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Apple changes default MacBook charging behavior to improve battery health (sixcolors.com)
369 points by uptown 7 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 372 comments

I've noticed that on newer (past few years) MacBook Pros, if their battery runs down too far they refuse to start up, even when plugged into the charger. The battery has to charge for 10-15 minutes with the "dead battery" icon on the screen. It's exactly the same behavior as iPhone/iPad. In past MacBook models, the battery could be dead--or even completely removed--and the charger would power the laptop fine.

Anyone know why this extremely irritating change had to be made?

I've been explained that this is because those computers might need more power than the AC Charger is able to provide, so the battery is also used as a "backup" for burst loads. This [1] seems to confirm it.

[1] https://web.archive.org/web/20081225111200/http://support.ap...

Thanks for the info. I recently discovered this by running folding at home on my 16inch pro overnight, and waking up to my battery being at 5%. I suspect running the CPU full bore over night was too much for the charger to keep up with.

Isn't this bad design? Surely if plugged in, you should be able to use everything on your laptop at 100% utilization (screen, CPU, disks, fans, etc) without having to worry about it.

Otherwise, what's the point of having those things?

I suspect this is due to USB-C providing a maximum power of 100 watts. This was a classic design trade off. “We can support an industry standard and thus allow ubiquitously available chargers to be used with the device, with the trade off being that the chargers can’t keep up when the device is run continuously at full throttle.”

Then it’s a question of how many are impacted and how often, how support for USB-C factors in to the decision to purchase, etc., etc.

> Isn't this bad design?

It’s a trade-off - they COULD build a laptop which can run everything at 100% 24/7 indefinitely, but it’d be heavier and more expensive, with zero benefits to their target audience of "people who only run at 100% for a few hours per day"

No, He is talking about the laptop not getting enough power while plugged in.

If there was any added weight it would be with the charger, not the laptop so... Incredibly unlikely.

It's way more likely that Apple just didn't design the connector to be able to deliver that amount of power. So they'd have to add a second one or switch connectors/design a new one.

Both would be suboptimal as well.

> No, He is talking about the laptop not getting enough power while plugged in.

That’s what I’m talking about too

> If there was any added weight it would be with the charger, not the laptop so…

Whether it’s charger or laptop, that’s still more weight that the end-user needs to carry around in their backpack, which 99.9% of them won’t need

Everything that does not expose to the user what is happening, and ideally give the user control over what can happen and when, is as bad design as clippy was on Microsoft Word.

Only too-clever-for-their-own-good-designers like automagic things. No user does.

Is your car designed to be used with the pedal to the floor at all times?

I don't understand why this would be a design assumption, especially for a portable device.

This isn't even an assumption for running applications on servers, especially the kind that serve up things like web requests. If you have pegged the CPU, your application will already be unstable.

Sure, the server can handle being pegged 24/7 from a power and cooling perspective, but in practical use no sysadmin will allow that to happen for very long.

  Isn't this bad design?
Speaking of which, can some electrician please explain why Apple chargers (for USA) use ungrounded plugs while every computer I've ever owned uses grounded plugs?

This is the case in many places outside of the US as well, as far as I can tell. The included extension cord (C5?) was grounded at least for my last MacBook years ago, but they provide a non-grounded connector probably because it's less bulky (easier to design as a folding mechanism) and more universal (especially in continental Europe where the two-prong is nearly universal and the third prong is far from that).

It's also not just Apple. Lower wattage Lenovo chargers (including ThinkPad) have two-prong adapters and plugs.

This makes sense. My USB C portable charger also cannot keep up with charging my laptop while I have the screen on full brightness + normal activities.

If you look at how the charging amperage is in current chargers, as compared to those of a few years ago, it's pretty easy to tell that this is the case.

Sure, some of it is due to improved efficiency of the components, but when combined with power drain while on a charger under high loads, it's fairly obvious.

ha, well I've noticed my battery discharges if I play Civ 6, even when plugged in. so that confirms it too.

Same here. When I started working from home, I set up an external monitor with an HDMI-to-USB-C adapter. Whenever it's plugged in, my battery goes down about 4% per hour with the AC adapter plugged in.

Are you sending your power via a USB C adapter too?

If you use one of these[1] then your laptop will charge more slowly than if you just plugged in the power directly.

[1] https://www.apple.com/shop/product/MUF82AM/A/usb-c-digital-a...

I've only ever seen my laptop's battery discharge while plugged in via one of those USB-C hubs which allow PD "pass-through". But have yet to find one that passes all the power through.

The adapter claims some of the power for itself and downstream USB devices. I think it has to reserve power statically, so it's always claiming 5W or so.

My charger is an Apple product; it was the lowest-price charger they had available ($73 after tax). Two components:

* charging block

* male USB A to male USB C cable

EDIT: I just clicked your link; no I'm not using that. The cable is plugged into the charging block on one end and the laptop on the other end.

Are you using the smaller Macbook-vanilla charger or something?

I game on my Macbook Pro + two monitors without discharge unless I accidentally use my girlfriend's OG Macbook charger instead of the Pro's charger that's twice the brick.

And it can definitely handle Civ 6 (2017 and 2019 MBP).

Not sure about the parent, but my friend an I had exactly the same issue, both of us are on 16inch MBP 2020 (Civ 6 on Steam).

Incredibly annoying once your laptop suddenly slows down and dies after 5h of gameplay. How is this even acceptable? Regardless whether it's a $400 or $3k laptop, I'd expect it to work when charging. I'm two apps (photoshop, lightroom) away from switching to Linux.

I solved my few Windows dependencies with https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/PCI_passthrough_via_OVM... and a secondary GPU. (Might not fit your current setup but it was a game changer for me and my productivity so I can highly suggest it.)

mhm, tempting

I would understand if $400 laptop had low power charger to cut price. But on $3k "pro" laptop it is just middle finger to customer.

Probably more to do with FAA regulations than anything else. You can't put more than a 100W batter in a laptop, and the charger is 100W (96W, I think), but modern processors and GPUs need more than that at full speed with all cores, leave along fans and SSDs and screens. My similarly specced desktop runs at 400W, not including the monitor.

So yeah, we seem to have hit a limit with traditional chipsets. Probably why Apple is going full steam on their own ARM SoCs. The iPhones and iPads out now can do some pretty serious work, just imagine what could be achieved by bringing that power to the Mac.

The FAA has no restrictions on chargers, the restriction is on battery capacity which is irrelevant to this problem. They use 100W chargers because that's the highest allowed by the USB-PD spec, but Apple providing power supplies incapable of handling peak load on their laptops is much older than their use of USB-PD. They just seem to not care very much about the heavy sustained load use case.

I believe the frustration is more due to the fact that even though the laptop is plugged in, the battery gets drained and after a while, it will simply shut down. I have had that issue with 2012 15 inch, 2016 15 inch, 2017 15 inch and heard similar stories from 16inch users.

Reminds me of the early brick-sized mobile phones. Sure you could be wireless, but if you wanted to use it more than few minutes, you had to find yourself a power socket.

I still find this a bit peculiar, I haven't experienced that in any of my previous machines, mac or not.

Normally, I'd call customer support and assume it's an issue with my device specifically. HN saved me a bunch of annoying phone calls.

ARM seems like the way to go. I recommend comparing the energy usage of Macintosh II and Macbook Air. It's quite impressive (minutes vs hours).

I believe some of the MacBook Pros ship with chargers that cannot power them when running at full tilt. (Interestingly, I believe the original iPad Pro did as well.)

Yup. I've got last years Macbook Pro, fully specced, and when I run lots of compilations in Xcode the battery steadily drains. I ran an intense script overnight a month or two ago and when I got back in the morning my battery was down to just a few percent. Thankfully the script finished just after that so I got incredibly lucky that it didn't run out all the way and lose all the progress.

Funnily, the base model is unlikely to have this problem, which makes it a better laptop (at least in this case) for cheaper. Your script won't stop and lose progress.

That was the case for my rMBP 2012. Though it was only when running a game and battery discharged very slowly, so was not really an issue, at least for me.

> Are you using the smaller Macbook-vanilla charger or something?

