May 4, 2007 4:00 AM PDT

Vista draining laptop batteries, patience

Vista draining laptop batteries, patience
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Some of Microsoft's most important customers aren't happy with the battery life offered by notebooks running Windows Vista.

"It's a little scary," said John Wozniak, a distinguished technologist in Hewlett-Packard's notebook engineering department, referring to the work HP needed to do on making Windows Vista more suitable for notebooks.

Vista, while touted as having improved power management capabilities that would make it easier for users to extend battery life, isn't to some living up to that promise. The main culprit appears to be the Aero Glass interface, a spiffy new user interface that makes Vista more pleasing to the eye with transparent windows and animated transitions when moving from one application to another.

When Aero is turned off, battery life is equal to or better than Windows XP systems. But with it turned on, battery life suffers compared with Windows XP.

Microsoft made some important changes in Vista that do improve some aspects of battery life, such as smarter hibernation modes that override applications that want to keep running, and simpler options for choosing a power management setting. But laptop users who spent extra money on powerful laptops to handle the graphics requirements of Vista and the Aero interface are forced to run the aesthetic equivalent of Vista Basic, the low-cost version of Vista, if they care about battery life.

"The potential is there to do some good things, the bad thing is that it comes with the canned settings."
--John Wozniak,
technologist, Hewlett-Packard

HP decided it wasn't going to use the power management settings that shipped with Vista, Wozniak said. The company came up with its own set of power management settings for Vista laptops, allowing users to select different power settings, such as "power saver" or "high performance," that strike a balance between processing power and battery life. Lenovo is likewise using its own power management technologies honed over several years, said Howard Locker, director of new technology at Lenovo.

"They've really made it complex from a power management standpoint," Wozniak said. "The potential is there to do some good things, the bad thing is that it comes with the canned settings...and we didn't like any of them."

Reports that Vista was an energy hog started to surface during beta testing last year. At the time, Microsoft said many of the problems would be cleared up by the time the operating system launched. Of course, this isn't a new issue when it comes to operating system changeovers, said Richard Shim, an analyst with IDC. "When you look at a new operating system, battery life tends to be worse. When Windows XP came out, that was true, and when Windows 98 came out, that was true."

The difference this time around is that notebooks are "the growth engine for industry," Shim said. Notebook PCs now account for more than half of all retail PC sales and are projected to become the majority for the whole market by the end of the decade.

But battery life problems continue to rankle notebook users. As blogger Rob Bushway of Tablet PC site Gottabemobile.com put it, "when a consumer has to buy an extended battery to get what they use(d) to get out of a standard battery, something is really wrong."

More than one company other than HP has acknowledged the demand that Vista and the Aero interface put on a notebook PC running off its battery.

"Vista is consuming more power than Windows XP, but we have been very focused on introducing more power-efficient technologies," said Bahr Mahony, director of product marketing for Advanced Micro Devices' mobile product division.

Most attribute that power use to Aero. "In (Aero) mode, you will drain the battery faster, but you get something in return because it's cool and nice looking," Lenovo's Locker said.

The Aero interface is automatically disabled when users put their Vista notebooks into the "power-saving" profile, one of three new simplified power-management states. While that makes for an arguably duller experience, Microsoft said it commissioned a study (click here for PDF) that found no difference in "responsiveness," or application load time, between a notebook with Aero disabled versus one running the fancy graphics: implying that Aero doesn't put too much of a load on the system.

But the notebook and Tablet PC used in Principled Technologies' test had the power management setting on "high-performance" when testing Aero's performance. At that setting, the notebook won't ever compromise performance to preserve battery life, so responsiveness isn't an issue.

Microsoft isn't deterred by HP's decisions and other criticism. "We actively encourage (PC companies) to customize the default power profiles so that users get the most out of their hardware," Microsoft said in a statement.

A more definitive statement on Windows Vista and battery life should surface soon, with Intel scheduled to release new chips for notebooks next week at the launch event for the next generation of its Centrino technology. Also, Bapco, an industry benchmarking organization, is expected to soon release the MobileMark 2007 benchmark.

