Is Microsoft closing on the efficiency of the MacOS with its Windows 10? The short answer is yes! The longer answer would be that Microsoft is fully aware of the deficiencies of the current power management system and is working on testing improvements through its insider preview builds.
As the part of the Creators update, Microsoft just added to the insider builds a new power management feature caller Power Throttling. This is a really bad name is it suggests that it will make your computer terribly slow, however that is absolutely NOT in Microsoft’s intention, so it is great that this name is just temporary and only for insiders’ builds at the moment.
So what does this Power Throttling feature do and how does it work? Just a few days ago we’ve discussed within a smaller group the efficiency of Windows power management. I was bummed because I have at my disposal a Macbook Air 13 that has dual boot with latest MacOS and Windows 10 which is a perfect test bed for battery life tests, and so under identical conditions, same applications and tasks I am able to get 7-8h of runtime under MacOS and 3-4h under Windows. So what’s different about Windows and why is it so much less efficient then the competing MacOS? The consensus that we came up with in the discussion was that Windows needs to be more aggressive at managing background tasks and memory use. And even more importantly developers that make applications for Windows need to be aware of the new power management requirements and follow the best practices.
Power Throttling feature is exactly the first crack at what we discussed in the group. It will look at the list of running services and classify certain applications as being background ones. If a background service requests processor time, Windows instead of kicking the processor into a high performance mode will instead keep it in its low power state. But it will still treat the foreground applications and certain classes of important background services as high priority and allow access high performance processor mode when needed.
Power management slider that appears by clicking the battery icon in the system notification area controls Power Throttling feature sensitivity or aggressiveness. Slide it all the way to the left and Windows will try to save as much power as possible. Start sliding it to the right, towards the maximum performance, and eventually Power Throttling will be disabled. Plugging your computer into the wall also disables the Power Throttling function. In future builds, Microsoft intends to provide APIs so that developers can make sure that Power Throttling treats their application and related service appropriately.
So lets address the elephant in the room! Does this Power Throttling feature actually work? Unfortunately I could not test it in my MBA 13 as it predates the required (at the moment) Skylake or Kaby Lake era processor. But I am testing another Acer laptop at the moment (review will follow soon) and I am happy to report that Power Throttling in the most aggressive setting was able to get me consistently about 45-50 min additional run time with all other things remaining equal, bringing the total runtime of the machine closer to 9h vs 8h observed before. Now did the computer feel slow or sluggish? Not at all, at least for the common applications such as browsers, office, music and some photoshop it felt rather the same as in high performance setting.
Overall I am really psyched to see Microsoft actually addressing the power management issues and taking the initiative of moving things forward both for Windows itself as well as its platform developers.