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Why Does Windows Have Terrible Battery Life? (codinghorror.com)
389 points by chrisdinn on Oct 21, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 319 comments

Windows and Linux are general purpose OSes. The same kernel runs on high throughput servers and low power tablets. The apps are written with little focus on battery life. The drivers too. Microsoft doesn't write their own drivers and then there's firmware too. It's the one area where Apple has really taken advantage of the vertical integration - they do everything from firmware to most apps people use.

But both Windows and Linux are more than capable to get this all sorted. Like Google showed with the Nexus 7 - focus is all that's needed. It's just harder for Microsoft considering everything they need to juggle.

Edit: Fun fact: Apple's own Boot Camp drivers disable USB selective suspend on the 2013 Air! Check our powercfg /energy for more fun :)

Edit 2: Surface is Tegra 4 SoC isn't it? Microsoft still is limited by Tegra's power characteristics as far as what I can tell from Anand's review. So the integration story is better but still no match to Apple.

Perhaps you missed the part about Mac OS X (also a general purpose OS) using significantly less battery than windows on the exact same hardware. And that's not even considering OS 10.9 which is due to be released soon which has a bunch of battery life improvements (rumored to be around a 10% to 15% increase).

There's nothing general purpose about Mac OS X as far as hardware support is concerned. Just like iOS, it only has to target a very small set of hardware configurations.

Edit: as pointed out elsewhere, this doesn't excuse MS from not taking advantage of the same vertical integration on their own hardware...

As far as I know they still use the Darwin kernel in iOS. Which means it scales from desktops and servers all the way down to phones... That seems pretty general purpose to me.

Additionally its folly to think servers can't gain from power management.

Most servers are idle, or running maybe 40%, might as well let those other cores sit idle if they aren't used. Example is at idle with power management our latest xeon draws 300W versus 390 without. 900W at full tilt and all power management disabled.

The excuse that windows is a "general purpose" OS doesn't fly in my boat. Granted I don't use Linux for laptops generally but power management should be something any OS does somewhat sanely. We're moving to Amdahls law now away from Moore, also is there a law yet on power requirements for appplications? So power consumption is only going to be more of a basic feature than bolted on. That and doing things like using avx or gpu's for array multiplication because the power requirements are cheaper etc...

See especially people who used to have performance problems realising that the server was running a screensaver.

Terminal Server running serverside, not clientside, screensaver is poor for performance (https://groups.google.com/forum/?hl=en-GB#!search/windows$20...)

Q: My server has poor performance. (https://groups.google.com/forum/?hl=en-GB#!search/windows$20...)

I genuinely don't understand the Google groups interface. So I might not have linked to the correct messages. Some scrolling might be needed.

The Darwin kernel scales down as far as an HDMI adapter SoC[1]

[1] https://www.panic.com/blog/2013/03/the-lightning-digital-av-...

Thanks for linking to that. I read it before the anon comment about the kernel so it was nice to catch up.

No one uses Darwin for servers, not even Apple.

No one except a fair amount of people: http://www.macminicolo.net/

You can turn old laptops into "servers", or raspberry pi's, or hell even a commodore 64 for that matter. As long as it serves something of value over a network it qualifies.

Whether its a good idea is another matter.

I think the fact you felt the need to put the word servers in quotes does a lot to show that you and justincormack are talking about computers serving a similar role, but with such laughably different requirements that it's obvious what point he was trying to make, and your statement, while technically correct, doesn't really change his point.

You are correct though, people do use commodity and low-end hardware for extremely light server needs, and even in data centers.

Apple took a shot at traditional datacenter rack servers with their Xserve product line. I don't think it failed because OS X couldn't scale.

I put servers in quotes to denote something that serves that wasn't purpose built for the role. Nothing more, the context from justincormack wasn't lost but there are a lot of uses for osx servers, for example compile farms.

What I was referring to, which I thought was apparent but failed to convey, is that this perception of nobody doing it is a fallacy.

We are saying the same thing. My post wasn't meant to contradict yours, just clarify.

> What I was referring to, which I thought was apparent but failed to convey, is that this perception of nobody doing it is a fallacy.

I just think that in this context the "nobody" you are referring to and the "nobody" he is referring to are not equal sets. Yours is a superset of his, which is why both statements are true (in spirit), while yours is true in fact.

True enough, think its been a long day for me then. Sorry for the confusion on my end.

I do believe that means it is beer o clock time. Cheers and no worries mate.

I'm pretty sure some of these [1] are still floating around - they were only discontinued two years ago.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xserve

What's this then? http://www.apple.com/ca/mac-mini/server/

I know of a lot of businesses that run their servers on OS X.

Plus, consumers don't really care. They just want the better product. "Yes, Mac's get twice the battery life but Microsoft has to support more hardware" doesn't really cut it. Sure, I appreciate it, but when it comes time to spend $2000, I simply want to know that I'm getting my money's worth.

To some people, the one that supports more hardware is the better product. Especially when they are spending $2000.

He was talking about one $2k laptop. Once you buy one windows version of that, knowing that the software installed on it can support other laptop is not going to make you less sad about your short battery life...

Yes, Linux is very cool in that respect. I really home Linux continues its long and relentless march.

Even with extra hardware support, I'd like to know the details of exactly what OS X is doing that Windows doesn't.

"Supports extra hardware" sounds suspiciously like the "unoptimised 3rd party drivers" excuse that Microsoft used to throw around.

I find it very difficult to believe that supporting extra hardware somehow costs Windows 50% of the battery life of a Macbook Air, but somehow doesn't have the same costs in terms of application performance.

>extra hardware somehow costs Windows 50% of the battery life of a Macbook Air

See mjg59's reply and my note on USB suspend elsewhere in the thread. (OS X turns off lot of things using non standard firmware implementation and uses out of band notifications that Windows and Linux aren't made aware of. Apple's Boot Camp drivers also turn off USB suspend on Windows. Those things matter a lot for power management.)

On the Air Apple disables USB suspend. Can you blame Microsoft for that? Replace Spoke with Asus/Lenovo/Dell/HP and you've got quite the problems on your way to"Windows Gets Great Battery Life!" goal post.

For surface - yes they're being a bit sloppy. They should work closer with their hardware manufacturers to fix things such as SoC current leaks, display power draw etc. But they are still limited by say NVidia Tegra 4 power characteristics. Microsoft doesn't design their own SoC like Apple does with A7 for example.

Mac OS X is much better than Windows 8 on the same Apple hardware. I think the key to Max OS X's efficiency is clearly the optimised drivers. Nevertheless, MS has to step up, good for us!

OSX is not a general-purpose OS.

That might be true, but doesn't the whole "vertical integration" argument get thrown out the window when he describes the problem on Microsofts own hardware, the Surface Pro?

Certainly Microsoft should have the ability or money to optimize those drivers for maximum battery efficiency.

Quite simply, no.

Performance optimizations are all about trade-offs, and what might be a good trade-off for Microsoft's own hardware could be a bad trade-off for 95% of the other hardware on the market.

In theory, Microsoft could ship a second set of bits for their own hardware. But now you start to have nightmares about the antitrust lawsuits in the 90s. Why is Microsoft keeping a secret faster Windows that only it gets to use? That's the headline anyway.

The only way for Microsoft to achieve the kind of vertical integration that Apple has would be if it was willing to destroy its existing OEM partnerships. And risk a lawsuit from the DOJ. And this is a crazy strategy, because Apple has all the experience manufacturing hardware, and Microsoft has very little.

>Performance optimizations are all about trade-offs, and what might be a good trade-off for Microsoft's own hardware could be a bad trade-off for 95% of the other hardware on the market.

Why not have an "Extended-Battery profile" that you can turn on and off, that will have Windows be more aggressive with respect to power conservation? It'll be toggled on automatically on Surface-type devices, and turned off for desktops and servers (though servers may also benefit).

So give me a break. Where there's a will there's a way.