Microsoft, for its part, will likely have to improve Vista's battery life performance over time through the release of service packs and other tweaks, Shim said. "The (PC companies) are getting pressure from consumers--who are the notebook adopters--who are saying their number one priority on a notebook is battery life."

See more CNET content tagged:
power management, Richard Shim, battery life, battery, Microsoft Windows Vista

103 comments

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This makes sense...
...considering that, using Aero, your processor is working harder even when you're not using any programs, and working especially hard if you are. Harder working processor means it gets hotter, meaning the fan has to blow (on Vista typically my laptop's CPU fan is running all the time, well, RC1 anyway) which uses power. Not to mention that the harder working processor (AND the GPU) itself uses more power doing what it's doing.

I mean, I dunno... it just seems to be common sense to me. Don't like it? Don't use graphics-heavy rich applications, games, OS'es on your laptop, geez.
Posted by DraconumPB (229 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Games are a different issue
Much like using a portable for video encoding. You know you're
going to take the hit.

But just to run your OS? That is inexcusable on Microsoft's part.
And kicking it out the door (late) knowing that was an issue and
knowing the marketplace shows a disregard for the end user.
Posted by ppgreat (1128 comments )
Link Flag
With and Without Aero
Back during the RTM phase of Vista, I installed a copy on my laptop. Even without Aero turned on I saw battery life drop significantly compared to XP. Where I used to easily get 3.5 hours, I would be lucky to get 2 hours of time from a full charge. I decided to switch back to XP. Not surprisingly, my battery life went back to normal.
Posted by boyd087 (43 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Cheaper and cheaper
Isn't this partially to blame to the battery manufacturers? They are making batteries cheaper and "Cheaper" - batteries catching on fire, batteries with little life.

We all want a cheap laptop but we're getting a checp battery to go along with it.
Posted by HomeLights (12 comments )
Link Flag
How long did you try?
I had about the same experience for the first few days, but after about a week battery life improved significantly.
Apparently this is due to Vista doing lots of indexing and file rearrangement during the first few days after instaleld (especially if you copy your old data to the machine) but when it went back to normal battery life improved, though it was still slightly higher than with XP.
Posted by herby67 (144 comments )
Link Flag
Vista is losing ground...Fast!
Just a side note. We use laptops and embedded computers for all the machines we build for the biomedical research industry, and lately we have been using windows XP as the operating system of choice. I just got through testing all of our equipment with windows Vista Business Edition. The results where both positive and scary. Although we had to change a couple of installers all the programs seemed to run fine. I did run into some problems with the Edgeport serial boxes, but Qualtech and Digiport worked fine. The scary part is how on earth are we going to fit Vista on our embedded computers? We also use laptops with our equipment which needs the Ethernet Port and even with the XP units we need to keep that port enabled along with the graphics drivers (these get disabled in battery mode on Dell units which we use) We also noticed with our JAVA based programs we had to disable the second core in a dual core machine. This all may sound like gibberish to some, but the point I am making is that in todays market and with a mutimillion dollar company like ours, we are really getting nervous. Are You??? Is linux going to be a God send? It would be a long process to change our C++ coding in all our programs to accommodate Linux and thats something really scary!
Posted by Ted Miller (305 comments )
Reply Link Flag
zzzzzzzz... I am awake !
zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...you are right - you bored me. You just wasted 5 minutes of my life reading this and I'll never get it back. How about just either (1) dealing with the issue or (2) using XP - Microsoft wins either way. Unless you are going to use RedHat or some flavor of Linux, you will have to deal with it.
Posted by HomeLights (12 comments )
Link Flag
to the rescue
i hear ubuntu is coming to the rescue. I think it would be worth redoing the programming if it saves you a lot of long-term profits.
At the corporate level, a different set of dynamics takes place. Vista might work for the average user, keep that in mind.
It was puzzling to hear about the Java based programs needing the second core disabled...
Posted by lesliejs (23 comments )
Link Flag
Re: Vista is losing ground...Fast!
Ted, you should be able to code your embedded C++ apps in such a way as to be able to run the app on either Windows or Linux or Mac OS X, etc. Just code to an ANSI C++ spec. This is coming from someone who is in this industry and codes cross-platform applications. Applications that only run on one platform make you look bad in today's cross-platform world.
Posted by jhodapp1 (1 comment )
Link Flag
Eh?
[i]"It would be a long process to change our C++ coding in all our programs to accommodate Linux and thats something really scary!"[/i]

If it's straight-up C++ (without .NET, VB, or any other MSFT-only nonsense in it), then what's the problem?