Yes, that's exactly what the situation was. I was just trying to confirm the phenomenon of "battery can discharge if the AC adapter is temporarily insufficient"- but the core problem was my fault for sure.

this kind of behavior would warrant a return from me.

do you consider that to be a faulty behavior, or just par-for-the-course of heavy workloads on mobile platforms?

i'd hate for that to be the new norm, I use the hell out of my mobile computers, I don't need them draining before I even unplug.

oh, actually it was my fault. I have an air charger and a pro charger, and it turns out they're not interchangeable. The pro charger is, like, 30% bigger, and the laptop battery will not discharge while I'm using that one.

My laptop is one of the older magsafe ones, so the people talking about USB-C might be a YMMV kind of thing.

The apple computer shows an icon when this is happening. It shows a black battery icon instead of the normal white outlined in back icon.

Isn't better way just limit possible amount of power needed(downclock CPU or something) instead of just refusing to give user anything?

Why? Keeping the behaviour as it is makes you buy more, which is the objective of a company that shamelessly marks up hardware by arbitrary amounts.

Strangely enough, they did exactly as suggested when batteries started wearing out on iPhones (unable to reliably provide the voltage at full drain for peak performance) and you're the exact kind of person who jumped on them for planned obsolescence.


That reminds me of the original PowerBook Duo, which couldn’t run plugged in if the battery was missing.

I think this was a "feature" among all pre-Jobs Powerbooks.

Naw, I have a PowerBook 145B and 540c, both have batteries that are long-dead and removed and they run fine.

The PowerBook 145b was my first Mac. Wonderful little machine. 4 MB RAM, 80 MB hard disk. I ran a web browser on it, MacWeb, and could surf the web as it was back then perfectly fine. Not today, I suspect.

Not all... I remember my 540c running without a battery.

My 180c would run without its battery, as well as my 3400c. I believe the 190 too.

Interesting. My 180 would not run without the battery.

This probably goes hand in hand with the unremovable batteries. Back when they had removable batteries you could run it on AC with no battery installed and it would work fine.

No, thats purely to prevent repair. Its perfectly possible to have a removable battery and to just not boot when one is not inserted. Thats how phones used to work ~2013

A removable battery requires its own protective shell, which costs weight and thickness. When it's not user serviceable, it can just be a bag of acid resting on the main board, piggybacking on the device's own case for the required protection.

The protective shell can be only the bottom side which replaces the bottom of the case. The internal laptop batteries are quite safe to handle if you don't use anything sharp on them. We let people handle phone batteries for ages and they weren't nearly as protected as those old laptop battery tubes.

They were certainly more protected than the almost naked ones I see right now which I can singlehandedly bend (but won't given the fire hazard). And not LiPol batteries too, which are super nasty in that regard: the more energy-dense the battery is, the more of a hazard.

The phone batteries that people handled did store a lot less energy though.

Non-removable just means it's soldered down. Open a phone and you will see that the batteries certainly have just the kind of plastic shell that they always had.

most phones and tablets i've worked on recently certainly do not have any plastic shell on non-removable batteries; unless you consider shrink tubing a shell.

They are usually constructed of layers of battery material, wrapped in kapton tape or an equivalent, with the entire package shrink-tubed and a pigtail coming out the side for the device interface.

One could easily crush the unit by hand, the construction offers little to no protection from physical forces.

I’m not saying one is a requirement for the other, just that you don’t have to worry about the battery-removed state when it doesn’t exist.

From the tear downs I’ve seen, it seems like the primary motivation for the non-removable battery is so they can cram it into every spare piece of space.

I guess there are also multiple states of removable. 2012 macbooks had the battery in multiple packs in odd spaces like the new ones but they had a screw in bracket holding them in place which made it trivial to remove and put a new one in. The new ones have it glued down so heavily that the battery replacement process is "Take the screen off, put it on a new bottom case, throw out the old bottom half"

Someone remind me why the batteries are no longer removable? Macbooks aren't water tight.

Oh right, the laptop looks pretty and the battery can't be fitted in one area without adding some thickness.

Im so sick over this form over function crap that everyone copies.

Having opened both my 2008 Macbook (with removable battery) and my current 2015 Macbook Pro (with non-removable battery), it's easy to see why: the 2015's battery is actually 4 different batteries of varying sizes & shapes. It's taking most of the space inside the computer that isn't taken by the motherboard (about half, actually).

Making stuff removable is a lot more work; you have to build a way to hold the thing while it's on, you have to put in connectors, etc. With non-removable batteries they can just glue them on & solder the wires.

Not really saying it's a good thing, but I understand the decision.

Purism Librem 15 is also pretty thin, but the battery is easily removable.

and it would work fine.

Though in practice, the magsafe connector wasn't cat- or human proof meaning when one of those gets as much as near the cable it's byebye unsaved work and in worst case byebye boot because of a messed up system. I ended up taping the connector to the laptop to avoid that. As to why I'd run without a battery: it was swollen.

Do new MacBooks not power on with just AC if you take out the battery?

Well, I don't really want to destroy my MacBook to find out.

That would mean that it would not charge while being used.

That’s not the case I assume.

No, that only means it can't be charged will on burst load (turbo boost). Intel's chips can consume > 200% of their TDP during all-core turbo.

From what I've seen, none of the high end Mac book pros have a good enough charger to provide enough power for a mixed CPU/GPU workload. And with the switch to USB-C and it's 100W power limit they can't even fix it now.

the case where the laptop draws more power than the AC adapter can provide is probably some sort of brief turbo state for the cpu and/or gpu. it can't maintain this for long without overheating.

That's been the default behaviour for as long as I can remember. I'm fairly certain of my 2008 Macbook Air doing this. Less so (but still better than even odds) for my 17" PowerBook.

You'd want some minimum charge to, at least, safely start up and immediately shut down again. Maybe throw in a little extra to be on the safe side. The higher-performance MacBooks also operate within a an extreme width of power requirements, from about 5W to close to 100W. I'm not sure if they can throttle based on battery status. But if not, you'd need a buffer to accommodate load spikes.

I guess you could criticise them for not trusting you to keep it plugged in. But any UI to clearly communicate that unplugging now might cause data loss is bound to be a horrible sludge. It could also easily fail if you happen to trip over the cable or the power went off.

I have one of these for work and it's the first Macbook I have used

I have never experienced this behavior on any other laptop I have ever used. When I ran into this for the first time, I was completely appalled, it is a horrible user experience

They definitely throttle based on battery status, mine gets noticably slower (laggy UI, etc) when it dips below 5%, and picks up immediately if I plug it in.

This is the most irritating thing about the iPhone. Phone shuts down in the middle of an important call? Sorry, you'll have to wait 15 minutes before you can call again. This doesn't happen in my Pixel phones. Plug it it, turn it on.

I would be irritated to no end if this happened to my laptop.

Well here's the challenging thing -- your phone may be way overdue for a battery replacement, or you've run your phone like this well over the average user -- so it's been doing this to save you from having no phone at all. But you don't credit Apple with the 2nd part, and blame it for the 1st part. It's tough to make something for customers, huh?

Not making a personal jab at you -- just illustrating the difficultly that everyone who makes a product faces when managing user expectations.

I'm not certain that's a valid argument - if anything it's rather "apologist".

They are annoyed because the phone is unusable for a period even when connected to a charger. Every Android phone I have ever used will work immediately after being plugged into a charger (even without a battery). This has nothing to do with "saving" them from having no phone (in fact, it effectively leaves them with no phone at all for a period of time), and everything to do with the phones inability to power itself directly from a charger.

Tough to make something for customers? Perhaps, but seemingly every other phone manufacturer gets this right.

I don't know that that is true. Perhaps iPhone allows users to draw down the battery even more than competitors to preserve someone's "on"-time (like extend as much as possible, because you might be on an important call), because it knows that once plugged in, it can go into a dark state for some time to recover. If the choice is to have a stable power mode when on / under potential loss of AC charger power, is it unreasonable that Apple chose to do that? Are you certain that's not why they do it?

Maybe other phone manufacturers are cutting off your "on"-time sooner than iPhone is, and you just don't ever see their phones getting to this state. You don't even get to make your 911 call, because Samsung chooses to turn your phone off sooner?

So again, in that case Apple would be giving you more usable time, but you're not happy with them for it.

