieces of hardware better than others (SSD vs HDD, AMD vs Intel)?
    - Do drivers make a difference in power consumption?
    - How many hamsters have heart attacks every time Windows 8 is benchmarked?

  • by Bugler412 (2610815) on Monday October 21, 2013 @04:33PM (#45193395)
    Comparing Android or iOS on ARM to Windows (or OSX or Linux) on a full i386 platform is simply meaningless. Why do it?
  • by Sir_Sri (199544) on Monday October 21, 2013 @04:33PM (#45193401)

    The (linked) Aandtech article on battery life pretty much answers its own question.

    Surface pro and surface pro 2 completely destroy everything else in the benchmark ratings. It means haswell doesn't manage lower power scenarios nearly as well as ARM, but Intel never has.

    For a comparison to iOS they'd need to well, actually have on on their chart. I can certainly see the argument that Windows is worse at power management than other OS's on the same hardware - but without hard numbers in a chart that's a tough case to make, since you're comparing different review sites to each other. Comparing different hardware is missing out on a lot - for most computing needs they're benchmarking Haswell is massive overkill - which might just be it, it literally cannot slow itself down enough (with either MS or intel drivers being the culprit) to save even more power.

    Or windows is doing background stuff that other OS's aren't. Whether those provide any value to justify reduced battery life or not is debatable, but the answer seems to be 'probably not'.

    It still isn't 'microsofts hardware', it's hardware from some 3rd party vendor they soldered together in a case and put their own sticker on it. Yes, it's up to MS to try and ride the cases of Intel and whomever is supplying their displays and SSD's to find ways to save power, but it's ultimately up to the 3rd party guys (who also sell parts to the rest of us) to actually make the drivers for their hardware.

    • by jcupitt65 (68879)

      Read down a little further, he compares an MBA and a Surface Pro 2 running anad's wifi web browsing benchmark. The hardware is very similar, but the MBA lasts about twice as long.

    • by Guspaz (556486) on Monday October 21, 2013 @04:59PM (#45193725)

      Errm, what article are you reading? Because the one I see shows the Haswell-powered 13" MBA getting ~14 hours of battery life to the Surface Pro 2's ~7 hours of battery life. Sure, the 13" MBA has a bigger battery, but the 11" MBA has a smaller battery and still gets ~11 hours.

      Your arguments about the Surface Pro 2 not really being microsoft hardware are not really meaningful, you could say the same about Apple's notebooks. They don't make the CPU, or the GPU, or the SSD controller, or the screen, or the display controller, etc.

  • Literally. Microsoft touts all the capabilities built into Windows as advantages. The software and services to do all that are integrated into Windows. They aren't easy to remove. And the more things you have running, the more work the box has to do (even when it's idle, those services are still working in the background) and the more power it consumes. Android, OTOH, doesn't have all those services integrated into the OS, and it's a lot easier to remove unneeded services when they're separate components th

  • Virus Scanning (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ohieaux (2860669) on Monday October 21, 2013 @04:37PM (#45193451)
    I know that my virus scanning service seems to be running at 2-5% most of the time. And, my process list looks a mile long.

    I think we expect our windows devices to be real computers and load them up with full applications. Then, we expect them to sip juice like Android. Can't comment on the OSX. My netbook on linux is 5 years old and doesn't have much of a battery left.
  • You say you are comparing on the same hardware, but there is no hardware in common for all the OSes you state. Sure, there is the option to run windows on a Mac that normally runs OSX, but that's hindered by 3rd party drivers, so it's not a fair comparison. Comparing windows to IOS that runs on a totally different processor architecture even, isn't close to a fair comparison. Comparing WindowsRT to IOS may run on the same architecture, but again, no identical hardware where both are optimized for.

    I'm no w

  • by sootman (158191) on Monday October 21, 2013 @04:46PM (#45193557) Homepage Journal

    Chewing up all your CPU. [pcmag.com]

    (Yes, this post is a joke. It's an (in)famous old article from everyone's favorite tech writer -- who was, in fact, being serious.)

  • by WaffleMonster (969671) on Monday October 21, 2013 @04:55PM (#45193663)

    Comparing operating systems running different hardware is a meaningless endeavor.

    Comparing on the same hardware is better until you take the logical leap of drawing general conclusions from it.

    When you use the conclusions above to draw additional conclusions about what you think would happen your ability to predict or be taken seriously takes a hit.

    My 5 year old lenovo draws ~7 watts on battery with the 14" display on and 7200 RPM platter spinning. I am able to observe consumption difference from battery manager in detail when I turn hardware on and off.. run applications..etc.

    The answer is likely knowable if only there was willingness to spend more time (thinking), measuring and working the problem and less time (talking) drawing conclusions.

  • by ericloewe (2129490) on Monday October 21, 2013 @05:01PM (#45193769)

    Comparing a Surface Pro to an iPad is about as useful as comparing a bus to a small car. Of course the small car uses less fuel, but I'd like to see a bus full of people crammed into said car.