Also, embedded devices are written for the architecture anyway - ARM for instance.

So unless you're in up to your neck in C#, .NET, VB, or other such MSFT-only proprietary garbage (which real C++ is not), or if your coding staff is that reliant on MSFT's tools to do their jobs for them... there should be no real problems in porting the code. Just re-code the GUI bits and the rest should be a snap.

/P
Posted by Penguinisto (5042 comments )
Link Flag
It Essentially Runs Two Processors (Aero)...
The CPU and the GPU. MS recommends a high end video GPU for running Aero in Vista. Whether that is an integrated chip sucking power from having to read from System Memory constantly or an embedded Chip with it's own high speed memory.
You are running two processors the GPU especially gets hit hard with the Aero interface so even if you are just letting it idle with the no apps running the GPU is still working. In particular for those large wide screen 1920x1200 displays.
I'll bet you couldn't even watch a two hour movie without having to recharge because then both processors will be eating up the battery.

Ahh progress, ain't it wonderful?
Posted by fred dunn (793 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Microsoft recommends
a DX9 video card with 128megs of RAM. I run Aero with out any problems on a Intel I950 intergrated GPU that uses system memory.

Right now its using 98megs of ram for Aero according to the Intel GPU utility. My power settings are on balance and my Core Duo processor is at 2% while I type this. I have about 10 things open right now.

I have not seen a difference but I only ever use my notebook on battery for an hour or so at a time. I have the 6cell battery it came with so its not going to be that great to begin with. My fan on this 15inch Acer almost never turns on.
Posted by Lindy01 (443 comments )
Link Flag
Battery Drain?
Just wait until you have to buy it, it's also a great wallet drain!
Posted by J_Satch (571 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Running Vista in Parallels on a Mac
Does this same battery drain occur on a Mac running Vista in
Parallels? Anyone have any experience doing that?
Posted by ppgreat (1128 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Awesome question
Really interested to see anyone run that test and report here.
Posted by shoffmueller (236 comments )
Link Flag
Awesome question
Really interested to see anyone run that test and report here.
Posted by shoffmueller (236 comments )
Link Flag
Intuitively: Yes
The laptop will actually perform more work running Vista under Paralells than running natively. That is because virtualization carries a certain overhead.

Of course, there might be magic I don't know about, but I'm predicting you'll see worse uptime on battery in the case you outline.
Posted by jpsalvesen (31 comments )
Link Flag
that is Apple battery issue
That is an issue Apple is addressing that with an update. Check the Apple website.
Posted by TucsonAlexAZ (53 comments )
Link Flag
Parallels doesn't support Aero "Glass"
In other words, it doesn't have the same issue, because it doesn't support the feature that is the culprit of the power drain. This would be true of running Vista in a VM on any laptop regardless of manufacturer, since no virtualization solutions currently available have the graphics hardware support needed to run Aero "Glass."

On the other hand, the effect on battery life of running any OS in a VM... that I don't know. It certainly should reduce battery life some due to the additional overhead (particularly I/O and CPU), but the amount would be determined by the type and level of workload.
Posted by bluvg (90 comments )
Link Flag
Parallels doesn't support Aero
In other words, it doesn't have the same issue, because it doesn't support the feature that is the culprit of the power drain. This would be true of running Vista in a VM on any laptop regardless of manufacturer, since no virtualization solutions currently available have the graphics hardware support needed to run Aero "Glass."