I'm not an iPhone user, so maybe I am wrong about this. But I would expect my phone to give me a warning when it is about 3 minutes before shutdown. This way I still have a reasonable amount of time to bring whatever I am doing at the moment into a graceful stop.

iOs warns if the battery is at 20% and at 10% with a button to enable low power mode.

My guess is they want to be able to perform clean shutdown if charger is removed.

Noticed this change straight away with my switch to the usb-c generation.

Really hate it, makes my laptop feel more like a “device” if you know what i means and makes it feel like the charger is insufficient for its job. Almost 20 years of using PowerBooks and even completely dead you could just plug them in and power worked straight away, now you have to do the 10 minute power button dance and the thing doesn’t even have a startup chime to tell you it’s worked.

My MacBook Pro 2015 showed this behaviour, however my MacBook Air 2019 starts up immediately with the stock charger, however it takes a few minutes with a lower 15W adapter.

I run into a (to me) more annoying behavior on a 13” MacBoon Pro - the machine will start and let me login with < 3% displayed and then shut off within a few moments after login, presumably because startup actions pegged the battery and drained it back to a shutoff state. Would much prefer the machine not start until I can login and work.

I don't think it's actually possible to do that. You would have to be able to know 100% of the side effects of every possible configuration of software and attached(USB) peripherals and their potential full future power draw _before_ your machine starts anything.

I haven’t noticed this on my 2017 MacBook Pro.

However, waiting for a initial charge has always been true if you use a smaller power adapter than the one that shipped with your MacBook. For example you use a MacBook Air 40w charger with your Pro

I’ve had this experience on every MacBook Pro I’ve ever owned (starting with an ‘08 MacBook). On the older models, they’d run if you plugged them in and completely removed the battery, but it the battery was in, they wouldn’t boot until the battery had a certain minimal charge.

My initial guess was MagSafe, since that’s where I first saw it. With a breakaway cable, it’s less likely you’ll be able to keep a solid power connection.

I’m a little bummed to learn that this apparently isn’t the (only) reason.

Mine started freezing lately if I run graphic intensive programs and hangs on a gray screen when trying to restart. I wonder if the battery could be the issue.

I got a top spec 15 MBP a year ago and I have to say the experience is appalling - 4000$ device that goes full airplane takeoff levels of noise at any serious workload, no ability to control performance (I would gladly throttle the CPU sooner to avoid everyone in the office turning my way when I start an emulator or keep the fans at lower RPM but constantly instead of letting the CPU idle at 60-70 degrees with no fans).

All of this could be fixed if the device gave me power settings but even third party paid tools that require custom kernel extensions (Volta) still don't work reliably.

My next computer is not going to be from Apple for sure.

If it makes you feel any better I branched off to a XPS 13 2in1 4 months ago in between jobs (where I use the latest mbp) and used the thing for 2-3 months with no MBP as backup.

I absolutely hate it. It throttles constantly even after undervolting it. I had to do a bunch of black magic to get it to sleep properly (which is evidently happening to every Dell) and eventually gave up on that and just set it to hibernate any time the lids closed (it's 32gb so that adds about 30 seconds to the start up time). I've spent more time tweaking this thing, reading forums and reddit about how to make it perform DECENTLY than I did building my last hackintosh and I don't enjoy that experience ever. When you get past all these issues it's still Windows 10 which I just find to be the most annoying OS I've ever used.

Just got my new MBP yesterday and couldn't be more excited to be back on osx. I do really, really wish my MBP was smaller and a 2 in 1, though.

Might be worth trying Linux on that. At least you'd have more control over the sleep issues.

I have a Dell Precision 7540 that I was having issues getting sleep to work. It would panic on resuming I think because of WiFi but I couldn't fix it. So I enabled "hybrid-sleep" which is like hibernate and sleep together. Before it sleeps, it flushes the RAM to disk. When it wakes up, it tries to boot from RAM and, if successful, it deletes the hibernation data. But if it crashes before it deletes the files, you just reboot and it resumes from disk. So I never "lose" my status but 95% of the time my computer resumes normally.

There are certainly other frustrating bits with Linux, but at least the flexibility to fix the issues is within your grasp. That was my biggest gripe with OSX and Windows. You just aren't always able the fix the issue and it's very mentally painful (for me). :P

I have arch linux on that same machine and there are indeed a million knobs to tune these things. I haven't yet managed to make it work as good as a macbook, after putting in around ~100h by now into the problem.

I went back to macbooks ~1 month ago. The Dell is still brand new (4 months old, ~4000$ fully spec'ed), but my employer does not want it back, so it is now sitting in a drawer in my office.

I ended up billing my employer for the ~120h I spent on "configuring" the laptop over the 4 months. With that included, the laptop costed my employer about 14.000$.

Now I'm using my personal 2013 macbook air instead, and am finally able to get something done, yet I'm not happy with having to use my own laptop for work.

Had they buy me a macbook for 1.500$ instead, like I requested, that would have saved them ~13.000$ + my lost respect + my continued lost respect for requiring me to use my own 7 year old personal laptop for work.

Why did you use arch instead of other distro that known to work on many laptops, such as Ubuntu?

This is pure FUD in my opinion. Arch has always run better on every computer I’ve owned, especially newer ones.

The people for whom Ubuntu works usually have fewer requirements or are not as particular about things working _just right_.

That’s not to say I haven’t had issues with Arch, but there were fewer and they were easier to figure out.

Now if you want a distro where you can update packages without manual intervention several times a year, then it’s probably best to look past Arch.

I mean if he's having problems and spent hundred of hours trying to fix it, instead of giving up why not just try one of the mainstream distro and see if it works? There is a chance (however slim it is) that it'll work due to higher number of users exposing hardware support issues to the maintainers.

Well, I will point you to fluffything’s response

> Arch was the best distro I could find that used the latest kernel by default. Audio worked there.

That mirrors the experiences I’ve had. Most distros ship with broken old software and custom patches that make troubleshooting a nightmare. They also don’t have the resources to support the wide variety of hardware out there. Microsoft spends billions on Windows and vendors spend billions of their own to make sure hardware is mostly plug and play.

In Linux land, the mainstream distros ship with fragile duct-taped components that work if you’re lucky but are a complete pain to troubleshoot and are a bigger pain as time goes on and you have major upgrades.

Arch is the only sane distro with wide adoption and it’s a joy to use. I get the latest kernel with its bug fixes and hardware support. Packages are updated on a rolling basis so there are a few instances every year where I need to manually intervene, but not major breakages every 2 years.

Granted, it’s not for everyone. You have to recreate the fragile duct-taped components you get in other distros, which is an investment of time. You will know how and why your computer works though and will not have to resort to the Ubuntu stack exchange (or their other communities) for the magic formula that will fix your issues.

I’m hoping we can change hearts one by one with this message: Arch is not scary; it might solve the problems you’ve been having :D

> In Linux land, the mainstream distros ship with fragile duct-taped components that work if you’re lucky but are a complete pain to troubleshoot and are a bigger pain as time goes on and you have major upgrades.

Laughing in Fedora. Out of curiosity how much "mainstream distros" did you use?

Exactly my thoughts, Fedora should be given a try. I've had it on a number of laptops and desktops, and for the last few years for sure everything has just worked (tm).

I tried Ubuntu and the soundcard was not detected at all because the kernel used is too old (requires 5.5 apparently). I tried upgrading to Ubuntu 20.04 and the kernel there was too old as well...

Arch was the best distro I could find that used the latest kernel by default. Audio worked there.

Both Fedora and Opensuse Tumbleweed ship a very recent Kernel though.

> I absolutely hate it. It throttles constantly even after undervolting it. I had to do a bunch of black magic to get it to sleep properly (which is evidently happening to every Dell) and eventually gave up on that and just set it to hibernate any time the lids closed (it's 32gb so that adds about 30 seconds to the start up time). I've spent more time tweaking this thing, reading forums and reddit about how to make it perform DECENTLY than I did building my last hackintosh and I don't enjoy that experience ever. When you get past all these issues it's still Windows 10 which I just find to be the most annoying OS I've ever used.

