Test Setup

As stated, we are testing four different operating systems. In order to keep the number of benchmarks manageable, we are focusing on two primary battery life scenarios. Our first test is an Internet web-browsing scenario. We configure the chosen browser to load three websites that contain Flash content every 60 seconds. When the battery level goes critical (usually 1%, although Windows 7 doesn't let us set this lower than 3%) the system shuts down. The second test is DVD playback battery life, again with the system set to run until the battery level is critical. The various operating systems don't necessarily give you the same level of control over power saving features, so we tested a couple scenarios on each Windows OS.

Windows XP

Windows XP gives you the least control over power saving features. We test two scenarios, one using the Portable/Laptop profile and the other using the Max Battery profile. We don't have specific details on what these settings mean in terms of maximum CPU performance, but it's clear that they do affect performance. They also impact battery life, and most people only want enough performance when running on battery life for their system to work properly. We did not experience any difficulties watching DVDs or surfing the Internet, although more CPU intensive tasks may have problems when using the Max Battery profile. On the Portable profile, the HDD is set to power down after five minutes, while the Max Battery profile has it set to power down after three minutes. We also measure LCD brightness with a colorimeter and set it as close to 100 nits as possible.

Windows Vista/7

Similar to Windows XP, we test two different power profiles in Windows Vista and 7: Balanced and Power Saver. These profiles correspond roughly to the same settings as the Windows XP profiles, but this time we have more control over the various details. For Windows Vista and 7, we use the following settings under Balanced.

The hard drive is set to power off after five minutes. The wireless adapter is set to medium power saving, hybrid sleep is enabled, and USB selective suspend is enabled. PCI-E link state power management is set to maximum power saving. The minimum processor state is set to 5% and the maximum processor state is 100%; we don't know how this specifically affects CPU clock speeds, and if you want to run a similar test make sure your notebook manufacturer doesn't specify different values. Search and indexing is set to power saver and adaptive display is disabled. Again, we calibrate the LCD to run at 100 nits, which is 35% brightness for these two laptops (three steps above minimum brightness).

The Power Saver profile uses the same settings in most areas, but we set the hard drive to power down after three minutes, the wireless adapter is at maximum power saving, and the maximum processor state is 50%. Windows 7 does include a few other areas that you can tweak, but most of these relate to LCD dimming in order to conserve power. This is not to say that Vista and Windows 7 are the same, because as we will see in the results there are some definite differences.

Ubuntu 9.0.4 (Jaunty)

There aren't a lot of power saving features available for tweaking within Linux - at least not that I could find. We configured the LCD to never shut off (just like on Windows), and set the system to shut down at 3% battery - the minimum we could specify. We also disabled LCD dimming. Honestly, I don't know nearly as much about Linux as Windows, but I did my best to get Linux installed properly on the two notebooks. As anyone who has used Linux before can tell you, getting driver support is sometimes a real pain in the rear.

Generally speaking, both systems also felt far more sluggish running Linux, especially for typical web browsing. We used Firefox 3.0 initially and then updated to 3.5 - not as easy as I would like under Ubuntu, and I have no idea why the latest build is called Shiretoko in some places and Firefox 3.5 in others. Whatever. Both versions of Firefox felt incredibly slow, but that was with Flash enabled. With the FlashBlock add-on, Internet performance was significantly better, but that isn't a fair comparison to the Windows browser tests. As a point of reference, we ran the same test under Windows Vista and achieved significantly better battery life. We will get to those results in a moment.

Our issues with configuring Ubuntu don't end with the browser, however. On the Intel-based NV58, we could not get LCD brightness to function properly. The result is that the LCD ran at maximum brightness during our tests, which obviously results in lower battery life. We tried to find an updated driver for the Intel GMA 4500MHD graphics, but so far we have been unsuccessful in addressing this issue. The AMD-based NV52 wasn't any better, but for different reasons. We could find updated drivers from ATI, but after repeated attempts we never did get them to function properly. We were left with running the proprietary fglxr 8.600 driver, and while it worked fine in general we had problems with DVD playback. VLC repeatedly crashed during our benchmarks, sometimes after a few minutes, sometimes after 50 minutes. Eventually, we decided to uninstall the proprietary ATI driver and test out the open-source MESA driver. Surprisingly, the open-source driver actually provided a better experience, although we aren't looking at 3D performance where ATI's fglxr driver likely has an advantage.

The short story is that while everything eventually worked out okay on the NV52, the number of headaches we encountered trying to get everything working properly under Ubuntu is more than a little frustrating. You get a sense of accomplishment once everything is working, or at least I did, but that's not something most people are interested in doing. Most people view computers as a tool and they wanted to "just work"; they don't want to scour the Internet looking for instructions on how to manually install the latest drivers/application/whatever. If you're Interested in a more detailed look at Linux, we suggest you read our Ubuntu 8.04 Article. The only area of Linux that we're testing today is battery life.

Index Gateway NV52 (AMD) - Battery Life
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  • orionmgomg - Tuesday, September 22, 2009 - link

    You are right - I did shouldn't have been so brass on saying who cares - it is a very well written artical and I am sure you spent a lot of time puttinmg together very accurate data for the people who actually do care.

    Sorry for being thoughtless to say the least.

    I always love anandtech and I love all the articals and the diversity of reviews and studies.

    I just had a knee reaction to this because every time I buy a lappy - and test the battery for the first time, I realize - yes battery performance gets better and better - even though ever so slightly, but I also realize with great frustration that you really can not rely on battery power for the most part - it will get you out of a jam for sure - but to base any computing time on battery power is futile - that has been my expreiance and so I made those comments more out of my own frustration than anything...