On the other hand, the effect on battery life of running any OS in a VM... that I don't know. It certainly should reduce battery life some due to the additional overhead (particularly I/O and CPU), but the amount would be determined by the type and level of workload.
Posted by bluvg (90 comments )
Link Flag
Running XP in Parallels...
I have a 2.33 MacBook Pro, and I get a good 1:40 of battery life
when running and using both XP and OS X applications. I would
hate to see what Vista would do to this. Vista has slowed down
every other PC I have put it on, so I am going to stick with XP for a
while.
Posted by ZeroJCF (51 comments )
Link Flag
Couldn't say
Dunno... just like the guys in accounting, Mac/Parallels guys like
me have found no reason to move to Vista.
After having used Vista, I can actually say (with a straight face), XP
is good enough.
Honestly, if it weren't for forced purchases of Vista (preloads), it'd
have been stillborn.
Posted by GGGlen (491 comments )
Link Flag
Apples to Apples
Since Vista's "Aero" is a copy of Mac OSX "Aqua" interface, it
would be interesting to see a test that:
- Running the same tasks in battery modes on equally spec'd.
laptops ( PC & Mac ) with Vista / Aero & Mac OSX Aqua to see
what the OS/GUI to OS/GUI battery drain ratio is...
- MS Office tasks
- Same game activity
- watching same movie
-surfing the internet
-downloading & ripping music to CDR
-etc., etc.

Vista OS is just Win XP Server OS with a crappy copy of MAC OSX
Aqua GUI, not efficiently engineered at all...
Posted by Llib Setag (951 comments )
Link Flag
And with notebook batteries already unstable...
What to do? Make batteries more powerful and have more
spontaneous combustions? Include two batteries with every
notebook until new battery technology comes out? Who knows...
Posted by PCCRomeo (432 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Fluorescent Light Bulbs
Assuming the household has one desktop and one laptop, if
everyone switches to fluorescent light bulbs and upgrades to Vista,
is your electric bill a wash?

Where's Greenpeace?
Posted by egarc--2008 (28 comments )
Reply Link Flag
20+ Hour Per Charge External Laptop Battery
True it's somewhat of a power hog however Vista has some really cool features that I really like. I just recently installed Vista and I also noticed that it drained my already short lived internal laptop battery even more. My solution to the problem was to pickup a Portable Power Station from batterygeek.net which is now giving my laptop an additional 20+ hours of runtime per charge. For me it's an ideal solution because I can also recharge and power my cell phone, PSP and iPod Video with it.
Posted by gadgetjunkie1 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Nice
I love the comment, "In (Aero) mode, you will drain the battery faster, but you get something in return because it's cool and nice looking".

Sure, you'll only get about half the amount of work done, but it'll look cool.
Posted by lim3light (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Aero Contributes To Global Warming ! ! !
If Aero causes battery drain on a Laptop, just think what it does on a Desktop!

Think about it. Aero is so poorly programmed it massively contributes to Global Warming, for no reason other than MS can't find coders to keep the UI looking great, but not at the expensive of "energy".

So sad, so sad.
Posted by OS11 (844 comments )
Reply Link Flag
No really...
The Aero interface uses the graphics processor to render the gui instead of just the cpu. In XP, the graphic processor goes in to low power mode when it's 3d processing power is not needed. In Vista they can't do that because the graphics processor is always being used while Aero is on. Of course it's going to use more energy.
The graphic makers need to develop chips that can do basic DX9 3d using very low power, this is the only way that power consumption in Vista is going to drop.
Posted by Gasaraki (183 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Vista Draining Batteries
I recently purchased a new HP laptop running Vista Premium and I am highly satisfied with my battery life. One must be smart when extending your power when power can become scarce. I try to run as few bells and whistles as possible while on battery only power, HP has done a marvelous job with their settings that a user can select. I think we should stop complaining and do something about it like change settings to what we need and not make blanket statements.
Posted by john.ford1 (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
so you paid extra to not use all the capability
....sigh
Posted by weegg (849 comments )
Link Flag
Microsoft: It's a "feature"
Yeah right.
They're "empowering" their users (to pick up the pieces)
Posted by TechNewsJunky (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Turn-off Aero Interface!
Who needs it on a notebook anyway. It's largely a gimmick anyhow. It's perfect for desktops though!!
Posted by WJeansonne (480 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Which would accomplish...
well... you would be slightly more power efficient but then you would also be running basically xp. Why would you spend $300 for an OS if you are going to turn off the only feature that makes it even worth any money at all? It defeats the purpose of vista (dang, I just admitted it had one. Oh well.) In short: I hate M$ because they make inferior products and also vista because it is one of those inferior products.
Posted by bobmarksdale (29 comments )
Link Flag
Turn-off Vista...
....cuz it sucks.
Posted by ZeroJCF (51 comments )
Link Flag
Turn-off Aero Interface!
Who needs it on a notebook anyway. It's largely a gimmick anyhow. It's perfect for desktops though!!
Posted by WJeansonne (480 comments )
Reply Link Flag
VISTA IS NOT GREEN!
Vista is not an environmentally friendly OS.