Really? I love my XPS 7390 2-in-1, it's the best laptop I've used and owned by far and that includes Macbooks. Combined with a WD19TB dock (and a useful trick of flipping it around so it's an inverted L) it makes a great work from home setup. Its thermal profile is relatively aggressive by default but it should stay at 15W (and ~65 degree temps) indefinitely. Upping the power limit to 25W (like the Windows / Dell "Ultra Performance" mode does) and it appears it can maintain that too. I mean, Crysis can even run on the thing [1].

That said, I'd probably lose my mind if I had to run Windows on it. A suggestion for getting good old S3 sleep to work: enable the hack for reenabling S3 sleep in the Windows registry, then disable "Early Signs of Life / Dell Logo" in the BIOS [2]. I'm not sure if this will work on Windows, but it works flawlessly on Arch.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3MXS_KJf_M0 [2] https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Dell_XPS_13_2-in-1_(739...

It seems like we're just waiting on bios updates for Ice Lake to have a proper thermal profile. I'm not sure. What happens is the laptops thermal profile is way under the Intel recommended profile. I believe it starts to throttle around 80* instead of the 100* or so Intel says Ice Lake should be able to run at.

It's been awhile since I played with this but I don't believe I was able to bump my voltage to 25w on Ice Lake. Maybe I'm wrong.

Maybe I'll do a fresh install and give it a try again. I've heard a few comments where peoples 7390 2in1s were running great but on /r/dell I've seen a lot more with complaints like mine.

I did get some improvement by dropping the thermal/power plan from High Performance down to Quiet. That seems to keep the thermals down so it triggers throttling less.

My problem is it throttles constantly and has other issues where if you move it (lift it up) while it's under load it will immediately throttle and I trigger it sitting on my lap a lot.

I bought it hoping I could run a bunch of VMs (thus the 32gb) and do light development work on it but I can barely even draw in Figma without having a rough experience so I completely gave up on developing on it.

This is a really good article https://getpocket.com/redirect?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.playerz...

I've heard that most of the Xps lineup has cooling issues. On the other hand I've got an Aero 15 (2018 I think), fan noise is decent and after a small undervolt it can indefinitely sustain max single core turbo speeds (4.1GHz) with respectable all core turbo (3.7GHz), while sitting at 70C. There are laptops out there with adequate cooling solutions out there.

A lot of high end laptops have cooling issues because it's the kind of thing you have to buy the device and actually use it for a while to find out, but everyone sees "i9, ultra slim, 'pro'" straight away.

To give some numbers to the comment I made previously in this thread, with an XPS 7390 2-in-1:

Single core turbo 3.9GHz, maintains indefinitely, temperature hovers around ~75 degrees, fans around 5000RPM

All core turbo: Keeps 3.4GHz and ~45W TDP for around 10 seconds, before dropping to 2.7GHz and ~25W TDP indefinitely. Temps still around ~75, with the fans around 8000 RPM.

That's without any undervolting, but with the processor set for 25W TDP (like the Windows "Ultra Performance" mode). Adding in some undervolting gets the all core turbo up to 2.9GHz.

This is Ice Lake?

Ice Lake, yeah. It's the i7 1065G7 [1]

[1] https://ark.intel.com/content/www/us/en/ark/products/196597/...

Can you tell me what you did to set it to 25watt? I swear I've tried this a few times going through Throttlestop tutorials with different usb-c chargers (from the stock 67w up to 97w) and either that option was greyed out or I never got it to actually do 25w.

I know what you mean - had my share of random issues with Lenovo, HP, Dell - but at the end of the day Windows/Linux/Android are more customisable and I'm missing that a lot when I switched ecosystems.

I use a 15" 2018 MacBook Pro with the six-core i9 at work and Turbo Boost Switcher[1] has been my favourite discovery. It lets you disable the turbo boost function of the processor which means the fans never spin up and the battery lasts longer. I pretty much always leave it disabled unless I am going to be transcoding video or compiling something and can't notice a performance hit even with a couple of VMs running.

The only bad thing is that it requires a kernel extension so will stop working when they are deprecated in 10.16. Hopefully Apple introduces a similar feature as there were rumours of a "Pro" mode coming which would ramp up the fans and clock, my hope is they add a complementary "quiet" mode or similar to disable turbo boost.

[1] https://github.com/rugarciap/Turbo-Boost-Switcher

Thank you for mentioning this. I've been wondering for years how to get my fans down. I'm almost considering to submit this to HN.

I have the same machine and I used this option with volta - it was the most reliable in turning down the heat while keeping the system stable but at the same time it made the system considerably slower even in day to day tasks (with just a few of background build watchers and server + a YT video on the second screen the RubyMine become unresponsive regularly)

I have almost identical spec laptops from Dell and Apple (XPS 15 and 15" MacBook Pro with same CPU) and on both they ramp up to full fan speed when I do any serious work on them so it isn't limited to Apple laptops.

Pretty much all 15" laptops with 45W Intel CPUs turn into jet engines when under load, at least in my experience.

Also not to defend Apple but I do find the MacBook Pro cools down and gets quieter quicker than the Dell does although that could down to my personal setup (tools, configuration, etc). Could be the more powerful Nvidia dGPU on the Dell although I am talking purely CPU workload however with the shared thermal solution the Dell has it could be a bigger factor than I think?

I have a thinkpad t460p, it has a 45w cpu and stays quiet under load, even after years of use. It is two times as thick as a macbook pro. Newer thinkpads are thinner and louder.

As long as people buy for sleekness first and thermals second this is the outcome you get.

Yes I wanted to go back and edit my post to clarify my "pretty much all" statement to state that I mean pretty much all the popular consumer and "stylish mobile workstation" 15" models with 45W CPUs are like this.

It is possible to buy thicker/bulkier laptops that do a much better job at passive cooling and so don't get so loud.

Personally I prefer the lighter/slimmer laptops for easier portability and am fine with the trade off of them being louder and thermal throttling a bit under load but I appreciate not everyone feels the same as me.

In my experience there are 15" laptops with adequate cooling solutions for Intel's 45W parts. They just turn out to be heavier, because a proper metal heatsink is just heavy.

>Also not to defend Apple but I do find the MacBook Pro cools down and gets quieter quicker than the Dell does although that could down to my personal setup

Apple tunes itself to spin down it's fans later, which is why you're noticing this.

This is because when the average user runs a cpu intensive task it is unlikely you will run another one seconds later, so the cpu can cool off without all the fan noise.

But windows has power profiles, intel utilities to undervolt and limit boost clock

The core thermal management of macOS seems to be better than Windows:

https://youtu.be/LGOmbNRlZdM?t=495 (8:15)

And I've always gotten better battery life on average on MacBooks than other laptops, and in macOS than in Windows on the same Mac.

The problem is when there are bugs (of which there are many) in the other higher-level daemons and third-party apps that get stuck in some task and cause the CPU to unnecessarily shoot up.

For example I try to do things like renice +20 for every Steam process, because it's a bad macOS citizen and suddenly shoots up to 100% CPU for no reason, but it doesn't help until I terminate them. Even the TextInput etc. daemons get randomly wonky and have to be terminated.

Running at 95C all the time is not "better".

What runs at 95C "all the time?"

If the hardware is designed to handle it, why not?

Important clarification

The core thermal management of macOS seems to be better than Windows on the same mac device

Unfortunately this is not new. A lot of good can be said about Apple's devices (inc. Macbooks), but in terms of thermal performance the Macbooks are pretty bad and have been for a very long time. They often use software to paper over the problem. Part of that seems to be a design trade-off to hide the exhaust vent and continuing the match towards thin.

As an aside the 2019 redesign of the Mac Pro likely has the best thermal design we've seen from Apple by far. I often wonder what an actual mobile workstation laptop from Apple would look like, I'm talking at least three times the thickness, hardy case/screen, great thermal design, and huge battery. It would be niche but fantastic.

Laptops isn't designed for serious workloads. It's a small portable devices to hash some errands at starbucks. You can't change physics laws unfortunately to make all the heat disappear somewhere.

Keep in mind Intel marketing as well which advertises CPU with way less heat than they expose in real life.

The way you have this machines is because apple is commercial company and they should follow market demands.

"10 cores", "silent": you can only choose one.