>The only way for Microsoft to achieve the kind of vertical integration that Apple has would be if it was willing to destroy its existing OEM partnerships.

Hyperbole much?

(I can't reply to your child comment so replying here.)

>Any move to give preferential treatment to MS's own hardware is the push the OEMs need to convert their Windows Tablet initiative into an Android Tablet one.

I hope Microsoft's OEM partners don't think this way for the sake of progress. It is a scary thought that MSFT/Google would not optimize their reference hardware for the sake of pleasing OEM partners. I have a Nexus 4 phone. I certainly hope when they write an update for mako, they optimize it for mako.

It doesn't mean OEM partners can't use similar optimization. However, to my naive mind it is absurd to cripple reference hardware for the sake of pleasing OEM partners.

I already told you why not. Because anything that gives the Surface an advantage has that antitrust lawsuit smell.

> Hyperbole much?

Again, no. Any move to give preferential treatment to MS's own hardware is the push the OEMs need to convert their Windows Tablet initiative into an Android Tablet one. Not to mention having potential ripple effects in unrelated businesses lines like spooking HP into doing more Linux servers.

For better or for worse, Microsoft's most valuable asset is its OEM partnerships. It's not as cool a trick as it used to be, but it's the only card they have to play.

>I already told you why not. Because anything that gives the Surface an advantage has that antitrust lawsuit smell.

Who says it needs to be Surface only? Who says it needs to be limited to Microsoft hardware?

If the changes need to be in the driver or hardware layer, all Microsoft needs to do is release specs and then setup a certifying service for OEMs. Something like "Battery Optimized" cert that the partner can then communicate to the end-user. However, I have a feeling that lots of improvements can be done at the OS level to boost battery life before you start thinking about changing your driver model.

Bottom line this can be done. Windows tablets can and should be able to match Apple hardware in battery life and I have no clue why you're arguing they can't.

> all Microsoft needs to do is release specs and then setup a certifying service for OEMs

So this exists. It's called the Windows Logo Program for Hardware. The reason we are reading this article is that it failed to do the job.

What you seem not to be understanding is that in order to "match Apple hardware in battery life" one also has to "match Apple hardware" in the small number of distinct hardware configurations sold per year.

Taking that hardware configuration and calling it "a standard" doesn't actually do anything. If your standard is broad enough to support 100 hardware configurations, battery life will be poor. If your standard is narrow enough to only support 2 hardware configurations, OEMs will not build it, because Dell has no way to differentiate itself from Toshiba.

To match Apple, Microsoft needs to cut back to maybe 3 models of Windows tablets per year. You can make that into a standard if you like, but no OEM will ever adopt it. They will all (correctly) point out that such a standard is designed for Microsoft's hardware team to implement and to hell with all the third parties.

Google's Nexus 4 is a useful example here. It's in pretty much the same position as the Surface, and it also suffers from low battery life.

>Windows and Linux are general purpose OSes. The same kernel runs on high throughput servers and low power tablets. The apps are written with little focus on battery life.

What are you saying? That Microsoft can't build a consumer OS with great power-management because the kernel also needs to work on high throughput servers?

Come on.

>But both Windows and Linux are more than capable to get this all sorted.

Bingo. So the questions stands, given that the consumer market is a huge priority for Microsoft and that iPads and iPhones and Android devices represent some of the biggest competition for Microsoft, why haven't they done this already?

> Microsoft can't build a consumer OS with great power-management because the kernel also needs to work on high throughput servers?

Not only servers but they need the same kernel design to work well across a ton of different hardware/firmware combinations, form factors (Phone, Tablets, Laptops) and they do an OK job. But to excel they need to put in a lot more effort (working with OEMs, working with SoC makers is another challenge - everyone optimizes for Android now a days including Qualcomm and Nvidia). So yes, they can do it but it is exponentially more challenging for them due to their legacy and current market position.

Funny, the Linux kernel performs excellently on my $35, 800MHz, 400mA ARM RaspberryPi embedded machine, my x86 desktop, and some of the world's largest supercomputers with who knows what architecture.

For a company with hundreds of millions to spend on R&D, you'd think Microsoft could match a bunch of hobbyists.

I am as big a Linux fanboy as anyone - but Linux doesn't do power management across different set of hardware consistently and when it does it is with mediocre results. In fact you'd be hard pressed to find a PC Laptop running Linux that gives you great battery life. It's largely a miss. So performance yes, great power characteristics no - that's too hard due to sheer number of variables.

My bet: backwards compatibility. Better power management requires changes in behaviour of the OS and it is very hard to change behaviour without breaking things.

Suppose the USB sleep state handling code is suboptimal. Is that because programmers paid less attention to power usage a decade ago, or because some devices implement a power state incorrectly? If the latter, which devices? If Microsoft isn't 100% sure they know of all devices for which it is needed, they may choose to leave the less efficient code in place regardless of whether a deficient device is plugged in.

An example might be a pet peeve I have with Windows: its tendency to 'discover new hardware' when one plugs a bog standard mouse or keyboard into a USB port for the umpteenth time. That in itself is baffling, but it can take Windows half a minute or so to figure out that it has a driver for the device and start it. I do not have the faintest idea what it does in that time, but it must be unavoidable within the constraints microsoft sets itself, since it hasn't been fixed in a decade or so (but it has been improved quite a bit) and I bet it must have itched quite a few engineers.

Whatever the cause, plugging in a USB mouse must use way more power on Windiws than on a Mac.

An example might be a pet peeve I have with Windows: its tendency to 'discover new hardware' when one plugs a bog standard mouse or keyboard into a USB port for the umpteenth time. That in itself is baffling

It's not baffling, it's manufacturers implementing USB standards improperly, and Windows doing the least-bad thing.


Suppose Microsoft rewrites Windows to optimize for the Surface platform. How long would it take for Microsoft to stand accused of unfair business practices in the press? How much risk would they run of being hauled into court in the EU or US?

They just paid a billion dollars for failing to provide browser options in the EU last year.

They paid a billion dollars for disobeying a direct court order. You phrase that as if they paid a fine for randomly not doing something.

Your suggestion that they are equally vulnerable to the same thing for solving a difficult, market driven technical challenge seems like a stretch to me.

Who says that Windows need to optimize only for Microsoft hardware?

> What are you saying? That Microsoft can't build a consumer OS with great power-management because the kernel also needs to work on high throughput servers?

It's more the drivers than the kernel. Apple has a lot more control over OS X drivers.

Microsoft picks all the hardware, and corresponding drivers, that goes into the surface.

Right, but the original post said the same about Linux.

With very few exceptions, Linux drivers live in the kernel tree, so the Linux community has absolute control over them. The claim doesn't really seem to make sense. It's not like power management is unimportant in a server rack.

In fact, there's a really nice talk somewhere by (I think) the LWN guy, about how running the same kernel on mobile and on big iron gives huge benefits to development -- it turns out that the needs are really not so different after all, and power management work intended for the mobile space helps big iron (and vice versa, cf. PowerTop from Intel).

Nothing is free - everything is a trade off. Hardware isn't magical. There is cost to how fast you can switch between various C states on Intel CPUs for example. There is hardware that explodes if you play too hard for another example. Servers need maximum performance and low latency - guess what aggressive power management will do to that?

You talk about drivers but what about firmware? Have you looked at how kludgy and unreliable ACPI implementations across hardware are? What about the in kernel drivers being mostly reverse engineered - how many hardware vendors care to provide power management docs for their hardware?

Everything is possible of course - it's just that it is way harder to do when you support everything from toasters to big iron in case of Linux and Phones to gazillion varying PC hardware combinations in case of Microsoft.

I would presume with the Surface Pro Microsoft would be involved in, or at least work with hardware manufacturers to write the drivers. The integration is the same as Apple has on OS X. Microsoft is involved with the hardware, the OS and the app (IE), right?