It requires more memory, more hard drive space, 'bigger' CPUs; all of which burn even more energy.

The usual response is turn this, that, and the other options off or to minimum.

Well gee whiz. What kind of an OS do you have then? How many of you can say Windows 95???
Posted by Dr_Zinj (727 comments )
Reply Link Flag
98SE for me
Well I am using 98SE on my laptop!
Posted by jatos (55 comments )
Link Flag
I agree that...
So you may get a apple computer with much more waste...
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.greenpeace.org/apple/" target="_newWindow">http://www.greenpeace.org/apple/</a>

Get Linux with not much app can run on it and turn on the computer and waste the power all day long...
Posted by Kenny Yeung (25 comments )
Link Flag
Not Only Aero
Microsoft also uses much power in other areas that it formerly stayed out of. Anti-virus is one- I turn off Security Center in XP and use my other antivirus that is much more power efficient. The graphics programs I use are more power efficient than Microsoft's graphics, not including Aero. Windows Media Player can still be great without trying to sell every song or video it plays. The pc user can find many places to buy the music/video- better than what Microsoft offers.
Posted by bobbydi (51 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Aero is the hotness - literally
I have an HP DV9000T with GeForce Go 7600. When I turn on Aero, my fan runs incessantly and the laptop begins to get uncomfortably hot.

Microsoft, did you bother to test this? Or did you, as usual, hire program managers with no common sense again?

Never saw a MacBook get this hot, yet all the nice visual effects (still better than Aero) are turned on.

Microsoft blew it.
Posted by caywen123 (159 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Vista, WHAT'S THE POINT??
I've used vista frequently on my Aunt and Uncles HP Pavillion laptop and it sucks. I can't believe how annoying it is. It's features seems so poorly implimented, from the Aero to search. I can't stand it. I will not be using it mainly instead of XP for a long time.
Posted by jjayguy23 (20 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What's your point?
Your statement lacks explanation. You say Vista is annoying but you don't say how. Is it because of UAC? That can be turned off, you know. How were Aero and search poorly implemented? (note: you spelled implemented wrong in your post) Aero seems fine to me. Is it necessary? Probably not, but one of the things Mac users complain about is how "dull" the XP interface is. As for search, what reasons do you have for saying this was poorly implemented? It's certainly faster and more intuitive than XP's search functionality IMO. Are you sure you're using it right? I definitely agree that a problem with Vista is that it drains laptop batteries faster, but I don't think it's other features are poorly implemented.
Posted by boyd087 (43 comments )
Link Flag
MS engineering at its finest
My laptop has dual boot XP/openSUSE. OpenSuSE has all the bells and whistles, and then some, of Vista.

My battery lasts twice as long in Linux as it does in XP.

I shudder to think how quickly that bloated monstrosity known as Vista would drain the battery.
Posted by MSSlayer (1074 comments )
Reply Link Flag
DOH!
eom
Posted by Thomas, David (1947 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Aero vs Aqua
OK, so Microsoft has Aero and Apple has Aqua. Both offer
similar eye candy ... shadowed windows, translucency, glassy
buttons, window animations, etc. And both OS X and Vista have
many similar features now.


