Getting more battery from Windows

With CPU clock speeds and core counts both reaching new highs, everyone seems to want more performance out of their PC. I set out to do the exact opposite today: I want to get bettery battery life by killing off some of the performance. I’m attempting to tune the performance of a gaming laptop so that I can use it while on the go and away from the wall.

For the past 8-ish years I’ve been using Linux distributions on my daily driver laptops for development purposes. I find myself doing less and less directly on my local machine and more in the cloud through command line terminal sessions. There are a bunch of different reasons for this, but I find that my local OS doesn’t matter nearly as much as it used to. On our last trip to Mexico, I did the majority of my work in a terminal on my iPad Pro 11″. I’m looking to cut down on what I carry as we continue our RV travels, so let’s see how we can dial up the battery life on a gaming laptop.

Tweaking Windows performance settings

If you have a Windows laptop, you’ve likely seen the battery icon in the bottom right corner of your screen. If you click it, you can drag a lever back and forth to choose which “Power mode” you want to use.

Select a “Power mode”

Inside each of these Power modes is a LOT of settings that you can change to tweak how your machine will behave when A) your machine is configured to use that power mode and B) when your machine is either plugged into the wall or running on battery power.

Navigate to power settings

Navigate there quickly by pasting this into your explorer bar:

Control Panel\Hardware and Sound\Power Options\Edit Plan Settings
My current tweaks to minimize power draw

Graphics related tweaks

I completely disabled the integrated Intel graphics when I bought this laptop. This means that by default, I’ve used the Nvidia RTX 2070 card for everything. It’s no surprise that my battery life took a hit for this. Changing the “Preferred graphics processor” back to Auto-select will allow me to benefit from the integrated card when I’m away from the wall, and the Nvidia card when I need to crank up some graphics.

Allowing the machine to detect which graphics card to use on it’s own.

My laptop also has the ability to change the refresh rate of the screen. I don’t benefit a great deal from the 240Hz refresh rate while I’m hacking around in terminals, so I can swap that backto 60Hz and save some battery life there as well. I wish Razer’s synapse software could auto-tune this setting by power source detection.

swapping down to 60Hz refresh rate

How much does this all really help?

I found a way to determine power draw while on battery power through an app called BatteryBar. This app estimates discharge rate by talking to your battery controller. Before I started tweaking power plan settings, I was somewhere north of 35,600mW (35.6W). After a bit of tuning, I was able to bring my discharge rtate down to ~9.7W – 12.2W, depending on screen brightness settings.

~9.7W discharge

Before making any changes, my battery would only last about 3 hours. If the estimated runtime that BatteryBar is reporting turns out to be accurate, that would be a little over 2.5x my current runtime. We’ll see how it goes!

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