With the extensive Linux power consumption tests that I've been carrying out to solve some nasty Linux kernel power regressions and find other areas for optimization, one of the requests that has come in frequently is to compare the power consumption of the KDE, GNOME, Unity, Xfce, and LXDE desktops. After the article earlier this week to look at how the desktop environments / compositing window managers affect OpenGL performance, I carried out a quick desktop power test. In this article are battery power consumption results for Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu, and Lubuntu.
Unlike the other articles/tests relying upon results from multiple systems, this was just a quick examination carried out earlier today. A Lenovo ThinkPad T60 was used with an Intel Core Duo T2400 CPU, 1GB of system memory, 80GB Hitachi SATA HDD, and ATI Mobility Radeon X1400 graphics. The 11.04 "Natty Narwhal" editions of Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu, and Lubuntu were used in their stock configurations with the stock packages including the Linux 2.6.38 kernel, Mesa 7.10.2, EXT4 file-system, X Server 1.10.1, and xf86-video-ati 6.14.0. With the Ubuntu 11.04 installation, it was tested with both the default Unity desktop and when using the GNOME classic session with Compiz.
This first test was monitoring the battery power consumption for the ThinkPad when the system from a clean boot had launched the default web-browser, then the default file manager, and lastly was just browsing through the desktop's various menus. Interestingly, Kubuntu 11.04 with the KDE SC 4.6 desktop consumes the most power and by a noticeable margin. Kubuntu 11.04 with KDE and KWin consumed roughly 10% more power than Ubuntu 11.04 with the Unity desktop and Compiz window manager. Lubuntu 11.04 on average consumed the least amount of power, but it had less than a 2% advantage over Ubuntu 11.04.