    Thank you for all the hard work, good articals and being the very best tech web site!
    Reply
  • Fox5 - Tuesday, September 22, 2009 - link

    Ubuntu may be released on a 6 month time frame, but by the time a version comes out, the software in it is 6 months out of date. Since Linux is finally getting some real development attention, it's advancing very quickly, and being 6 months to a year out of date represents a large change in features.

    Hold off on any future Ubuntu comparisons until Ubuntu 9.10 (fresh install only). It switches to the ext4 file system which fixes some firefox performance issues and should decrease boot times as well and should have more up to date drivers. It's also the next long-term release I believe, which is kind of scary considering how much new stuff they're adopting in that version.

    I'm surprised you couldn't get the latest ATI proprietary driver installed though. I've used both ATI and nvidia cards in linux, and ati by far had the easier install process. If I recall, it was as simple as sudo ./atiinstaller and then hitting enter a few times. Then again, I've also heard ati integrated chipsets have horrible driver support under linux, so they may not be supported, though I'd think the hd3200 igp would be since it's still fairly recent.

    The intel drivers may also get a big boost in ubuntu 9.10. There's some new video driver (or just 3d?) framework being introduced and the older Intel drivers have all but been abandoned to work on the new framework, so a lot of issues that need fixing aren't even being considered for the current drivers in use.
    Reply
  • themissinglint - Tuesday, September 22, 2009 - link

    This reads like you guys don't know your way around GNU Linux systems well enough to get what you could out of them. It reads like you did the minimum to get it running, which is, from a perspective, fair, since that was probably more work than you put into the Windows OSs.

    It's also a small sample because you're only using one/two set ups. Laptops like these are optimized up and down for Windows. Of course that is also true for most computers people buy.

    Overall, I am glad to see Ubuntu included at all-- it's usually absent from these sorts of tests. The more you include it, the more experience AnandTech will have running Ubuntu (and other Linux systems), and the more you'll be able to get from it. Also, Ubuntu in particular is quickly becoming more out-of-the-box (as more and more people contribute to development on more and more machines). In the next couple years you'll be testing Linux systems that will blow Windows away in some places.

    But: Kudos on including Ubuntu... where's OS X? Couldn't you get it to run on a Gateway machine?
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, September 22, 2009 - link

    Not going to try OS X on a hackintosh... at least not yet. As for the ATI drivers, I went through the manual install procedure multiple times and was greeted with a failed driver message. It was so bad that I couldn't even get back to the original Ubuntu ATI fglxr driver and ended up just going back to my previous Ubuntu image. I did it three times following various instructions and it failed each time. :(

    If someone has specific experience with getting an optimized driver for the HD 3200 working, point me at some instructions. The experience right now unfortunately was horrible. All the DVD playback programs I tried on Ubuntu crashed when using the latest "stable Ubuntu Jaunty" driver package, sometimes after five minutes, sometimes after 60 minutes. If you weren't at the PC when the DVD playback froze up, the system would eventually enter a completely locked up state (a la the lovely BSOD, but with no error message).

    I still have the laptops and will test out other options if any of you want to point me to guides that are of reasonable quality. I got just a brief glimpse of what Ryan experienced over the past year with Ubuntu, though, and I didn't want to get sucked in any further. I have plenty of other reviews I need to get done!
    Reply
  • smitty3268 - Tuesday, September 22, 2009 - link

    I think that crash during video playback is fixed by turning off redirected rendering when full screen apps are active (it's an option in Compiz somewhere). Or you could just turn off desktop compositing completely. It seems like the newer drivers have fixed that, but I'm not running fglrx and I don't remember for sure. Reply
  • Fox5 - Tuesday, September 22, 2009 - link

    Agreed, the desktop effects, besides wasting battery life, interfere with the ATI's drivers video acceleration and should have been off during the test.
    Of course, you could then ask why Ubuntu enables something buggy by default.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, September 22, 2009 - link

    I did disable Visual FX on both systems - is that the same thing? The ATI setup was pretty much a complete no-show with DVD playback before I did that. It would stutter and fail withing seconds. Sorry I didn't mention that. Reply
  • nofumble62 - Tuesday, September 22, 2009 - link

    Intel battery life at least 1 hour longer.

    AMD boot up time 50% longer.

    Those are the two most important things for me.
    Reply
  • jodomcfatty - Tuesday, September 22, 2009 - link

    If you look at the specs, he's comparing a Intel 4500 graphics chip with an AMD 3200HD(which while integrated, will seriously destroy the 4500 in gaming tests) but that will ALSO completely affect battery life since it can't just be turned down to 4500 usage levels. This thing alone eats up significant battery power while expelling a lot more heat.

    He did this before and I completely lose respect for him for talking battery life while using totally different setups.

    I would agree that equal systems the Intel will most likely be better, but no where near by this much.

    This article is more about the OS but even there he knows little about linux but I will say he's willing to do more testing....just seems crazy to me that he couldn't just get a AMD with a 4500(harder to find but not impossible)
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, September 22, 2009 - link

    What's a better IGP for AMD than the HD 3200? You're being completely obstinate to suggest that it's not a fair comparison.

    The fact is, AMD can't do any better power-wise than what I've got in the Gateway, can it? An X1270 IGP is similar in performance to the 4500MHD, and power draw is similar to the HD 3200 (because it's on an older process).

    As for finding an AMD setup with a 4500, either you're talking about an AMD HD 4500, which would be even WORSE on power draw than the HD 3200, or you're suggesting it's possible to run an AMD CPU with an Intel chipset. It's not, as HyperTransport isn't an Intel feature and that's what AMD CPUs use.
    Reply

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