A Look At The Windows 10 vs. Linux Power Consumption On A Dell XPS 13 Laptop

Written by Michael Larabel in Hardware on 10 July 2018 at 04:42 PM EDT. 37 Comments
With the current-generation Dell XPS 13 XPS9370-7002SLV currently being tested at Phoronix, one of the areas I was most anxious to benchmark was the power consumption... For years it has been a problem of Linux on laptops generally leading to less battery life than on Windows, but in the past ~2+ years there has been some nice improvements within the Linux kernel and a renewed effort by developers at Red Hat and elsewhere on improving the Linux laptop battery life. Here are some initial power consumption numbers for this Dell XPS 13 under Windows 10 and then various Linux distributions.

The Dell XPS 13.3-inch laptop for testing features the Intel Core i7 8550U (quad-core + HT) CPU with UHD Graphics 620, 2 x 4GB RAM, 256GB PM961 NVMe Samsung SSD, and its panel is a 1920 x 1080 resolution. For some initial basic tests I ran Windows 10 out-of-the-box and compared that to fresh installs of Ubuntu 18.04 LTS, Fedora Workstation 28, openSUSE Tumbleweed, and Clear Linux.

To rule out any differences in the battery power usage reporting between operating systems or even differences in the threading / process control handling for querying the power data automatically, I ended up measuring the AC power usage when the battery was completely charged each time and measuring it through a USB-based WattsUp Pro power meter connected to a separate system that was recording the power data.

Each time the power usage was recorded by the Phoronix Test Suite going from a cold boot to the desktop environment, launching the default web browser and navigating to Phoronix.com, then launching the file manager, launching the PowerShell/terminal/console, and other basic desktop tasks for a total period of six minutes. On each operating system, the display brightness was maxed out as well as disabling any dim-while-idle settings.

Here's how that data looks for booting the laptop and carrying out those basic tasks:

Overall, the power use between Windows 10 and the four tested Linux distributions was basically on-par with each other. It was interesting to note though that Ubuntu 18.04 LTS had spiked much higher than the other operating systems under test. Also visible from the graph is several times where the Windows power usage was spiking. Of the Linux distributions when going by the average power use and peak power consumption, Fedora Workstation 28 was doing the best of the tested Linux distros in this basic round of testing... Though not too surprising given with the Fedora 28 cycle, there was a focus at Red Hat on improving the power efficiency / battery life.

Beyond this data, the battery life of this Dell XPS laptop has been about the same as seen under Windows 10 with the testing thus far. So overall it's a pleasant surprise with not having tested any other Kabylake-R laptops and wasn't quite sure if the Linux power efficiency would be able to run on-par with Windows 10 at this point.

A lot more Linux tests from this Dell XPS9370 are forthcoming in the days ahead on Phoronix...
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About The Author
Michael Larabel

Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 20,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter, LinkedIn, or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

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