So why does Aero need such a power hungry GPU while Aqua
works well even on old used hardware with relatively slow GPUs?

For example, a friend of mine recently bought his first Mac, a
used $200 G4 Mac tower running the latest OS X. There are tons
of them on ebay. He said it runs Aqua way better than he
expected, and he loves it. His frame of reference is Windows,
since he's only owned Windows machines since about 1990.
Posted by open-mind (1027 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Because they are not the same
First, "Aqua" is an umbrella term that covers many technologies that have been introduced and have evolved over time--they certainly weren't all there in OS X 10.0. In OS X 10.4, Quartz 2D Extreme is not enabled by default because it still has issues (it apparently will be enabled on 10.5). Since Aero already performs the function that Quartz 2D Extreme will perform for Aqua, from a checklist standpoint (not to mention from an architectural standpoint), Aero is more advanced than Aqua. If you take a look at the requirements for Quartz 2D Extreme, they are far greater than that of the standard 10.4 requirements.

Even now, if you look at the required specs, they aren't much different. Vista "requires" 128 MB of VRAM... but that can be shared RAM (as in the case of integrated graphics solutions). At some point, both Aero and Aqua are dealing with the same issue--they need to store windows in memory. At 1920x1200 resolution and 32-bit color depth, that's over 9 MB per full-screen window. Neither OS can perform magic--if those windows are going to be buffered, there are only so many places they can go (first in VRAM, next in system RAM, then--gulp--to disk). In terms of GPU utilization, neither Aero or Aqua is very taxing on a modern GPU.

As with most sets of "required" specs, they aren't so much a hard lower limit as they are a satisfactory performance bar based on what the system is doing. Aero is doing more than Aqua, and thus requires more. Keep in mind that Aero represents a graphics platform/subsystem, not just a look and feel... comparing superficial details such as "shadowed windows, translucency, glassy buttons, window animations, etc." is just that--a superficial comparison. Dig deeper, and you will find that they are definitely not the same. We are only beginning to see what Aero can do--take a look at the coming Vista-specific version of Yahoo Messenger to get an early idea.
Posted by bluvg (90 comments )
Link Flag
Its Windows NT 6 and aero is optional
Before we get to Aero issues, forget for a moment all the marketing things like the name Vista - I find Windows NT 6-Home Basic to be a major improvement in many ways over Windows NT 5.1, the latter known as XP. The improvements are under the hood, in file searching, other aspects of file management, and simply how it feels to use it. Merely realizing that Vista is a nice new version of NT can put this in perspective - its not a new sports car its an OS, but it is a major improvement over the previous version.

I run the Basic version on a notebook (that is NOT Premium-capable) and the only thing I really needed to add was 512 MB more RAM (which nowadays is not so expensive) and the performance is just fine.

At home on the more hardware-endowed (but by no means premium) desktop is the Home Premium version of Windows NT 6. I like the aesthetics of Aeroglass and it does also offer some file viewing advantages, but I have learned by using both versions that Aeroglass is NOT what draws me to the new OS even though Aero, thumbnails and the rest are nice.

And about the notebook, if I had Home Premium on that I would only turn on Aero while on AC power. The Basic interface works just fine for most work tasks.

Most people doing real work on a notebook under battery power are writing or manipulating data. Writing is about content not formatting, which can always be added later. You can even do lots of work in notepad and later on paste it into Word and format it. You dont need much horsepower to run notepad just like it takes less when you turn off Aero. Almost all of the work a processor (CPU or GPU) does nowadays is devoted to the interface and other graphics.
Posted by Win NT User (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Its always the same...........
Seems like the same excuse when dealing with Vista,

"said Richard Shim, an analyst with IDC. "When you look at a new operating system, battery life tends to be worse. When Windows XP came out, that was true, and when Windows 98 came out, that was true."

Say something negative about the OS and this is said over and over....it was the same way with blah blah blah.

What a headache.
Posted by hateislov (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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