If you want a reliable silent machine, use the proper tool for the job. I.e. mac mini / imac. There is the only way to get proper cooling. You can't have silent cooling in your laptop. Especially if it's "a top spec".

"10 cores", "silent": you can only choose one.

No. It's "10 cores", "silent", "5mm thick": choose two. Personally I don't see the point in having a laptop thinner than 20mm. I would pay very good money for a 25mm thick, reasonably powerful laptop with super quiet cooling.

The Thinkpad T440s was dead quiet. It was the first generation of thinkpads with a 15W CPU instead of 35W. A current mobile CPU configured to 15W TDP would be powerful enough for basically any task that you would throw at a single computer. Instead of keeping things quiet, manufacturers focus on making laptops thin enough to replace a knife.

On current laptops, the noise level tends to follow the system load very closely. Just putting a bit more thermal mass into the cooling system would allow for a much more steady noise level, which is much less annoying (and the fan would not have to spin up at all on short load bursts like starting a VM).

> Instead of keeping things quiet, manufacturers focus on making laptops thin enough to replace a knife

They focus on what customers want. If they want 10 cores 5mm thick notebooks, they'll get it. It'll be noisy but who cares. It'll be used to like facebook posts anyways. Professions will buy stationary computers for the heavy lifting anyways.

T440 is an awesome machine although X1 is more popular, which is kind of slender version of t440.

> Professions will buy

I, a professional, have no say in what equipment I use in my profession — my employer does, and they do not allow outside equipment. (I get 1 MBP.)

I don't think this at all uncommon, either; I've only worked for one company so far that allowed personal machines, and that was only briefly while they were so small they weren't purchasing any equipment for the employees yet. (They rapidly outgrew that.)

You can add a centimeter or so of thickness and get perfectly adequate cooling for high power parts - look at all the gaming laptops for an example of this (if you can get past the godawful visual design).

This isn't a "laptops" issue, this is an "ultra thin" issue. Trouble is most people only want to buy ultra thin laptops and don't realize that that super powerful 8 core cpu isn't any faster than a much less expensive one when there isn't adequate cooling.

Laptops certainly can be designed for actual work. Its just macbooks are focused on being as thin as possible. If they put the current gen macbook in a 2012 macbook case they could make it run much much better since they could put a good cooler in it.

In theory, laptop manufacturers that use aluminum in their chassis could just put the CPU die right up against the chassis, Remove the bottom feet, and then tell you to only ever use it sitting on top of a table designed to function as a top-down heat pipe (i.e. the kind they use to make “scraped” frozen yoghurt.) The table would become the CPU’s direct-contact heatsink.

Not practical at all, of course, but this is well within the laws of physics. (And people do lesser things all the time, using e.g. those laptop “cooling stands” with clearance and fans built in.)

It would be practical to at least have some form of heat transfer to the case for passive cooling advantage, but this can have the downside of the end user getting burned/uncomfortable and saying, Why does my computer get so hot?

The recent metal-cased RTL-SDR's from rtl-sdr-blog have this "problem". The metal case actually helps the chip run cooler, but it gets hotter to the touch then the early insulating plastic models.

They are not that slim nor very beautiful, but gaming laptops can handle serious workloads for a long time. And many of them have a feature to stay silent with lower performances. They actually have a much better cooling system, but it's heavier and more expensive.

My MacBook Pro can (loudly) build LLVM just fine. The rest of the time it doesn’t make a peep and I make sure it stays that way.

This seems like a hardware issue. If you haven’t tried App Tamer [1], check it out (I’m not affiliated with it in any way).

[1]: https://stclairsoft.com/AppTamer/index.html

Perhaps try https://www.rugarciap.com/turbo-boost-switcher-for-os-x/

This can extend your battery a decent amount, and obviously would cut down on fan noise.

...at the cost of speed. A big % of a computer's performance comes from its turbo clocks. For instance, the 16" MBP with 6 cores is 2.6GHz base, up to 4.5GHz turbo. Disabling turbo in this means you're slowing down the computer as much as 40%.

Also, it's questionable whether running at lower clocks saves power overall. Apparently it's more efficient to run higher clocks, but for shorter periods of time than it is to run medium clocks for extended periods of time.

[1] https://en.wikichip.org/wiki/race-to-sleep

I think there's a difference between turbo boosting for short workloads and turbo boosting for long workloads. Especially since a big cause of turbo boosting for long workloads is because of a bug in some app I'm running, like an infinite loop doing nothing useful.

Turbo Boost Switcher's website says it can adjust Turbo Boost based on fan speed (only in its Pro version). This is probably the best way to do it: disable Turbo Boost only when it's running for long enough to turn on the fan.

I honestly think a "no fan noise" setting should be a built-in feature.

have you considered using a laptop cooler? If you get two large fans they will be quite quiet.

I have found that "gaming" on my macbook almost requires it as for whatever reason, the system will NOT spool up when intel gpu gets hot.

Just search for it https://www.eidac.de/

This is fan control - but I want CPU/GPU power control - I wouldn't mind lowering my boost clocks to limit peak temperatures on heavy workloads.

I've been using turbo boost switcher for a couple of months now with a base MPB16 and it's worked well. I pretty much keep turbo boost off all the time, barely ever notice any slowdown and it seems to help with noise & heat.


Happily sprang for the pro version, it's needed to not have to keep authorising it in on every switch.

> or keep the fans at lower RPM but constantly instead of letting the CPU idle at 60-70 degrees with no fans

My reading skills still suggest SMCfanControl fulfills the description given by the parent post

So many people on here seem to be intent on micromanaging their device's battery. IMO the whole point is to let macOS handle it so you can focus on actual work.

I know Apple has screwed up in the past with throttling iPhone CPU's (bad). At this point they know not to go to those lengths again.

The only thing they screwed up on was not telling people they were throttling. They're still doing it (which is good).

To be fair that's a pretty big thing to screw up. I commend Apple for a lot (see my last 3 comments), but I think they cross the line of too-voodoo too frequently. I think they'd do well to dispel more magic.

That "issue" was way overblown.

Apple's change did the right thing. It fixed a ton of older phones which before were rendered unusable since they would experience random shutdowns due to naturally degraded Li-Ion batteries.

Every manufacturer should implement the kind of fix Apple did (and I'm sure at this point, they have).

They even mentioned the change in the original release notes for the iOS update.

>They even mentioned the change in the original release notes for the iOS update

No, they didn't. The amended the release notes after the fact.


I still think they could've (and should've) been more transparent.

Android has been doing it for years, and it's always been toggleable. If Apple didn't want to implement a toggle that's fine, but they could have easily indicated to the user that their device's battery has degraded, that batteries are replaceable, and that performance can be restored by replacing said battery.

Android phones aren’t supported long enough for their OEMs to have to deal with widespread battery degradation.

The problem with how Apple did it originally was that it was completely opaque to the user. As far as the average user was concerned, their phone was slowing down for no reason.

The Battery Health menu should have been implemented from the start, and the controversy probably would have been completely avoided.

It wasn't the right thing. People thew out their phones because they were slow not knowing they could have been fixed cheaply with a new battery.

Hopefully nobody actually throws phones out. That bundle of molecules does not belong in a landfill.

My library has a dropbox to refurbish old ones for blind people, for example, but I'm sure dozens of places will be happy to take them off your hands.

They certainly do, I have seen it often. I'm not even sure what to do with old phones. I don't know of any recycling places. I usually just let them sit in a stack in a draw. I once had a phone come with a bag to mail for recycling but I haven't seen something like that for a while.

The Apple Store will take any phone in any condition and recycle it for you.

Apple has offered battery replacements for years before they rolled out that patch.

Replacing the battery would have fixed the issue at any time. It's not like they were holding it back.

They were holding it back. That's what the several hundred million dollar lawsuit they settled was about. And their public apology. And the hundreds of articles in the tech press.

Apple's own front-line staff (ie genius's) were not informed of the throttling. So if you complained of a slow phone you were told you were imagining it, or it was an inevitable part of the newer more complex OS upgrades.

At any rate, you were told there was nothing you could do.

I think people apply a double standard when talking about Apple since they are the de-facto industry leader. The battery degradation issue is something that affects nearly all Li-Ion battery powered devices.

This includes all Android phones, PC laptops, etc.