Sort of but not quite. Tegra 4 that goes in the new Surface 2 - The AnandTech review states the power draw for Tegra 4 is not that impressive for example. So Microsoft would have to be involved in the design and manufacture of the SoC to cure that problem as just one example of how hard it can be.

> But both Windows and Linux are more than capable to get this all sorted. Like Google showed with the Nexus 7 - focus is all that's needed. It's just harder for Microsoft considering everything they need to juggle.

Couldn't they just hire someone and say "Fix this. Identify the problem and we will support your findings to get the fix implemented."

It's not like they lack the financial means. I just don't think there's anyone at the company that gives a shit any more (or their is no culture to support the few people who do give a shit).

Microsoft in 2013 (actually, for a very long time now) focuses too much on the sizzle and not enough on the steak imho.

Yup, no one there cares about power consumption or the core OS development. /s



And yet, we have this article.

It's not their problem most of the time, it's 3rd party apps and drivers. They do however have various levels of tests and certifications for both apps and drivers, some of which focus on energy efficiency.

Microsoft has a certfication programs. Sadly, those programs are notoriously weak (see the outrage about "Vista certified" machines not actually being able to run the hardware accelerated desktop). This was done to please hardware manifacturers and allow them to put new hardware out quickly. Applying pressure here and denying certification to drivers not implementing power features properly would have been the way to go.

Microsoft does have leverage, they just didn't use it for a long time to allow for a quantity over quality approach.

Microsoft doesn't have much leverage because the US Justice Dept sued Microsoft to enable OEMs to do almost anything they like. The "Vista certified" debacle showed just how little leverage Microsoft had.

And with OEMs shipping flaky, crapware-loaded PCs that took several minutes to boot, I don't expect power saving was Microsoft's biggest concern...

>> Couldn't they just hire someone and say "Fix this.

The article says that "if you take the latest and greatest 13" MacBook Air, and install Windows 8 on it", the battery life goes from 14:25 to 7:40.

It's unlikely a single fix. Probably everything from drivers to GUIs would have to be made more efficient to close the gap.

>Couldn't they just hire someone and say "Fix this. Identify the problem and we will support your findings to get the fix implemented.

Power conservation is more of a mantra, rather than a feature. If you decide that this is your priority, it should infuse every feature and every aspect of the OS. This can absolutely be done, and Microsoft is more than capable to cater to this need. I'd like to know why they haven't done so already. I mean, Intel finally got it with Haswell.

The infusion of Nokia engineers long familiar with engineering for battery life should help

> Windows and Linux are general purpose OSes. The same kernel runs on high throughput servers and low power tablets.

Since we haven't figured out free-energy yet, using less power on servers is just as important as on tablets - if not more, considering most servers sit idle.

Linux already has it sorted, at least on certain hardware. I have a 13-inch Retina MBP, and I get the same battery life with Linux and OSX on it.

I find the MBA vs Surface Pro 2 comparison to be more than slightly misleading:

>The screen is somewhat lower resolution

No, 1920x1080 isn't only somewhat higher than 1366x768, it's 1.97 times the number of pixels and the panel is PLS unlike the TN in the MBA. The display is the component that eats up the battery the most when doing things like Wi-Fi browsing, even the battery life of the MBA scales heavily with the level of brightness.

>not touch capable

It also has an another, separate layer for the Wacom digitizer, it has to be constantly emitting an electromagnetic field, which does take its toll on power consumption.

>i5-4200u CPU

It's i5-4250U, with a considerably lower base clock (1.3GHz vs 1.6GHz).

Another fact that all the recent articles about the Surface Pro 2 fail to mention, but isn't really relevant to the what the article is about, is that, with the Power Cover that was announced at the Surface keynote, it should be able to get 11.45 hours of Wi-Fi browsing if you extrapolate the results from the Anandtech benchmark, or about 12.9 hours if you do it with the 7:33 hours it got on The Verge review. This does bring the weight and thickness of the device above the MBA though.

Woah, someone who did research.

Indeed: it is a known fact that Apple gets custom exclusive low-clocked CPUs from Intel. Apple's chips are closer to "Y" class Intel Chips, which are designed for exceptionally long battery life at cost to performance.

Overall, I think the better screen, Wacom Digitizer, and faster CPU will all add up to the difference between the Surface2 and MBA.

When you aren't creating the hardware, it is harder to care about power management in the software because that is seen as "someone else's problem". It is easy to blame things on terrible drivers or whatever, but no matter how you look at it, the product is worse as a result.

This is why Microsoft needs to keep building their own hardware like the Surface. As time goes on, if Microsoft does it right, Surface is going to be the best Windows experience. At least, I would hope so.

Microsoft needs to keep building their own hardware because 3rd party manufacturers are doing to Microsoft's brand what Mac clones did to Apple in the early 90s.

The Surface is absolutely gorgeous. If they softened the edges on the tablet portion it would be on my list of greatest pieces of tech hardware ever made. I would love to see MS try to build its own 'Yoga' type laptop...provided I can still install Linux on it.

Dell, Lenovo, Sony, and HP should be ashamed of themselves. Apple makes the best hardware to run Windows on and they don't even like that you can.

> 3rd party manufacturers are doing to Microsoft's brand what Mac clones did to Apple in the early 90s.

I’m not sure whether that’s a fitting analogy. The Mac clone program was launched for other companies to build cheap computers with low margins, so that Apple could continue serving the higher end markets while MacOS would gain marketshare. Instead, clone makers ended up building very high end machines that were faster than anything Apple offered. They hurt Apple’s brand because they were so much faster, not because they were cheap trash.

Daystar Digital’s Genesis had 4 processors, PPC 604e @233Mhz. It had 12 RAM slots and 6 PCI slots. It was a monster and it creamed Apple’s PowerMac 9600, but it was also considerably more expensive.

I agree. And some of the clone makers offered a better customer experience than Apple, too. For example, Power Computing had a great online store before Apple did.

True, and their ad campaigns were fresh too. “We’re fighting back for Mac!”


Power Computing was doing pretty well, even though Apple wouldn't allow it to make notebooks. And then, of course, Apple/Jobs bought back its license and eliminated the competition....

No doubt on the quality but the reality here is that even with proprietary hardware and thus able to optimize everything for the surface like apple does it this has a low battery life.

It's all the x86 baggage windows has, osx threw everything from the powerpc years away, let alone the stuff from the previous 20 years of systemOS. Windows still carries crap from when 32mb of ram was more expensive than a computer today.

And for what? I got several winxp apps that don't work with 7 or 8, it's pointless.

I seriously doubt it's x86 baggage. You don't pay a battery life penalty for code you don't execute.

While you don't use the battery for code you don't execute, when your code is finely tuned to a single machine (as in CPU + auxiliary chips) architecture rather than able to run on a wider choice of hardware, you may be able to squeeze some extra juice from your battery.

Except MacOS X ships fat binaries for multiple CPU architectures and uses a kernel originally designed in the 1980's for an m68k machine.

Shipping fat binaries with different versions for every different Atom/Core/Xeon/FX/Phenom/Opteron Intel/AMD/Nvidia + chipset glue combination would be quite a feat.

This could go well beyond what compiling every package for your specific machine can do.

Openstep supported quad fat binaries iirc, supporting x86, sparc, mips, and I think pa-risc. Gotta say the NeXT software architecture has aged well.

That's not what I was talking about. I said that, if all you support is a specific Intel Atom processor, you can tweak your kernel to support every bit of energy-saving performance-enhancing silicon in there.

Shipping fat binaries is not new. I remember them (not very fondly) from the MacOS 7/PPC days.

True. What is fun is that you could imagine a technology where you would (powering down some unused memory chips), but I don't know if this would be worth it.

Attended a lecture by a grad who implemented this back in 2006. Code resided on the southbridge. Never got commercialized as the penalty of waking/sleeping the chip was not worth the few watts saved. Plus, most servers used all their ram, or near it, all the time.

Mac OSX runs all of that x86 baggage as well.