    The iPad and the tablets that it inspired are the new netbooks: barely useful for anything beyond simple tasks.
    The Surface Pro and similar tablets are ultabooks stuffed into tablets - this has advantages and disadvantages.

    As for OS X, that is indeed somewhat misterious, but it probably boils down to:

    - Driver optimizations: having a very limited set of hardware that needs to be supported makes it much easier to optimize drivers (and if needed the OS itself).

    - Bloatware: my Ativ Smart PC Pro came with at least three Samsung applications that constantly run in the background and (way too often) interact with the user. Control panel thingies for this and that driver don't help, either. Some of those probably misbehave and screw up the scheduler enough to measurably reduce idle time. These are not present on OS X.

    - UI: I'm not sure just how much hardware acceleration OS X uses, but Windows Vista/7 with Aero and Windows 8 at all times have hardware accelerated graphics for their UIs - eye candy in exchange for power consumption.

    - Unusually low-power hardware: I can imagine Apple applying pressure for individual components' power consumption to be lowered - the screen comes to mind as a likely culprit.

  • by holophrastic (221104) on Monday October 21, 2013 @05:10PM (#45193897)

    Defragging a potentially huge disk, in the background, on-the-fly, so the disk never slows down.
    File search index, in the background, on-the-fly, so you can search faster. You can turn this off.
    Full window dragging, and many other graphics enhancements. You can turn these off.
    Is the printer still there? Let's check again.
    Port polling, did you know that a USB port might gett polled 50'000 times per second? You can turn this down. A lot.
    Scheduled tasks. Oh so many scheduled tasks. You probably have over 1'000 defined.
    Is the internet still connected? Let's check again.
    An actual software Firewall. You can turn it off, or make it much simpler.
    Multi-user, multi-profile. Everything gets doubled.
    Is the printer still there? Let's check again.
    Is the internet still connected? Let's check again.
    Event logging. Windows knows what it's doing, because it takes the time to write it down.
    The windows registry. It's probably the single most reliable aspect of any operating system. It's incredibly fast, always-on, used tens of thousands of times in a single moment by a any application -- my graphics suite writes 12'000 registry entries when I close the application. And you never need to worry about it getting corrupted.
    No fewer than eight different scripting languages available at any moment.
    Twenty versions of a single DLL loaded concurrently, for cross-decade application compatibility.

    It's not just an operating system. It's a generic operating system that can run anything from decades ago. My 1985 application still runs on my vista machine, which is still running smoothly 7 years after I built it, and now it's running software 7 years newer than it is. iOS doesn't do that. Neither does OS X. Neither does Android.

    But there's always been a version of windows with better battery life. It used to be called XP embedded. And it was exactly what you expected it to be -- you got to just start turning off huge parts of windows. You're welcome to do it. No, you don't want to. You don't want things to be slower, and you don't want to lose all of those great features. And many are tied together.

    And that's why you chose a windows machine in the first place. Not because it does the bare minimum, and hence saves battery life, but because it does everything it's always done at a reasonable battery life.

    But hey. If you want to complain about power vs features, I want you to look at my tvision's on-screen menu system. Now it's a smart tv, with a menu of icons to all sorts of dumb shit. And yet, just scrolling through those pages of icons is slower than my speak'n'spell. My tvision is plugged into the wall, with as much power as it wants. The led light bulb consumes more power than the computer running the on-screen menu. Why? I have no idea. But it also doesn't have a pre-amp, so I can't plug in any headphones or larger speakers without an optical cable and a home theatre amp/receiver. Thanks for that.

    • by rjstanford (69735)

      Yup. OSX does all of those things too - and yet, running on the same hardware with the same battery as the MSFT guys, still gets better batty life. As you'd know if you (quaint, I know) RTFA.

      Completely agree with you on the TV side though. That shit's terrible.

    • by somenickname (1270442) on Monday October 21, 2013 @05:58PM (#45194507)

      Defragging a potentially huge disk, in the background, on-the-fly, so the disk never slows down.

      Why on earth would it do this while on battery? Can't it wait until the machine is plugged in again?

      File search index, in the background, on-the-fly, so you can search faster. You can turn this off.

      Again, why do this by default when on battery?

      Full window dragging, and many other graphics enhancements. You can turn these off.

      This will have almost no impact on battery life unless you are spending most of your time dragging around windows for your own amusement.

      Is the printer still there? Let's check again.

      Why? If I'm not trying to print anything, who cares if the printer is there.

      Port polling, did you know that a USB port might gett polled 50'000 times per second? You can turn this down. A lot.

      Why default to such an aggressive polls/second while on battery?

      Scheduled tasks. Oh so many scheduled tasks. You probably have over 1'000 defined.

      I certainly didn't schedule over 1000 tasks. Why are there over 1000 tasks scheduled and why are they scheduled to run while on battery?

      Is the internet still connected? Let's check again.