People have such low expectations of the other products by default that no standards are applied and no quality is expected.

This is the issue. We apply (rightfully so) a far higher standard when assessing the industry leader (Apple) but we apply no standard at all to the competition which frequently gets away with the same kinds of issues (and also issues that are much much worse).

I think what you're saying overall is true to a small extent due to how Apple have positioned themselves. But this ...

> we apply no standard at all to the competition which frequently gets away with the same kinds of issues (and also issues that are much much worse)

... is total BS. Google and Samsung are never, ever, given a free ride when they mess up. Come on. Let's not be hyperbolic.

> The battery degradation issue is something that affects nearly all Li-Ion battery powered devices. This includes all Android phones, PC laptops, etc.

Irrelevant. It's not a question of whether the throttling is a valid solution to a technical limitation (it is). The problem is that (a) there were no major manufacturers throttling CPU speed due to battery health in phones, tablets or laptops before this. It was not a known practice. And (b) since Apple actively hid the throttling from everyone, including it's own employees, very few people were aware that a simple battery replacement would bring the phone back to like-new performance.

You seem to have gone from outright falsehoods - "They even mentioned the change in the original release notes for the iOS update" to mischaracterisation "Replacing the battery would have fixed the issue... It's not like they were holding it back." and now you've moved on to "what about the other guys!?" deflection.

It puzzles me how some people will so blindly defend Apple without critically looking at the facts. Just admit it was a mistake and looked really, really bad.

Apple has. Why not you?

And for the record, I'm a very happy Apple customer. I've used their computers exclusively since 2005 and their phones exclusively since 2010. I rely on their products and ecosystem to earn a living. But I'm not blind and I'm not stupid.

> You seem to have gone from outright falsehoods - "They even mentioned the change in the original release notes for the iOS update"

It was in the note as far as I'm aware. You're saying that as if I'm trying to spread misinformation. I don't appreciate that at all. It's very rude.

> mischaracterisation "Replacing the battery would have fixed the issue... It's not like they were holding it back."

That's not a mischaracterization. You absolutely could have gotten your battery replaced. There were even tons of 3rd party services that were offering battery replacement along with screen replacement. It's not like it was some sort of dark secret or as if they banned you from replacing your battery.

> and now you've moved on to "what about the other guys!?" deflection.

I think people should be angry that other manufacturers weren't doing anything to extend the life of their batteries. I see that as worse than using techniques to manage battery life (which the operating system is doing at all times by the way - same with your GPU).

It's a mischaracterization because as you've been informed, there was no known connection between CPU speed and battery health. Even among Apple employees.

So while your statement is technically true, it's irrelevant and misleading. Of course battery replacements have always been available! How does that change anything at all? You aren't addressing the central accusation (which is the secrecy). You aren't bringing anything new or interesting to the discussion.

Sorry, if I've been rude. But you've been corrected a couple times without acknowledging it, and continue being slippery by arguing a position without addressing the core accusation. I wouldn't say that's rude but it's frustratingly bad etiquette.

>I think people should be angry that other manufacturers weren't doing anything to extend the life of their batteries. I see that as worse than using techniques to manage battery life

Sure. I've never owned another smartphone and can't comment on how those customers feel. You're probably right. At any rate it's not relevant to how Apple treated its own customers is it?

Try to reply while addressing the central accusation. That the throttling itself is a perfectly valid solution but it was wrong to not inform consumers it was happening. That it was wrong to have customers with $700 phones and $100 AppleCare be told by Apple Genius's that they were imaging the slowdown and nothing could be done... except buy a new phone.

Now, I'm not 100% convinced Apple had nefarious intentions in withholding the info from staff and customers. But, neither you, nor I, will ever know that. All we have to go on, is the facts of what happened and how people were treated. It seems like a black and white, open and shut case to anyone objective. People were lied to, plain and simple. How can you defend that?

What they failed to do was show the user a message saying "Your phone has been slowed down due to an old battery, get a battery replacement at an apple store to restore the original speed"

Absolutely no one is going to assume their phone is slow due to an old battery.

They also needed to put the option to disable it. Now anyone who was pissed off by this behavior can disable it, which makes it a way better situation.

I don't understand why the iPhone CPU thing was such a big deal. It's a perfectly sane power management feature. Apple had to choose between two options:

A. Devices lose battery life per charge over time, eventually powering off randomly because not enough power can be supplied to run the hardware.

B. Devices throttle their CPU over time to keep battery life per charge relatively stable, and avoid powering off.

Apple chose B.

I also don't understand the people who are so upset that Apple didn't say anything - any hardware/software company will make thousands of little tradeoffs like this during R&D, they can't be expected to publicly announce every time they make a decision during development.

It was such a big deal because Apple has a monopoly on „acceptable“ replacement batteries (the system shows a warning when you insert a 3rd party battery), and they charge 3x their actual worth.

That's absolutely a separate problem worth being mad about, but that doesn't change the cpu throttling thing being afaic a perfectly sane power management feature.

I'm surprised to be defending Apple on this, normally most things they do seem pretty anti consumer and leave a bad taste in my mouth. But in this specific case I really don't think they deserve the scorn.

If I buy an used iPhone I want to make sure all the parts inside are original.

The warning is there for that reason. The phone still works with 3rd party batteries.

The major legitimate complaint was that Apple was extremely poor at communicating this to their users.

What part of "setting a charging threshold" is "micromanaging". The entire motivation of being able to set a charge threshold is to get the software to do it, instead of being just plain silly by forcing yourself to change your plug in / unplug habits.

So they are trying to automatise a system so people don't have to think about it, but a bulk of reactions are about finding ways to make it behave better in their specific use case.

Doesn't it mean Apple basically half-assed it ?

Would be nice if that worked though. I have a 2 year old MacBook with a dead battery, turns off anywhere between 40 and 60% after about 1 hour of use.

Until they come up with something that actually works I'd be grateful to be able to set a lower max charge if I know that the device is mostly used plugged in. And since nobody has been able to come up with anything in over 10 years of dead batteries from devices which are always plugged in, I doubt that this will be resolved anytime soon.

Why doesn't the UI report 80% as 100%? It seems like exposing this to the user is more confusing than anything, when the cells could be over provisioned and treated politely by a system controller, without the user being part of the decision.

Aren't SSD's over provisioned in this manner? You sell a drive with a terabyte of storage, but actually ship more than a terabyte of chips in the case to accommodate degradation over the life of the device.

> Why doesn't the UI report 80% as 100%?

Because the last time they tried "silently manage the battery without the user being part of the decision" it didn't go over real well?

That wasn't even managing the battery, per-se(although it is power management, it wasn't strictly about health). It was reducing clock speeds to extend the amount of time the device would be on. They still do it even if the device has a healthy battery: drain the phone to 1% and you will see. Rather than running at full blast and shutting down, you can extract more runtime.

Some EVs do something similar: the Nissan Leaf, when the battery gets really low(and I mean it, far past the point where you lost all percentage and mileage indicators), will enter a reduced power mode (or popularly called "turtle mode"). This allows it to eke out a few more miles out of an otherwise mostly dead battery. There is a "turtle" that lights up on the screen, maybe Apple could just do that.

Turns out batteries hate when they are almost empty and you are trying to extract full power from them, voltage drops even more. So there are some compromises that have to be made.

The problem was the phones battery couldn't deliver enough current to run the cpu at full power, even though it had charge remaining to run the phone for some period of time in a lower power mode.

Without power management, when a high demand task came alone and the CPU tried to draw more power, the phone would crash or shut-down.

The firmware update capped performance not to extend the run-time when the batteries were low, but to allow the phone to run reliably when the batteries were worn.

> the Nissan Leaf, when the battery gets really low(and I mean it, far past the point where you lost all percentage and mileage indicators), will enter a reduced power mode (or popularly called "turtle mode")

TIL. I thought I was pushing it coming home with 2 miles left…


I just switched from Linux to Mac for my company notebook.

No offense, but for me it is like the Mac is taking my hand and guiding me threw a mess. However sometimes I know the way better than the Mac but it is not letting me. It actually makes it really hard to „go my way“.