I don’t know much about semiconductors, but Apple started shipping x86 Macs when Intel had just switched to the Core architecture. I can imagine that Apple didn’t bother to write for technologies that were present in earlier Intel chips. Apple has only shipped Intel-powered computers with Core and Xeon chipsets (the first gen AppleTV ran on a Pentium M, though).

“The Core microarchitecture is a major architectural revision”



Microsoft didn't bother either. SSE2 and PAE requirements mean a Netburst or later Intel Chip. (or K8 or later from AMD). So Windows8 requires a relatively modern chip, and ignores the earlier ones.

IIRC, Windows 8 and 8.1 take advantage of the new P-States in Haswell / Clover Trail. (And connected standby on Clover Trail definitely shows that Microsoft is working hard on the power problem).

I definitely think its an issue with Apple Marketing. Apple is basically selling Y-class processors in their MBA. 1.3 GHz max speed is some 25% slower than the 1.6 GHz that Surface Pros ship with. The Surface Pro also has a superior screen and active digitizer, so it isn't too curious why it would use more power.

BTW: Xeon has been shipping for like 15 years. When talking about architectures, it tends to be more precise to use the core architcture names. IE: Netburst (P4), Nehelem, etc. etc. "Xeon", "Core", and "Pentium" are marketing names that barely mean anything technically.

I was actually wondering about that... most of these ultrabooks have a Y or U trail which basically translates to underpowered and throttled CPU.

Apple doesn't really say which SKU they're using, Microsoft also hides that info. Which kinda makes you wonder...

Thanks, that was very informative.

> If they softened the edges on the tablet portion it would be on my list of greatest pieces of tech hardware ever made.

I actually like Surface's edges quite a lot, I think it looks brilliant and stands out from the army of cheap looking iPad clones most of which look exactly the same. And the magnesium casing is also a great choice by MS, it makes it look expensive and well built (which it really is)

> provided I can still install Linux on it.

The chance that that happens, is abut the as Microsoft giving the physical devices out for free. Lock-in is the common way today to get market control.

The Pro is just another PC. I'd like to see the ARM-based Surface running Linux.

It's interesting to compare this to what I have read (and experienced) about Linux vs. Windows battery life on laptops. Maybe things have changed in the last few years, but it used to be that Linux delivered far worse battery life than Windows.

As of my last experiences, it still does.

Running powertop and fixing things that it recommends helps immensely.

Maybe it depends on the hardware; battery performance on my MacBook Air 3,2 with Fedora 19 is very good.

Ubuntu runs ~six hours on my 3 year old dell vostro that's rated for four hours on windows.

How long does it actually run on Windows?

> if Microsoft does it right, Surface is going to be the best Windows experience

If they do that, their OEM's will have to turn their backs on Microsoft in order to differentiate themselves. Dell can, if they want, provide a better Android experience than anyone else, but if Microsoft builds the hardware and has privileged access to Windows core developers, Dell can't hope to do better.

This is, perhaps, Microsoft's most delicate moment since negotiating the exclusivity of PC-DOS.

But that's the thing. They did create the hardware, and it isn't even the first generation, and it still performs poorly. The problem isn't the hardware. It's the software. So either Microsoft makes a new OS from scratch that only works on their hardware, or this problem won't be fixed anytime soon, either way.

I think the point is that Apple has many, many more years of designing their software for a very specific list of hardware. MS software engineers are probably just starting to think about a closer relationship between code and hardware, and even then I'm sure there's a fair bit of distrust within MS as to how the market will respond. Will their OEM partners call foul on MS leveraging their position? It wouldn't be the first time.


And battery life is a concern for neither of them...

imagine owning a race car team. For years you buy cars from Ferrari. Finally, you're forced to make your own. While in 5 years you will certainly have a better understanding of the car, V1 of your new product will certainly be a bit inferior.

This is exactly how Lamborghini got started.


Downvotes? The build quality on most PCs is atrocious compared to Apple.

Isn't Windows RT as close as it gets to a OS from scratch nowadays? (honest question)

Nope. Windows RT is ARM compiled Windows 8 with a little flag that prevents the installation of 3rd party desktop apps. It's not even a little bit different.

Technically speaking, the little flag does not prevent installation of third-party desktop apps. It prevents executing executables not signed by Microsoft. It is just a policy, that Microsoft will not sign classic win32 executables.

Not really. As far as I know, Windows RT is essentially a port of the NT kernel, most Windows APIs and the new Metro/RT APIs to ARM.

Why do you think this is about the hardware at all? Most of the savings are down to software (try Windows or Linux on the Macbook Air). It requires lots of hard work to change the kernel to make better use of sleep state and to reduce CPU utilisation in apps.

The reality is that Apple cares about battery life, because they know users do, they work constantly on this. Numerous Apple announcements talk up battery life improvements, they are clearly very aware of this issue.

I've never got the impression that that Microsoft does care very much about this issue, in fact their kernel doesn't even sound like it gets much development in the core functions (it's all about fixing bugs and adding features).

This is exactly right. How many phone vendors besides Apple are shipping CPUs underclocked to 1.3 Ghz in their flagship phones?

Along these lines, Anand tested Windows on Mac hardware, but not also the other way around. Since OS X is so optimized for Mac hardware, this counterexample needs to be evaluated. I don't know... use a Dell and test OS X battery life.

It's not exactly a scientific test, but some measurements show "Hackintosh" laptops give 33% more battery life than Windows on the same laptop[1].

[1] http://www.mobilemag.com/2009/05/14/hackintosh-netbooks-expe...

The surface keyboards are horrible though.

Well, how about this: because MS doesn't care. It's too late, the code is too large and too old, the developers are too new, no one knows what's going on and this whole thing is a giant rolling monster with parts flying out every second, killing innocent batteries.

I would argue that the Windows NT kernel is both newer and more maintainable for Microsoft than OSX is for Apple. At the core of OSX is a ton of legacy Unix monolith written in the 70s that I suspect very few in Apple dare ever touch.

This can be seen by the fact that Microsoft has never shied away from improving their OS kernel. Recent stand-out improvements such as ASLR, UAC, TRIM support for SSDs, timer coalescing etc. These are all things that OSX took years to get after Windows got them.

> At the core of OSX is a ton of legacy Unix monolith written in the 70s that I suspect very few in Apple dare ever touch.

The Darwin kernel is regularly updated; for example Apple replaced Unix init and cron with launchd in 2005, achieved full POSIX compliance in 2007, and went to full 64-bit in 2009.


I admit I'm not super familiar with Darwin internals, but on most *NIX systems, init and cron are userspace programs. Does launchd need some special syscalls?

At the core of OSX is a ton of legacy Unix monolith written in the 70s that I suspect very few in Apple dare ever touch.

I don't think this is true at all. Sure, there's always been a BSD-style environment for compatibility, but Apple has never been shy about ripping and replacing legacy Unix-y infrastructure (see: launchd) or about adding new, "deep" APIs close to the plumbing (see: libdispatch).

Darwin wasn't written in the 70s, and the foundations are regularly updated. The source code is publicly available. Your speculation that few in Apple dare touch it, as if it's some indecipherable monstrosity, is nonsense.

Why is it so slow to add new features and technologies then? It took them, what, like 3 years? To add TRIM support for SSDs? Their first attempt at ASLR was woeful and badly broken and even that was a year after Vista got it.

They're not slow to add features. Some may arrive after a competitor, but every release of OS X sees low-level feature additions and updates. They're documented by Siracusa's mega-reviews as well as the OS X release notes. Nearly Apple's entire product line has been dependent on the flexibility of that foundation, from the PowerPC Macs to the Intel transition to the ARM squeeze, not to mention the recent ARM64 port. So, I don't understand why you think Apple can't or won't work on the foundation or why you believe it's a monolithic relic written in the 1970s, unless you're just referencing some vague bias against Unix in general.

You're really digging in on this aren't you? I wrote very clearly that it was only a suspicion clearly in an attempt to explain why they are so much slower at improving their OS kernel than Microsoft is. So any time somebody makes a suspicion you'll arrive and interpret it as though it was a statement of fact? Noted.

