The engineers responsible for Intel's Core Duo processor and Centrino Duo platform are a bit frustrated.  Years of hard work leading up to the platform's launch in early January was first plagued by the problem of availability.  Core Duo and Centrino Duo notebooks are still not widely available, and that will continue to be the case at least for another week or two.  Outside of availability, another even more troubling problem crept up - could it be that the Core Duo platform had a bug that significantly reduced battery life when paired with any USB 2.0 device?  The folks at Tom's Hardware originally uncovered the issue, when they noted that battery life on their ASUS Core Duo notebook dropped dramatically after merely connecting an external USB 2.0 device. 

How much more frustrating could things get?  After spending years of work on a new mobile CPU and platform, your customers still really can't buy them and the one thing that everyone remembers about them is that they have some sort of a bug that reduces battery life.  When you've spent a good deal of your design time trying to increase battery life, having a reputation of decreasing it before notebooks are widely available has to be a tough pill to swallow. 

However, the case isn't as open and shut as that; the original test data indicated that this was primarily a Core Duo problem, while Microsoft insists that the problem should affect all notebooks.  The other issue is that, until last week, every single Core Duo platform that we could get our hands on was pre-production.  There's also the question of whether or not the problem is caused by the actual USB device used.  And finally, amongst all of this debate and finger pointing, a temporary solution actually existed, just begging to be tested. 

We set out on investigating this issue immediately after it was discovered, but soon found out that it was a lot more complicated than we thought upon first glance.  We've spent almost the past two weeks performing non-stop battery life testing on five notebooks with up to 4 different USB devices, testing theories, trying to pinpoint exactly what causes this problem and testing Microsoft's fix.  What follows is the process that we went through in our labs when faced with this strange bug.

Starting at the Beginning
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  • mayurgala - Thursday, June 22, 2006 - link

    Hi,

    as we saw tht MS has come with a registry fix which gets off once the machine comes out of the standby mode.... SO y cant we use hibernate it will just consume some more hard drive space :)

    Hibernation vs Standby Mode are very similar and people tend to confuse the differences. Standby basically turns off power consuming components like the hard disks and monitor. It switches the computer to a low power state. Its much like a warm boot. Any contents of memory and unsaved desktop settings are lost. Hibernation saves state information by writing a hibernation file which contains the contents of memory and is thus the same size as total RAM. This is a snapshot of active memory. When you turn your PC back on, the state, including which applications are running (desktop) and the memory contents are restored to RAM and voila! - you are back to where you were when Hibernation mode started. The restoration of state can take place in 5 minutes, 5 hours, 5 days, 5 weeks, ....
    Hibernation is only available if your system is ACPI-compatible. If it is not, the Hibernation tab will be missing and you will have an APM tab instead. To enable Hibernation mode as one of your Shutdown options:
    Reply
  • V00D00 - Thursday, February 16, 2006 - link

    The link to the microsoft kb article is bad, it takes you here:
    file://localhost/kb/256986

    It's supposed to be:
    https://premier.microsoft.com/kb/256986/">https://premier.microsoft.com/kb/256986/
    Reply
  • IntelUser2000 - Wednesday, February 15, 2006 - link

    Tomshardware: http://www.tgdaily.com/2006/02/14/microsoft_to_rel...">http://www.tgdaily.com/2006/02/14/micro...e_patch_...

    Anandtech: http://www.anandtech.com/mobile/showdoc.aspx?i=269...">http://www.anandtech.com/mobile/showdoc.aspx?i=269...



    Can anyone tell me why both systems with EXACTLY the same configuration AND drivers behave differently in terms of USB 2.0 power drain problem??

    If Anandtech is right about the fact that since Asus W5A/W5F has integrated USB 2.0 camera, connecting a external USB 2.0 device shouldn't affect battery life since it already has USB 2.0 device via camera installed.

    However, it does not. While Anandtech's results are consistent with THEIR own conclusions that disabling the device doesn't remove the problem, the only way is to physically remove it, it doesn't show for Tomshardware results.