For example the “only trusted developer program“ can be run . I understand why it makes sense for most people but I want an option to decide it mysel who is to be trusted. To be fair I had to google a bit for a terminal command to fix this but either way it leaves a bitter taste. I fear that I may lose this “fix“

Now back to the battery health. Why not allow being transparent? If most of users want the 100% showing then make it default.

I think that’s what boils it down for me. Having no choice with OS X. Now I know some will say that’s how it is for Mac but do you think it is too much to ask for this (really stable) system to support choices?

I can not align with this.

"Gatekeeper", the ‘only trusted developers’ setting is a setting in System Preferences. Windows also ships with an equivalent setting in the default.

That SSD analogy is wrong. Doubling the capacity doubles the lifespan of the device. The reason why there is extra space is because performance of a full SSD can degrade to unacceptable levels. Basically you can write and erase but you can't overwrite flash. If the drive is full the writes are queued in the over provisioned part of the SSD and once the garbage collector has run and freed up space the pending writes are transferred back onto the regular storage.

Some samsung tablets (and phones, I think?) have an option that does this - it remaps 80% so it appears as 100% and won't charge past it. Nice way to improve battery health for a device that spends a good chunk of every day plugged in.

A fun side effect of this is that the tablet can boot while at '0%' battery, and then it will automatically shut off a little bit later to avoid dipping below the safe range - presumably '0%' is actually like 10% or so.

> Why doesn't the UI report 80% as 100%?

The Verge piece on this says that this is what will happen.


Well, as a user, wouldn't it be nice if I could access 100 % of my battery for situations where I need as much life as possible? 20 % is fairly significant. It also cuts down on battery longevity, but plenty of people might not care at all.

For sure, a "extra battery" mode could make sense as the opposite of "low power" mode. Still, that smells like the sort of feature the average user would be superstitious of, like the obsessive app force-quitting I see folks do on the bus all the time.

Would be a fine feature if it was exposed in a setting for the user to pick.

It's my understanding that modern EVs like the Kia Niro EV or the Chevy Bolt work this way. When nominally charged to 100%, the actual charge is closer to 80%. A 75 kW battery will typically only go to 64 kW.

All li ion batteries work this way. If the battery mapped 100% to the chemical max capacity, your batteries would degrade very fast and die very young.

This whole discussion is colored by confusiin between the heavily simplified model presented by the charge indicator with the raw battery properties.

Fun fact: there is no "80%" level either as seen from the battery controller POV, that's just a forecast about how much energy the battery might be able produce if run until the cut-off level (and the 0% level here is also a fair bit above the chemical empty state), and the battery controller is constantly updating its model about how the battery behaves when discharging to keep the forecast accuracy reasonable when the battery ages. When the batteries come from the factory, the calibrations for 0%, 80%, 100% are at certain voltages, and they constantly move throughout the life of the battery. (Maybe not the 0% voltage)

During one of the last few hurricanes, Tesla did an OTA update that unlocked extra range for people trying to leave.

I seem to remember it being something like the hardware capacity is one number but there's a software upsell that you normally need to pay to unlock full capacity. But it may have also been a "we'll push the normal operating parameters to give you this extra boost", don't quite remember.

Tesla sells two versions of that car, one with longer range, even though they have identical hardware. During the hurricane, they lifted the software cap on the shorter-range version.

Tesla has a very minimal top buffer though, it is only used to offset the known degradation of the new battery. After 6-9 months you'll have no top buffer left. You can tell because charging from 99 to 100% is at extremely low amps and takes forever.

With their Powerpack products, Tesla oversizes the inverters and capacity a bit to deal with reduced capacity over time, so if you have a 1 MWh battery, they might install 1.15 MWh and limit to 1 MWh so that in 20 years it still has a 1 MWh capability.

I believe macOS already does this. Not down to 80%, but sometimes when it shows 100% and you check the battery info, it shows that it is actually still charging.

Reminds me of how they changed Finder in Mac OS X Snow Leopard (10.6) to report disk capacity in base-10 bytes instead of base-2 bytes.

Eh. That was more for consistency with how storage devices are sold -- if a 10^30 byte hard disk is described by storage vendors as "1 TB", it's incredibly confusing to users to have it show up as "931 GB".

There's nothing wrong with letting users learn how hard disk marketers are ripping them off, instead of playing their game. But, as usual, Apple prefers to choose blissful ignorance for their sheep customers.

Besides that, we have proper units for binary multiples: KiB, MiB, and so on. I've only seen KDE use them properly so far, and it's a shame.

Besides that, we have proper units for binary multiples

Approximately 0 average users know about them, and of the technical users, only the truly irritatingly pedantic are going to use them (which may be why they've shown up in Linux).

That added "i" inbetween can go unnoticed for those not caring, it can be an invitation to learn for the curious, and most importantly it is an important disambiguation for those who know. The trade-off is absolutely positive to me.

Is it really "ripping them off" to use SI prefixes for base 10 just because (a huge number of) other people are accidentally using SI prefixes (base 10) when they really ought to be using IEC prefixes (base 2)?

Calling it a a "2 TiB disk" when it's actually a 2,000,000,000,000 B disk would be a blatant ripoff.

Its amazing how dumb most charging is for smart devices. I plug my phone in every night and it does a quick charge then sits there and does nothing the rest of the night. It even knows my alarm clock time, surely it should be smart enough to slowly charge all night.

iPhones will selectively delay charging past 80% if you're at home and if your usage history indicates that the phone will be left on the charger for a while longer.


Apparently a notification will show up when optimised charging is enabled. I’ve never seen it, because the functionality also requires Significant Locations and other location services (listed near the bottom of the page) to be enabled.

That seems to me to be quite unfriendly to privacy. And given that I always charge my phone overnight and use my phone’s alarm function, it could simply use that as the target time to finish charging to 100%. No complicated location-based ML needed.

It’s all on device so I don’t think there are any significant privacy implications.

At least, it would be nice if they told me about this requirement on the Settings sheet where I enable "Optimized Battery Charging". I was wondering why it never seems to kick in. Thank you for the clue!

My Asus Zenfone 6 just looks at my next alarm for this purpose.

Having the machine know your location has nothing to do with privacy issues.

Having the machine upload or make available that information to someone else does. I don't know what the Mac does here.

It's not necessarily that it's dumb, there's a bit of battery physics and chemistry involved. If you look up EV charging curves for example [1], the first bit goes fast and the last bit slows down. A rough analogy I've heard is it's like blowing up a balloon -- as it gets bigger, there's more back-pressure so it gets harder to fill up the last bit. That's why the EV roadtrip strategy is "frequent fast-charging" -- you spend less time if you recharge from 10% to 60% twice instead of going from 10% to 100% once (also safer to take driver breaks).

If your phone never gets past 80%, it could be the battery just needs replacement. Batteries are consumables, and they do degrade after a year or two or three (depending on cycling, temperatures, use, etc). iOS has a battery health indicator giving you a rough estimate of the state... if the health is low, get a repair kit from ifixit and then it's a fun evening activity to open one of those puppies up and see just how tiny everything in there is!

[1] https://www.google.com/search?q=ev+charging+curves

This is a total tangent but I can't resist:

"it's like blowing up a balloon -- as it gets bigger, there's more back-pressure so it gets harder to fill up the last bit."

That's not actually the case with a balloon. :)

If you think about it I'm sure you've noticed that you have to blow the hardest right when you start, and then it gets easier. The reason has to do with the curvature of the balloon and the fact that the same amount of air causes less and less stretching of the material as it fills up.

They aren't saying that the charging circuit is dumb because it slows down as it gets nearer to 100%. (That's how it works when it is trying to charge as fast as it reasonably can.)

Instead, they are saying it's dumb because it doesn't slow down when it can charge fast but doesn't need to charge fast.

If your phone is at 40% and you plug it in, it will probably finish charging in about 2 hours. But if you plug it in at bedtime, you don't need it to be done in 2 hours because you'll still be asleep. So why not figure out the lack of urgency, then take 4 or 5 hours and keep the battery temperature lower?

It's not that adding additional charge to the battery is difficult. It's that the current has to be tapered off when the battery is near-full so it doesn't go over its rated voltage.

Thanks for the clarification, the analogy clearly isn't very good.