Meanwhile, you make woolly justifications of their slowness by making contradictions like this: "They're not slow to add features. Some may arrive after a competitor" Comments like these are not helpful and do not add anything to the conversation.

They're slow. The reasons why this is the case is still not entirely clear. But even OSX fans get frustrated sometimes at how slow they are to add features that other operating systems got years before. The most vocal recent one I can think of was probably the TRIM support for SSDs.


Windows UAC is the best I have used on any platform. What I can remember it was not that good on OSX. Not even Ubuntu gets this right. However the permission system on Windows is a hassle.

I always have a normal user account and an seperate admin account. The normal account does not have sudo permission. This setup on Ubuntu and what I can remember on OSX is not hassle free because a lot of installers and apps assumes normal user has some sort of sudo.

Unfortunately Windows 8.1 dumped UAC in the toilet when forcing the Windows 8.1 update to be downloaded from the store, which made your local admin account useless.

>This setup on Ubuntu and what I can remember on OSX is not hassle free because a lot of installers and apps assumes normal user has some sort of sudo.

On OSX you get an elevated privileges login prompt for any installer needing to write to / and even for many write protected folders inside your own homedir. You can grant rights as any user you want simply by entering that username (it's automatically populated with the current user)

This is true for properly written installers and apps, but since not everything is properly written, a related problem does crop up from time to time: an installer or app assumes the user has permissions to something that the "admin" group usually has access to, and therefore doesn't bother using the correct API to elevate. Even here, though, in the typical cases of installers and updaters, there are easy workarounds that at least don't require logging out or giving additional rights to the logged-in user: fast user switch or login(1) to an admin user, then retry from there.

The only thing Windows does differently here is that it provides a silent, non-admin workaround (filesystem and registry virtualization) for buggy applications, which works, but which can be problematic in other ways. Most notably, while OS-level workarounds are a clear win for older and otherwise unsupported software, they reduce motivation for developers to fix bugs in current software papered over by Windows' workarounds.

I don't think I've run into an installer that doesn't properly elevate since 2005... Most just shove things into .pkg with PackageMaker and everything's correct

For mobile applications Windows has been constantly behind Android and iOS. One part of Nokia's problems was that MS could not deliver drivers for new hardware. For example, Nokia could not move to high resolution screens because Windows could not handle them. Being constantly 6-12 months behind because software is not up to dates was devastating.

Stop comparing Windows, a desktop OS, to mobile-first optimised OSes like Android and iOS. Even Windows RT is not technically mobile-first optimised like those two.

Windows Phone 8 vs Android/iOS would be a fair comparison. Because WP8 has undergone the same treatment and has been optimised for high battery efficiencies whilst still retaining the Windows NT kernel at its core.

WP8 has always had support for high-resolution displays and Nokia et al have not had issues with it. WP7.x was a different story but that was a different OS kernel (WinCE not NT). During this time Microsoft was busy creating a minimised edition of the Win8 kernel that would be suitable for use on a smartphone, much like the work Apple did to OSX in order to create iOS.

If Microsoft markets Windows as a mobile platform I'll compare it to the existing competition. Sure, it might not be fair, but ultimately I'm looking for results, not fairness.


Search in a page with plenty of marketing blurb for "mobile". Zero results.

So since they aren't marketing it as how you perceive perhaps you should cut them some slack.

They market Windows 8 tablets side-by-side with the iPad.

And of course the smashing success of WinFS.

I don't really think that WinFS was a core OS kernel feature. It was built on top of SQL Server, so I doubt it even had a kernel-mode component either.

ReFS would be a better example. And that's just another example of how Microsoft is keeping their core technology up to date. Apple meanwhile is still using HFS+ which even Linus Torvalds called out as being utterly crap.

What doesn't Tovalds call out as being utterly crap?

Valuable legacy windows programs can run on a tablet.

From my perspective that shows that MS cares.

Programs written for the Mac can't run on iOS, I think.

Why would you need "legacy apps" on a tablet?

The old Windows tablets had 4 main problems:

1) apps not optimized for touch

2) OS not optimized for touch

3) expensive hardware

4) inefficient hardware/small battery life

It seems to me that with devices like Surface Pro, the 1) and 3) problems are still ported to the new devices. I don't see legacy apps that aren't optimized for touch and on a 10" screen, as an "advantage" for Windows tablets. For all practical purposes, they are not.

Even if you want to do "work" with legacy apps when in "laptop mode" - are you sure you want to do that on a 10" screen? Because I'm telling you 10" is too small for productive work, and the keyboard is too crammed at that size.

Because re-writing for a new platform isn't trivial.

Because the customers want it.

They're intelligent enough to know that a tablet isn't going to be as productive as a desktop/laptop.

But they still want it.

If consumers want Windows tablets then they have a funny way of showing it.

> Because re-writing for a new platform isn't trivial

That's not the consumers' problem, is it?

> Because the customers want it.

That's not reflected in sales yet. If you're talking about the 100 Microsoft fans that upvote and comment all positive Microsoft stories on Reddit, HN and Verge - that doesn't count. We're talking about the market as a whole.

Also, even Microsoft themselves barely even promote the "legacy app" thing in their commercials. All they are showing is Metro. But if they think Metro is their tablets' competitive advantage, then why wouldn't the consumer just get an iPad or Android tablet instead - and for a lot less?

Customers generally do not want to run Windows apps on their tablet.

If they did then Surface Pro would be the number one seller.

That's a very strong assumption... The only reason I have an Ipad rather than a Surface Pro, is because it didn't exists when bought my Ipad, sure thing that will be my future tablet in my next cycle, and I feel I am not alone. I think surface is not doing it better because it came into the game too late but it is a nice replacement for my heavy laptop and my Netflix viewer (namely Ipad)

Existing windows applications are by definition best suited to desktops and laptops.

Our's would be such an application but even as it is there are certain aspects of its typical daily use that might/would be best served by a tablet.

At those times it would be nice for a user to be able to switch from one device to the other and then back again.

In fact, requests like this are becoming more frequent.

Mac apps can't run on iOS because of the architecture difference.

It's the same reason Windows apps can't run on Surface RT.

They could. Apple run PowerPC apps on Intel processors. The real answer is that they don't want them to.

Apple ran PowerPC apps on Intel processors. The real answer is that they don't want them to.

Rosetta is neither included nor supported in Mac OS X v10.7 "Lion" or later. Therefore, with Lion and later releases, the current Macintosh platform does not support PowerPC applications.

They don't need to. The transition is complete, any many apps had Universal binaries that ran seamlessly on both platforms.

"Valuable legacy windows programs can run on a tablet."

Simply because it (Surface Pro) runs the same OS ie regular Windows.

Reach out and save a battery today! With your help we can change the world. Please submit donation to help this innocent battery to get a better future.

They could name it Wattsi!

Yes, that's the correct answer. This problem today, on tablets especially, also comes from Microsoft's unwilling to use anything other than the full Windows on almost any product they have. So instead of starting something from scratch, they'd rather force all that legacy bloatware into devices that need very efficient software and have smaller batteries.

Therein lies the problem: Full windows is the only kind of windows there is. Today you still cannot boot a windows server without a GUI layer. Windows is utterly monolithic.

Apple were able to rip the top layers off OSX and ship it as iOS without too much trouble, because it's unix. (They didn't start from scratch.)

Windows, not so much. MS have been trying to do it for a decade or more, and they've failed for the reasons outlined by optymizer.

While Windows's functionality in general is indeed pretty monolithic, you are generally wrong. In fact, there is (I believe since Windows Server 2008[1][1]) an installation method to get Windows without any GUI.

In fact examples like Windows CE (Now WP8) prove you wrong.


> Today you still cannot boot a windows server without a GUI layer.

Please give server core on Windows Server 2012[0] a try. They could use your feedback.

[0] http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/desktop/hh84...