      Why? I'll know as soon as a webpage can't load.

      An actual software Firewall. You can turn it off, or make it much simpler.

      If this has any effect on battery life then it is horribly, horribly written.

      Multi-user, multi-profile. Everything gets doubled.

      You have multiple users logged into your laptop while on battery? Sure, it's possible but, I find it highly unlikely that most people do.

      Is the printer still there? Let's check again.
      Is the internet still connected? Let's check again.

      See above.

      Event logging. Windows knows what it's doing, because it takes the time to write it down.

      That's the only potentially valid thing you've said so far. Well, the first sentence at least.

      The windows registry. It's probably the single most reliable aspect of any operating system. It's incredibly fast, always-on, used tens of thousands of times in a single moment by a any application -- my graphics suite writes 12'000 registry entries when I close the application. And you never need to worry about it getting corrupted.

      At this point I'm wondering if this is actually a troll.

      No fewer than eight different scripting languages available at any moment.

      I don't see how this could affect battery life at all.

      Twenty versions of a single DLL loaded concurrently, for cross-decade application compatibility.

      Except for the disk access to read the DLLs, just having them in memory makes no difference at all.

    • by SuperKendall (25149) on Monday October 21, 2013 @06:33PM (#45194845)

      "The windows registry. It's probably the single most reliable aspect of any operating system."

      FUCK YOU.

      Sorry, reflex action from a decade and a half of dealing with the "most reliable aspect of any operating system" and the thing about windows that really drove me to OSX.

  • by wheresthefire (584897) on Monday October 21, 2013 @05:17PM (#45193987) Homepage
    The battery life per Watt-Hour of the Sony Vaio Pro 13 (Haswell, Windows 8) vs. 2013 Macbook Air (Haswell, OS X) are pretty similar, according to Anand's own tests: http://www.anandtech.com/show/7417/sony-vaio-pro-13-exceptionally-portable/4 [anandtech.com]

    Moreover, the Sony Vaio Pro has a higher-resolution screen than the MBA, which puts the Vaio at a disadvantage (because it drains the battery a little faster). So with highly-optimized Windows drivers, the battery life looks the same or even better for Windows.

    The comparison to ARM is just stupid. Obviously battery life is better on ARM, at the cost of much lower performance. That's true for Windows and OS X both.

  • by MrEdofCourse (2670081) on Monday October 21, 2013 @05:26PM (#45194117)

    There are lots of posts here claiming that they aren't using like to like comparisons. The point of the post isn't that an iPhone is getting better battery life than a MS Exchange Server, the point of the article is that in almost every scenario you can match up, Android/iOS/OS X comes out clearly ahead. And this is the case regardless of what hardware or type of hardware you're comparing. Put Windows on a MacBook and it's going to get lower battery life... a-ha, it's a driver issue, you say, ok, but spec out a similar PC notebook and it will have lower battery life than the MacBook.

    In other words, Microsoft doesn't have a battery life on the Surface RT or any other product problem, Microsoft has a battery life problem. Why is that?

  • by goffster (1104287) on Monday October 21, 2013 @05:34PM (#45194217)

    Apple wrote ios for devices with batteries in mind from day one.
    It is slowing getting close to OSX, but they have to be careful.

    Microsoft chose the "one O/S everywhere" serving needs of desktop
    and devices at the same time. This was a naive approach.

  • by TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) on Monday October 21, 2013 @05:40PM (#45194297)

    My Nexus 4 phone barely lasts my work day. My iPad needs to be charged every day. I can get a few days out of my Nexus 10 unless I even touch a game. About the only device that lasts the week is my iPod Touch, but then I use it mostly as my alarm clock.

    I think this is a pretty universal problem. Batteries have not kept up to the demand of CPU performance required by our devices, period.

    Of course with relevance to article. when the author realizes that Surface Pro is a laptop (i.e. PC ) and iPad is a device built from phone hardware maybe he might realize how stupid the question was.

    It would be more relevant to compare Surface Pro to MacBooks and ask how Macbooks can last the day while Surface Pro won't last more then a few hours.

  • by rsborg (111459) on Monday October 21, 2013 @07:00PM (#45195113) Homepage

    From the comments on the main article, I read this link [1].

    Most people who transform their netbooks into Hackintoshes typically do so to gain access to Mac OS X-specific applications and functionality. As it turns out, there is a rather substantial secondary advantage as well.

    This isn’t at all confirmed or verified, but it seems that loading up an otherwise Windows-equipped netbook with Mac OS X can boost the battery life on the little computer by up to 33%.

    The kicker? This was from 2009, referencing 10.5.7, a four-year old OSX vs. Windows 7. I'd be interested to see if a recent netbook hackintosh with Mavericks vs. WIndows 8.1 would show... likely an even wider divergence given the findings in this /. post.

    [1] http://www.mobilemag.com/2009/05/14/hackintosh-netbooks-experience-33-battery-life-boost/ [mobilemag.com]

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