Out of curiosity, have you found a better ELI5 analogy that doesn't bend over backwards with a rube goldberg setup of pipes and waterflow? I've struggled explaining this phenomenon to people buying EV's, where charging behavior become a regular thing people need to figure out.

Well, if they're familiar with beer, and sophisticated enough to pour it into a glass: poured very quickly, the beer will develop a large head that overflows the glass, but pouring slowly creates a smaller head (or none, but don't do that).

There's not more beer, but it fills more space temporarily when poured faster.

That's not a bad example, I'm gonna try it out. Thanks!

On my old Galaxy Nexus running CyanogenMod, quick charging had to be explicitly activated. I still think that off-by-default is the most sane configuration, as I've rarely needed it.

> it should be smart enough to slowly charge all night

I have a Sony which does this (XZ1c, stock firmware)

I wish they'd give us the option (on the iPhone and iPad as well) to arbitrarily set the maximum charge level. Just like on my Tesla, I'd like to be able to tell my phone not to charge above 80%.

Then 500M people complaining on Reddit that their phones only charge to 80% for some reason.

And then they’ll do the same thing they did to the antenna signal strength bars and fake it to make people happy...

you can mostly fix this issue by hiding the option in "developer settings". on android, there's a lot of weird stuff buried in here but you never hear people complaining about it.

Easy: make the charge percentage display relative to the maximum configured charge. Just like it already is with battery deterioration over time: if my battery only holds 80% of its design capacity, the phone will still tell me to be 100% charged as soon as the battery hits that 80%-of-design-capacity-brick-wall.

I just want the option to manually move that brick wall down a bit (they're already telling me exactly where it is right now, on iPhones at least, on the MacBook I ask coconutBattery).

Then they'll be complaining their phone only lasts 8 hours before a charge instead of 10.

If they do that after deliberately reducing their maximum charge (a setting which would probably come with a warning that reduced runtime of the phone is the result of doing it), they'll probably also complain that their internet speed has gone down after disabling the LTE/4G option (actually that does seem to be even less transparent, because not everyone knows that LTE is faster than 3G). Didn't stop Apple from offering a switch to disable LTE/4G.

They could probably get away with changing what is technically 95% to read as '100'

I realised the other day that Macs don't give 'battery time remaining' anymore, although I'm not sure when that was removed

Edit: apparently you can still see time remaining in Activity Monitor

Note that essentially all modern battery systems essentially do this under the hood. The "100%" shown to the user isn't the most you could charge the cells, just as high as you want to charge it to meet lifetime degradation targets. Tesla just goes a bit crazier here and exposes more headroom because they can rely on drivers being more involved in charging strategies.

What separates drivers from phone/laptop users? Certainly not techies vs normals. It would seem to me that both cohorts are capable of, and potentially interested in, deciding between "shorter days but more years" and "longer days but fewer years."

I think the real difference is that car manufacturers' business health depends on less maintenance over many years, and phone manufacturers' business health depends on planned obsolescence.

Cars have way more capacity than they typically need, and very predictable usage patterns. If your car has 400 km of range and your daily commute is 80 km total, you can pretty safely charge to only 200 km and not get range anxiety. In the rare cases where you need as much capacity as possible (road trips), you know your approximate departure time, so the battery only needs to be at maximal charge for a short time.

Laptops don't get used like that. People plug them in, then unplug and walk around with them until they either they run out of power or their meetings are over. It's really asking too much to have people plan their usage out. Plus the draw rates aren't predictable. If I can get away with just checking email, my laptop lasts all day. If I have to do a big C++ compile that's 30 watt-hours right there.

I might also add that really only Tesla is doing the charging guidance UI. Other car manufacturers spend a lot of resources to perpetuate the illusion of a battery working like a fuel tank.

Some laptops support this too (eg business Thinkpads). Apple is a luxury brand and batteries are cheap to replace so it doesn't want to burden users to spend their precious cognitive capacity on battery management.

Long time ago Ezekeel, a xda-developers user, published a kernel mod for the Nexus S that let you choose the max percentage that the battery could reach while charging. It was called BLX aka Battery Life eXtender. I always set it to 80%. I've always been intrigued by extending the life of li-ion cells and that's the only work that goes into that direction AFAIK. I believe it was 2011. There hasn't been anything like that ever since.

There's AccA (and the command-line ACC) which allow fairly sophisticated control over max voltage and charging rates, with easy profile switching (features depend on kernel/hardware, but works with a lot of stock ROMs). Root is required, unsurprisingly.


>There hasn't been anything like that ever since.


root required, obviously.

This is exactly what I was thinking. The article doesn't mention if there is a setting to temporarily allow the battery to charge to a higher percentage.

I assume checking the box to not use this setting will work the same way but I want to make sure I switch it back. Just like how Tesla prompts you intermittently.

The only thing wrong with my Note 8 at this point is battery life. I'd gladly have dealt with 80% charge over its entire life in order to still have a good battery life now.

iOS has made steps towards this by learning your charging habits (e.g at night), going to 80%, and wait to the last minute before topping up.

My Asus Zenfone 6 does this. It also seems to modulate the charge current to a low level if charging overnight. A tap on the notification engages full charge power.

This is something I have heard about but have yet to experience. Maybe my charging habits are too irregular.

PSA: If you have a thinkpad, the lenovo settings app lets you control this too. In lenovo vantage, go to Device > My Device Settings > Battery settings > Battery Charge Threshold.

Except that's a fixed threshold you have to set manually. This tracks the thermal and charging profile of the battery, learns it's characteristics and adjusts the threshold dynamically.

Which has a huge impact on battery health. Good and bad battery management explains a non trivial difference between high and low quality LiPo battery products.

The Dell XPS 13 also offers an interface in the BIOS that lets you set a charge limit, hours not to charge the laptop, and a bunch of other great controls.

The only big issue is that they don't expose it through a friendly UI within Windows 10. It's nonsense that I need to go to the BIOS to tweak these settings.

What's really nice about that approach is that I run linux on mine and it all still works perfectly!

There's an application named something like Dell Command Center (maybe Dell Power Manager on windows?) that comes preinstalled with the default xps win10. Or you can get it yourself from the dell website. It exposes all of the bios settings.

There's also a DCC package for Linux which can do the same thing. I made a thin Python wrapper which would read a number and set that to the maximum battery charge limit (e.g. $ battery.py 85). Unfortunately I got rid of the xps so I don't have the script, but it was very simple. Hard part was figuring out what the cmdline arguments to the DCC executable were.

Honestly it’s great that it’s in the bios because I run Mac OS on mine and it still works.

For Linux users, there's TLP.


For the Redhat family You don't really need TLP, tuned[1] is installed by default and it's pretty well integrated with the system (no need to mess with SE Linux)

1: https://github.com/redhat-performance/tuned

Many laptop manufacturers seem to be doing this already. For ASUS laptops, there is a Windows store app that lets you control the setting:


This feature is what I need for all battery gadgets like smartphones, MacBooks, and earbuds, etc..

They should just make 50% the new 100% and then let you "supercharge" to 150% when you need to. I'm kind of surprised Apple hasn't done this already.

Nitpick: if 50% was the new 100% then the supercharge option would be to 200%, which sounds even better :)

Another nit: Maybe we never let the user get to 200% by refusing to charge beyond 150% (internally known as 75%?) ever.

Better yet, all devices, phones, tablets, notebook computers, headphones, speakers, ... should automatically stop charging at about 75% and then continue to run directly off of the wall. I used to think that's what all devices do because that just seems like common sense to me.

I believe this is approximately how modern rechargeable devices work in order to get so much life out of lithium ion batteries.

Maximum charge state is some percentage below the batteries physical maximum, and maximum discharge is state is above the batteries physical minimum.

There's a bit in this Wikipedia article[1] that state charging Li-ion batteries beyond 80% can drastically accelerate battery degradation.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithium-ion_battery#Charge_and...

This could actually work for Apple devices, because no one compares them against other laptops by specs.

Although they would be compared against last gen macs. Saying "Battery is half the size" would need some marketing polish, implying that it's lighter or something.

They already removed time left on battery because of that.

Additional idea - alongside RAM and SSD size, one chooses also supercharge size while shopping (the same battery, locked to the amount you paid for). Great, isn't it?

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