Server core still has a GUI, it just doesn't run Explorer as a shell and doesn't have a bunch of GUI programs that come with Windows included. When you log in there's a cmd or powershell window floating there with the standard-issue non-themed graphical chrome.

The problem with Server Core begins at the description:

> "Server Core is a minimal server installation option for computers running on the operating system. Server Core provides a low-maintenance server environment with limited functionality."

Limited functionality is the key. In order to administer windows server, one is expected to use remote desktop. This is in contrast to a unix machine, where everything can be controlled via command line and configuration scripts.

It is getting better, as Powershell exposes a lot of functionality. But it is still not there yet.

I disagree. WP7 would've been a much better and more efficient OS for tablets, and they already built that, but in the name of keeping OS licenses for tablets at ~$100 like for notebooks, and some kind of "unification strategy" (which still hasn't been realized yet), they've also made Windows RT for tablets and WP8 out of the NT kernel for phones. But even WP8 would've be better than Windows 8 or Windows RT (which is 95 percent Windows 8 anyway).

It's actually how Apple built iOS, too. But will they put WP8 on tablets? No of course not. Instead, they'll try and push Windows RT to phones, which is the totally wrong way to do it. But just watch it happen.

To the contrary, Microsoft, Nokia and partners are actively looking at bringing WP8 tablets to the market. Thus completely sidestepping the Windows RT issue.

I thought Windows RT existed mainly as a way for Microsoft to send a signal to Intel. Am I reading too much from Intel's involvement in Tizen[0]?

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tizen

Not quite true. The Windows kernel is separated since a few years back and can be executed separately.

But probably the entire administration modules requires a GUI.

No, the answer is certainly not correct. Even worse, it's purely speculative and shows that the auther doesn't like MS.

I think it's not about the OS, it's about the drivers. If you would trace the power consumption properly my guess would be that the WiFi module is the culprit. As the hardware is the same, the driver must be the place, where Apple has the edge.

This sounds very biased and uninformed. It really doesn't belong here. A simple look at the kernel level stability and perf gained from Vista => 7 => 8 => 8.1 show that it clearly isn't true.

I see and agree with the larger point he's making, but a 42% increase in a single generation strikes me as huge, not just "decent."

And this?

If you want a device that delivers maximum battery life for light web browsing, there's no question that you should get something with an Apple logo on it.

Except the top two champs on the Anandtech chart - champs which are way ahead of a fairly close pack - don't have such logos. If one is honestly trying to illustrate the simple point that Windows has a power problem, its a strange conclusion to draw.

The first half the article is comparing three or even four different classes of device. He's got a mobile gaming console hardware wise the equivalent of a phone, a 7 inch ARM tablet, some ~10 inch ARM tablets, and an x86 tablet.

It's like comparing apples, oranges, peaches, and tomatoes.

In the context of the article I believe he's talking about devices that run full-fledged operating systems, rather than mobile devices.

That being said, the 13" MBA has the best battery life out of everything on that page. I also imagine the Shield is somewhat compromised for web browsing, given it's been optimized to be a gaming machine.

Because Apple have custom ACPI methods for cutting power to unused components and Windows doesn't know how to call them.

That might explain the case of MacBook Air, but how come they don't do something similar with Surface Pro? It is their hardware, firmware and software - everything should be possible.

A quick Google search shows many Windows laptops with equivalent or better battery life. Is your question why don't all Windows laptops have equal battery life?

> A quick Google search shows many Windows laptops with equivalent or better battery life.

I don't want to state the obvious, but different laptops have different capacity batteries. Atwood was comparing the 11" MBA to the Surface Pro 2 as they have similar battery capacities (SP2: 42 Wh, MBA: 38 Wh), and - as Maakuth notes -- are both made by companies in control of both software and hardware. The fact that you can find laptops with higher capacity batteries that have longer battery life doesn't prove very much.

A 100% true test is when you have the same hardware. Running windows on MBA is defect because Apple writes iOS for their hardware. So if we have a magical power to run iOS on another hardware and run Windows on that same hardware, then the test is fair. But that doesn't need to as windows-based tablets hardware are not always as polish as apple's.

They have numbers for your 100% true test. That is where the final 50% difference comes from.

2013 MacBook Air 13"

Under OS X: 14hr 26 min

Under Win8: 7 hrs 40 min

Though I am not sure I would call that 100% fair. Apple wrote the firmware and drivers used by each OS, so it has a vested interest in getting something out there that works but not optimizing for the competition.

Your parent already said he did not consider running Windows on Apple hardware to be a fair test; he was calling for running both on <GENERIC PC>

Yeah, but what are you going to see in the real world? You are going to see OS X on Apple hardware and Windows on whatever random box the person had handy. Sounds pretty much like what they tested.

The test indicates something more important than Window's performance and that is monothilic designer like Apple can in fact make a great product if the designer chooses to. If Windows were to make their own laptop and invest the same amount of resource into bothe software and hardware, the comparison will be more interesting.

In essence, your average OEM does not do a great job. The capacitor, the transistors they use are probably way cheaper than what Apple have put into their MBA. That is expected because after all, your Dell computer is not going to cost $1499.

iOS? OS X runs on MBA not iOS.

Yes, of course, Windows can be comparable on similar capacities. Does this need to be stated? Go read the reviews of some Acer or Samsung laptops. Extrapolating the problems of the Surface 2 to all computers with the same OS doesn't make sense. Microsoft isn't experienced at making computers, shouldn't be a surprise that they are bad at it right now.

The article's point was that on closely comparable hardware doing nearly the same task, the operating system seems to make a significant difference in battery power. Maybe other Windows PC makers are more experienced in making efficient drivers and tuning the OS delivered on disk? In a couple of reviews I read, that isn't the case:

First Samsung laptop review I read, a NP900X3E-K01US with a 44 Wh battery:

...battery life is disappointing for such an expensive laptop... [1]

Second, a Dell XPS 12 review:

50WHr battery ... Wi-Fi browsing test ... seven hours and 58 minutes

[1] http://www.cnet.com/laptops/samsung-ativ-book-9/4505-3121_7-...

[2] http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2013/10/review-xps-12s-haswel...

I'm puzzled, your comments seem to claim simultaneously that:

* There is not a battery life problem on Windows machines.

* The battery life problem on Windows machines is not surprising.

No, I didn't say #2, I said it's not surprising that the Surface Pro gets poor battery life. My comment about this whole controversy is that you cannot project 1 computer's battery problems to the operating system. My Windows does get poor battery life but we haven't seen any evidence of that. Clearly it can get good battery life as there are real-life computers running Windows that get great battery life.

Not necessarily. I'm just wondering why isn't Microsoft pulling some of the Apple tricks with Surface Pro if suspending some part of hardware really is responsible of OS X's better power economy. As others have pointed out in this discusion, some legacies of Windows architecture probably adds to its battery use.

How many windows laptops have you found that actually has the battery life they promise in marketing?

My EeePC is still doing quite well. Everything else I have ever bought has been a massive lie on the order of "* battery tested by doing nothing with the wireless and screen turned off."

The Surface Pro is MS' V1. It is going to take a while for them to become as savvy at hardware design as Apple is. Is there really any surprise that the newcomer isn't quite as good as the old guard?

I doubt very much that the commodity hardware in Apple laptops exposes any ACPI methods of which other operating systems are unaware.

They are the same components as widely used, just packaged differently ( as lspci from Linux on an Apple machine will show ). From memory the only Apple-branded components were the SD card readers and the keyboard.

And how would Intel / Nvidia / Broadcom / Samsung / LG / whomever be persuaded to keep it a secret?

You might doubt it, but it's entirely true. Apple aggressively cut power to unused devices and provide out of band mechanisms to generate wakeup notifications. Apple will entirely cut power to an SDHCI or Thunderbolt controller that's not in use. Windows won't.

