Software

Will Windows 10 really make your laptop battery last longer?

Microsoft's next major upgrade promises to squeeze power consumption.

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Image: Microsoft

Microsoft is promising the next major update to Windows 10 will extend the battery life on laptops and tablets.

The new Power Throttling feature will squeeze the performance of less important software to reduce battery drain.

Due to be rolled out to most Windows 10 users in Fall of this year, Microsoft claims the feature has lowered CPU power consumption by "up to 11%", during what it calls "the most strenuous use cases".

"This capability should help many of you see a nice boost in battery life," said Bill Karagounis, director of program management for the Windows Insider program in a blog post.

The feature works by identifying which of the tasks being carried out by the computer is most important to the user, determined by factors such as whether an app is in the foreground, is playing music or other user-specific information. Users can opt out of specific apps being throttled and the feature is only enabled when devices are running off the battery.

The Power Throttling ability works by exploiting the Speed Shift feature found in Intel's Skylake processors or later. Skylake processors were released in 2015, with consumer-targeted models typical badged as 6xxx. Power Throttling is only available on devices using Intel Skylake or Kaby Lake CPUs at present, although Microsoft says it is working to make the feature available on "other processors".

SEE: Windows 10: The smart person's guide

Speed Shift allows operating systems to hand more control over the adjustments to the operating frequency and voltage of the CPU back to the processor.

This feature can allow the processor to more quickly ramp up performance, and has already delivered a limited speed boost when running select apps, such as Microsoft Edge, on Windows 10 on certain Intel CPUs.

The other potential benefit of Speed Shift is reduced power consumption, due to some tasks being completed more efficiently.

However, while Microsoft cites Speed Shift as enabling the Power Throttling energy savings, Intel has previously said that Speed Shift has limited impact on battery life. This was verified in third-party benchmarks of Speed Shift, which found it made a negligible difference to power consumption.

Microsoft has a history of talking up new Windows features that are underwhelming in reality. Another recent upgrade to Windows 10, Game Mode, was described by Microsoft as delivering "an improvement in overall game performance" but tests found the difference in most use cases was largely imperceptible.

As desktop PC shipments continue to fall, Microsoft is placing more emphasis on Windows ability to prolong battery life, recently releasing a benchmark it said demonstrated that a PC running its Edge browser will last 77 percent longer than Firefox, and 35 percent longer than Chrome.

The Power Throttling feature was rolled out to those testing early builds of Windows 10 under the Windows Insider program yesterday.

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About Nick Heath

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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