Investigating NVIDIA's BatteryBoost with MSI GT72by Jarred Walton on October 23, 2014 9:00 AM EST
We previewed the performance of MSI's new GT72 notebook earlier this month, and while we're still running a few additional tests for the full review, one area that we wanted to look at in more detail is BatteryBoost. Initially launched with the GTX 800M series earlier this year, our first look at the technology came with the MSI GT70 with GTX 880M, and unfortunately battery life even when not gaming wasn't exactly stellar, and powering up the GTX 880M didn't help matters. NVIDIA's stated goal is to get useful gaming battery life above two hours, which so far we haven't been able to do (and starting with a laptop that only manages 4-5 hours in our light and heavy Internet testing doesn't help).
Without BatteryBoost, the MSI GT70 managed around 50 minutes of battery life while gaming (give or take), while enabling BatteryBoost in some cases could get us up to 80+ minutes of battery life. More recently, we reviewed the updated Razer Blade (2014 edition) with a GTX 870M. We were able to see an improvement from 46 minutes without BatteryBoost to 76 minutes with BatteryBoost in our limited testing. However, if the goal is to get above two hours of gaming battery life, we're still not there.
Basically, the amount of battery life you are able to get while gaming is largely dependent on how high frame rates are without BatteryBoost and how low the target frame rate is set with BatteryBoost. If a game on battery power can run at 60FPS and BatteryBoost puts a 30FPS cap into place, battery life can improve a decent amount. A game that can hit 120FPS meanwhile would potentially experience a much larger benefit from BatteryBoost, especially when putting a 30FPS cap into effect. With GT72 and the GTX 980M, both power efficiency and performance should be better than the GT70 and GTX 880M, which means BatteryBoost has the potential to stretch its legs a bit more.
For our testing, we've picked three games and we've run and reasonably high settings – but not necessarily maxed out settings, as that would generally prevent BatteryBoost from providing much if any benefit. Our goal was to run settings that would allow at least 70+ FPS on battery power. Keep in mind that just because the GT72 can hit well over 60 FPS on AC power, even without BatteryBoost enabled there are some performance limitations in effect. In the end, our three games consist of Tomb Raider at High quality, the newly released Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel at nearly maxed out settings (we left PhysX on Low), and GRID Autosport with High settings. Anti-aliasing was not used in any of the games (though FXAA was enabled in Borderlands), and the resolution was set to 1080p. The power profile was set to Balanced, with the LCD running at 200 nits.
One of the interesting things about BatteryBoost is that it allows you to target a variety of frame rates (from 30 to 60 FPS in 5 FPS intervals). NVIDIA has also stated that they're doing more than just frame rate targeting, so we wanted to test that by enabling VSYNC and running without BatteryBoost at a steady 60FPS. Since BatteryBoost also doesn't inherently enable VSYNC, that was one more variable to test. (While in theory anything between 30 and 60 FPS should result in a 30FPS frame rate with VSYNC enabled, at least in GRID Autosport that doesn't happen, either due to triple buffering or some other factors.)
In the end, for at least one game – GRID Autosport – we tested both with and without VSYNC at 10FPS intervals with BatteryBoost, plus checking performance without BatteryBoost. That's ten different settings to test, and with each cycle requiring at least several hours we've been running BatteryBoost tests almost non-stop since our preview article. This is about the most effort we've ever put into testing gaming battery life on a laptop, and it might be a while before we decide to delve into this subject in such a fashion again. So join us as we thoroughly investigate BatteryBoost on the GTX 980M.
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JarredWalton - Thursday, October 23, 2014 - linkThis particular laptop does not have Optimus; you can manually enable/disable the GPU, though it requires a reboot. Since I'm testing games on the GPU, however, I wanted to compare battery life gaming to battery life not gaming (but with the GPU still active). It looks like the 980M uses around 8W idle, give or take, so turning it off and using the HD 4600 will improve battery life into the 6 hour range.
sonicmerlin - Tuesday, October 28, 2014 - linkGiven these things have much larger batteries than ultra books, which can last significantly longer than 6 hours, you'd think these things would get longer run times when using the IGP.
Krysto - Friday, October 24, 2014 - linkNot a bad idea, this feature.
Calista - Friday, October 24, 2014 - linkYou can already today have a decent gaming experience with a 4 hour battery life. But you won't get it running full tilt with a modern game. We have the technology already, it's all about how the market works. More efficient component also allows for faster components. But those will consume more energy. And we're at full circle. My advice - return to games made five years ago and they will run very well on an Intel GPU while giving a long battery life.
Long battery life/High framerates/Good graphics - feel free to pick two of those. But you will never get all three.
RoninX - Friday, October 24, 2014 - linkOr carry a spare battery.
I just bought a new MSI GT60 Dominator with the GTX 970M. The main reason I picked this over the smaller, lighter GS60 Ghost is that the GT60 comes with a removable 9-cell battery, where the GS60 has a non-removable 6-cell battery.
I get over 2 hours of runtime with Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel at high settings, 30 fps, and 1920x1080. With a spare battery, that's over 4 hours, which is plenty for my primary use case for battery gaming (gaming while waiting for airline flights).
I was also impressed with the GT60's full performance plugged into AC, which comes close to my desktop (i7-2700k with GTX 680) using 3D Mark. The fan does sound a bit like a hovercraft when the CPU/GPU is running at full tilt, but I can live with that.
jann5s - Tuesday, October 28, 2014 - linkI love these type of articles, thank you AT!
If I may propose another topic: The visual impact of game quality settings (e.g. FSAA) compared to the cost in performance.