There's nothing secret about this. Anyone who spends a while looking at the ACPI tables will see it. Recent versions of ACPI provide a standardised mechanism for doing this, but Apple have chosen to continue using their custom implementation.

Apple does use an extra microcontroller or small processor in MacBooks and other machines that controls fans and probably a large number of other power related things. They call it the SMC:


So maybe not ACPI, but homebrew.

Everybody does that. This has not much to do with ACPI. ACPI is mainly a software thing (yes, you have some dedicated register support in some chips, but the baseline of those that are absolutely necessary is quite small and well supported by chip vendors)

ACPI has also proven to be an idea with a very bad execution: much of the tables are filled with bugs, and the spec has been written by complete psychopaths. IIRC sometimes it is better to skip entire sections and to use a custom written driver for each OS (like Intel did for some processors or chipsets for Linux I think)

Remember that ACPI has been created in part by MS, and that Bill himself wanted a conception that was easy for windows and hard for the other. I'm not sure this has been executed for the conception (even though the result is a mess), but MS absolutely managed to create an ecosystem where board vendors test only on Windows and ship if this kind of work, regardless of the amount of obvious bug present in their ACPI code.

Sony manage to get pretty amazing battery life from their new Vaio Pro 11 and 13 models. I am really tempted to get one as it does pretty much everything I want from a high powered laptop and the price is pretty good in my opinion.

Though they did that by adding an additional battery.

It seems quite close or even better when normalized per watt-hour, see http://anandtech.com/show/7417/sony-vaio-pro-13-exceptionall...

Interesting. Do you have any sources to share?

Anecdotal, but on an older 11" MacBook Air I have a dual-boot with elementary OS (Ubuntu derivative) and I get around 20-30% better battery life with Linux than OS X (using laptop-mode-tools etc). I think this is probably due to all the iCloud crap going on with OS X these days, but I have no proof of that.

Anectotical counter point:

I have a old netbook that I've had running win7 starter, win7 ultimate running from the old SSD i had in my desktop, and a bunch of linux distros. So far, the win7 ultimate configured for a desktop pc has been the most energy efficient.

That's probably true if they are running older versions of the kernel, which were not optimised for battery. If you install a recent kernel and load laptop-mode-tools I'm sure you might see different results, if not that is a strange result for sure.

I was about to say the same. My Dell laptop had better battery life with Windows 7 than Ubuntu 11.

I've just disabled iCloud on my iMac, many things got faster, such as the Preview app. Previously it could take 3 to 5 seconds to load a trivial png image, now it's less than a second. But unfortunately I'm a bit dependent on the iCloud already...

The biggest background drain on my MacBook Air is DropBox. It keeps trying to make a network connection when there is no wi fi available. Pause syncing on DropBox and the battery life improves.

And then as soon as there is, slam an entire core for about 30sec to calculate diffs. [MBP Quad i7, 16GB, 500GB SSD].

If it makes you feel better, Dropbox does the same thing across a few cores on my Xeon E5 under Mavericks.

Check TimeMachine also (if you're running it). It's a beast.

Time Machine doesn't run on battery power by default.

I just recently had to replace my external hard drive I use for TM backups and whenever it would start to backup it would bring the computer to a grinding halt (2013? MBPr, it's from work). I ended up disconnecting it and taking it home on the weekend to do the initial backup.

Surely a lot of this comes down to the screen?

Battery life varies greatly between e.g. Google Chromebook systems, running the same software (and between windows systems for that matter).

Some of this is to do with the power usage of the CPU, and whether video decoding is done in low power hardware, or which wireless chipset is used. But just looking at the power usage manager on your Android phone will tell you that the screen uses most of the power.

Windows hardware varies from high priced ultra books (where all is sacrificed for shininess and performance), to bargain bin systems where using an old backlighting technology saves a few bucks.

Question to Apple users - comparing windows laptops to your mac, which shipped with the more aggressive power saving settings in terms of turning the screen off when not in use?

In the Windows prompt (admin mode) you can use the following command to monitor (it will generate a HTML file) energy usage (for 60 seconds):

  powercfg –ENERGY
I can see some problems on my own system. For example "USB Suspend:USB Device not Entering Suspend"

Maybe misconfigurations like these are also causing more power consumption than needed.

That reminds me, on Ubuntu you can install powertop and run it "sudo powertop". It's a handy tool to be sure.

The correct syntax is:

powercfg /ENERGY

Both work.

  powercfg /?
shows -ENERGY

Not sure if that applies all over the line. On my win8 install only /energy works.

I wonder if Maverics will widen the gap further. It has that app suspension thing when some window goes invisible.

Also there are some decent performance improvements that would mean less cpu usage (or bursts of them, which is more power efficient).

Are there any benchmarks? Or is it still behind NDA?

I'm seeing around 1 to 1.5 more hours of operation on Mavericks on a 2012 Macbook Air 11". Now, that is not for web browsing but for development & debugging with Xcode, so I'm usually never reaching these marvellous 6+ hour rates, but with Mavericks it went basically from 3-4 hours to 4-6 hours, which is fantastic.

I'm pretty sure that that will only widen the gap between OSX and Windows on Laptop hardware.

The 13" Macbook Air could then theoretically reach 17 hours of operation time!

I've read report about improvement battery life on Mavericks. I just didn't expect the difference is that huge. Gotta update as soon as it's out ; )

Wow! That's fantastic news.

There are probably no benchmarks yet, but from my experience (I use both 10.8 and 10.9 regularly) Mavericks does a better job on battery than Mountain Lion, with about 1 hour of usage added. This is on 2012, 13" Air. The 2013 model will probably see even better gains.

Strangely enough, my Windows 8.1 managed to suspend everything yesterday. Not only the Metro apps that I didn't use, but also Explorer and every other desktop application I used. Wonder how that happened (although I used to suspend applications manually before if I wanted to pause them somehow, e.g. CPU- or I/O-intense long-running things).

Isn't that called "crashing"?

I cannot undo a crash, but I can resume applications just fine. In that particular case I tried hibernate first which led nowhere, so essentially yes, it was akin to a crash. Still puzzling, as that never happened to me (and Windows versions prior to 8 didn't use the suspend/resume functionality anyway).

I have a 2010 MacBook Pro and it's about 10-20% better battery life.

Mavericks IMHO is designed for the newer MacBooks which really need to get to 8+ hours battery life for it to change people's behaviour i.e. being able to realistically leave the power adapter at home.

Surely this doesn't just affect mobile devices. If the OS causes a higher power drain, then it must be more expensive to run a Windows server than an OS X/Linux server.

When Windows 7 launched, I had a netbook with XP on it, on which I got about 5 hours on Wi-Fi with just browsing. I put Windows 7 on it, the battery life dropped to 3.5 hours, which is a huge 30 percent decrease. So it's incredible that Windows 8 has become even worse at battery life since then, instead of becoming better.

Might it be that the Win7/Vista drivers for the MBA are worse that the OSX drivers?

We see the comparisons: Surface <-> iPad, OSX MBA <-> Win7/Vista MBA

Surface has different architecture than the iPad, so the battery difference is easily explained, and maybe driver support is just less than stellar, meaning HW isn't as efficient and/or doesn't scale back quickly enough?

I had an Asus laptop some years ago that would last 3 hours under Vista, and would be dead in the water in 1 hour under Ubuntu. I think it was either GPU or CPU scaling or both that wasn't supported in the linux drivers I was using


>I had a brief Twitter conversation with Anand Shimpi of Anandtech about this, and he was as perplexed as I was. Nobody could explain the technical basis for this vast difference in idle power management on the same hardware. None of the PC vendors he spoke to could justify it, or produce a Windows box that managed similar battery life to OS X. And that battery life gap is worse today – even when using Microsoft's own hardware, designed in Microsoft's labs, running Microsoft's latest operating system released this week. Microsoft can no longer hand wave this vast difference away based on vague references to "poorly optimized third party drivers".

No, you're seeing comparison with the Surface Pro 2, which has same battery size as MBA, and hardware made by Microsoft themselves.