    Summarizing the differences:
    Tomshardware
    1. With no external devices connected, Core Duo laptop has SIGNIFICANT battery life advantage over Pentium M
    2. Core Duo laptop loses significant battery life when external USB 2.0 device is connected
    3. Battery life AFTER the LOSS is STILL pretty much equal to Pentium M laptop
    4. Pentium M laptop loses very insignificant amount of battery life with USB 2.0 device connected
    5. Core Duo laptop AFTER THE PATCH GAINS significant battery life close to the result with no external devices connected, now the difference between CONNECTED and UNCONNECTED is within expectations
    6. Pentium M laptop ALSO gains battery life after the patch, but much less significant then Core Duo laptop

    Anandtech
    1. Core Duo laptop has very little battery life advantage over Pentium M
    2. Core Duo laptop loses insignificant battery life when USB 2.0 device is connected
    3. Battery life after the loss is pretty much equal to Pentium M
    4. Pentium M laptop loses insignificant battery life with external USB 2.0 device connected
    5. Core Duo laptop AFTER THE PATCH gains significant amount of battery life
    6. Pentium M laptop ALSO gains SIGNIFICANT amount of battery life.


    Anand??? Tom??? Who the hell is wrong here?? Will you two sites stop bashing each other who has more "professional" journalism and cooperate, see what's wrong?? So umm, MAYBE WE KNOW WHY THERE IS A DIFFERENCE??!!
    Reply
  • clnee55 - Wednesday, February 15, 2006 - link

    Don't know who is right and who is wrong but at least THG is more consistent. Anand's conclusions are contradictary. Ex: 2 and 5. If the CoreDuo loses insignificant when USB2 is connected, how can it gain significant after the patch. Same contradiction between 4 and 6

    1. Core Duo laptop has very little battery life advantage over Pentium M
    2. Core Duo laptop loses insignificant battery life when USB 2.0 device is connected
    3. Battery life after the loss is pretty much equal to Pentium M
    4. Pentium M laptop loses insignificant battery life with external USB 2.0 device connected
    5. Core Duo laptop AFTER THE PATCH gains significant amount of battery life
    6. Pentium M laptop ALSO gains SIGNIFICANT amount of battery life
    Reply
  • NullSubroutine - Wednesday, February 15, 2006 - link

    i dont think his summary was accurate to what anand what saying. which was under all circumstances usb 2.0 makes Pentium M and Core Duo lose battery power due to the issue with windows.

    thg diabled the camera THOUGH the bios, where as i believe anand did it inside windows.
    Reply
  • tyildirim - Wednesday, February 15, 2006 - link

    And what about how swap cd/dvd bays alot of IBM's dell's has (also my d600) a removable internal cd writer in the task bar is si seems to be an usb device added to the system which I can "safelym remove" etc. so will it also affects battery life? quite confused now? Reply
  • hardcandy2 - Wednesday, February 15, 2006 - link

    A similiar thing happens to the Dell Axim x50v with WM 2005, a battery drain takes place, due to a "file manager"(?) that keeps running. Saw it posted on www.aximsite.com a while back. Going by memory here which is not the best this AM. Reply
  • paulsiu - Wednesday, February 15, 2006 - link

    Ok, the driver architecture is likely to be different, but does the problem occur under Linux? Reply
  • NullSubroutine - Wednesday, February 15, 2006 - link

    i just read toms update, anand is by far better written, more informative, and used better methodoligy. go anand! Reply
  • mark1 - Tuesday, February 14, 2006 - link

    Mark Twain had a saying, pardon my paraphrase, that a lie makes it halfway around the world before the truth gets its shoes on.

    THG has zero credibility. Their smug little article is still up and my bet is will stay up uncorrected so all the AMD fanboys can chortle about mighty Intel stumbling.

    Turns out, THG tried a little too hard this time. So they found 'dirt'; turns out the same phenomenon afflicts all Sonoma product, too.

    Before you know it, the story will have morphed into: plug any USB into a core duo and it drains the battery instantly. Heck, I was just at a retail store last weekend and was warned by a "salesman" that Duos have a battery drain problem. I asked him if he reads Tom's Hardware a lot - he wasn't ready for that. Or for that fact that I said it is a USB implementation, really nothing to do with the Centrino product. But the next 50 customers will get the same 1/2 truth. And all 1/2 truths are is lies.
    Reply

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