Ah yes, I missed that WattHour spec. That's pretty dreadful then..

So the real comparison is SP2 (42Wh) with 6 hrs. vs. MBP 11' (38Wh) with 11 hrs.

Windows does not have a terrible battery life. That's so simple. The difference between OSX and Windows are related to drivers.

The charts are quite ridiculous in the article - comparing an Ivy Bridge, actively cooled laptop-tablet to a Nexus 7? Why?

BTW, the biggest difference is maybe CPU core hotplugging, this exists in Android and iOS but does not in Windows RT.

"The charts are quite ridiculous in the article - comparing an Ivy Bridge, actively cooled laptop-tablet to a Nexus 7? Why?"

The relevant comparison was the surface pro 2, (a joke of a tablet), has a 42 Wh battery and runs a mere 6.6 hours, but the macbook 11 inch has a smaller 38 Wh battery yet runs longer at 11.1 hours very nearly twice as long.

So are we comparing different hardware or operating systems? Surface 2 Pro and a Macbook Air are completely different: - different screen resolution - one of them has touchscreen, other doesn't - different keyboards (might matter a lot) .. and so on. The MBA is clearly better, but that does not tell too much about whether Windows is inherently bad at power management or not.

Right right that's why the article specifically mentioned plain ole web surfing over wifi.

Umm... I don't think keyboards draw as much power as you might think.

higher resolutions screens certainly do though

> surface pro 2, (a joke of a tablet)

mind sharing why you think it is a joke of a tablet?

Doesn't it have a fan or two? You know this thing that has to rotate thousands times per minute to blow the heated air, producing whirring noise, and being able to get stuck or result in overheating if you cover the exhausts?



Unless the Surface Pro 2 is significantly improved over the 1, which it doesn't look like it is from reading the reviews, it is a joke to be honest. Everyone keeps saying it's a 'real computer'; so why didn't you buy a laptop then? I worked on the 1 for about 2 weeks; the keyboard drove me insane as did the battery life. I didn't like how it stands up compared to a laptop and for some reason the screen wasn't as responsive to my touches as I would've expected it to be. For the price of these things I don't really see why anyone would buy one unless you have way too much money to spare on toys.

That said, I'll try the 2 as well when I can borrow it for a few weeks. I'm afraid the difference won't make me a convert though.

> the keyboard drove me insane as did the battery life

They've improved a battery life to 7 hours of browsing, it's even more than many other windows laptops out there. Are you talking about type cover? If yes, than what exactly drove you insane? It works find for me.

> I didn't like how it stands up compared to a laptop

They've added a new stand position which will satisfy those who are looking for laptop-like stand

> For the price of these things I don't really see why anyone would buy one unless you have way too much money to spare on toys.

It costs as much as macbook air but has a touch screen and a tablet form factor, it might fit a lot of people who don't want to carry around macbook air + ipad but want a single device.

People spend money to conform for mating rituals or to gain power.

You don't conform for mating rituals by purchasing some weird thing that no one else wants.

(non-engineering defined) Power comes out of what you can do with something, not meaningless specification numbers (however awful they are for the surface pro 2). So to do something powerful on a surface pro 2, you go to itunes app store for that cool new app and ... whoops I mean play.google.com and ... whoops I mean I hope you never leave the tiny walled garden of the shovelware it ships with, because no 3rd parties are going to pay any attention to it and it'll be forgotten about in a year at most. Its got the expandability of a fisher price toy tablet.

So if you're trying to impress/intimidate/mate (all three?), its about as useful as wearing a Darth Vader costume other than on Halloween, if you're trying to collect meaningless specs its one of the worst in class for battery life, if you're trying to actually do something you need a real supported tablet like an apple or google tablet. So other than that, its a great... paperweight?

Huh? It's a regular Windows computer, you use the same Windows software everybody else uses. You don't have to use the goofball metro interface anymore than someone who installs Windows 8 on a desktop does.

I mean, if you're in the market for a big iPhone, you'll be disappointed, but it's not competing with iPad, it's competing with Macbook Airs and Chromebooks.

HN must have not sprayed for evopsych in a while.

This comment isn't helping, but I can't resist - HN is inevitably devolving into /r/technology...

Kind of sad.

There was no relevant comparsion, as long as the hardware differs there is no way to compare. It's not just about the processor it's about everything the display the speakers the wireless network adapter, etc. Don't get me wrong the battery life of the surface is ridiculous but still the comparsion is equally ridiculous.

They pick their hardware though, it's their device. You can't claim it's the drivers.

I still don't really get what they're trying to do with the surface. If I want a tablet, I can buy a nexus 7 for cheap and it's a superior tablet to the surface anyway from things that are important to tablets (battery, apps, ui etc). If I want a laptop, I can go buy a laptop and not pay for all the bells and whistles with a touch screen, odd hardware in the screen, etc.

I'm curious to know how the latest Linux fares on a Macbook Air.

Depending on the window manager, there are reports[1] of Linux achieving better battery life than OSX. That's not surprising though, as a lightweight WM like i3 is going to use much less resource than OSX's shiny interface.

[1]: http://www.reddit.com/r/linux/comments/1jjdi8/ultrabook_with...

Which Linux? I'm sure something based on LXDE will outlast everything, while Ubuntu or other Gnome 3-based systems probably won't fare too well.

I expect great performance and battery life improvements with Mir and Unity 8, though, but that won't happen at least until 14.10, and won't be stable until 16.04. By then the Linux drivers should be a lot better and more efficient, too.

Aren't all the andorid devices mentioned inherently run on linux ?

The battery life of the Nexus 7 is almost the same using Desktop Ubuntu compared to Android.

I think he meant a full OS comparable to Windows 7 and OS X, let's say Ubuntu or Fedora for that matter.

Google Nexus 7 does run on Linux.

Can we stop calling Android Linux just because it shares the Linux kernel? Obviously the author was referring to a GNU/Linux distro.

No, because it is Linux. The correct solution is to refer to a particular distribution, as many of them make significantly different decisions.

Android is not just linux. Linux is just the kernel, and everything else running on it has nothing to do with Linux and that's the majority of Android user software and interface.

It's just like saying "this human and this bacteria are the same, they have a DNA with the same chemical structure !".

My point was not 'call all distributions Linux'. I'm saying that disqualifying Android but keeping Debian is incorrect. Debian, Android, Ubuntu. They are just different Linux distributions.

I think we should stop calling "all the distros" simply "Linux". There is an Ubuntu operating system and a Fedora operating system. They might short most of the code, but you cannot expect to run programs compiled for to run unmodified on the other.

Well, yes, but it's certainly way fairer to put Fedora and Ubuntu under the same umbrella than putting Ubuntu and Android in the same basket. GNU/Linux distros have tons of things in common, and you can often use passthrough systems to run packages from one distro on another (not that I'd recommend that).

For this purpose, "Linux" is still too general even when restricting ourself to traditional GNU/Linux distributions. The answer may depend on which exact services a specific distribution runs by default, as well as kernel configuration.

I'd be interested to see the answer for an out of the box Ubuntu distribution (latest stable version), as well as the answer for Red Hat Enterprise Linux, to cover the "leading brands" for the consumer and business markets.

Well, the kernel does device, process and memory management and that is a likely culprit when looking into power usage.

Partly. You can see that the memory consumption and the CPU consumption of various GNU/Linux distros can vary enormously even with the same kernel.

Android is Linux, just not desktop Linux. A line which is blurring, with Ubuntu on phones and Android on laptops.

Desktop Linux is not about the hardware you run it on. Android on laptops is still Android, it's not blurring the line of a GNU/Linux distro at all.

why not? besides having a LINUX kernel, it runs a lot of GNU linux programs such as GNU coreutils...

That's not true, the Android userland is not GNU. It's probably possible to compile some of the GNU tools to work with the bionic libc but it's not the default userland.

I think it's fair to say Android is running on Linux, it's just not GNU/Linux.


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