GUIDE - Improving battery life on XPS 9550 (or other XPS laptops)

Discussion in 'Dell XPS and Studio XPS' started by arshcaria, Nov 26, 2016.

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  1. arshcaria

    arshcaria Notebook Enthusiast

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    Early this year I was looking for a replacement for my 4-year-old HP Elitebook 8560p. The main concerns are battery life and portability and if you have used an 8560p you know why.

    After watching some reviews online and some googling, I bought an XPS 9550.
    The main specs are:
    i7-6700HQ
    16GB RAM
    512GB SDD
    FHD display (mainly for the purpose of longer battery life)
    84 mWh battery

    I bought it in March 2016 and the battery wear level was at 4% out of the box. It was frustrating that I never got more than 6 hrs battery life. After 6 months the battery wear level rose to 19.1% and battery life was even worse. I called Dell in China hoping to get a battery replacement, but they told me they could replace it for free ONLY when the wear level reaches more than 20% in the first year.

    So I decided to solve this problem on my own (of course with help of the Internet).

    1. Battery calibration

    The first thing I did was calibrating the battery (full charge and discharge). I know it is harmful to do it too often but I decided to give it a try to save my life...
    The method is:
    1. fully charge the battery
    2. let it drain from 100% to 5%. When it reaches 5%, Windows hibernates.
    3. boot it to BIOS and let it drain from 5% to 0%. The laptop will shut down at 0%.
    4. charge it fully.

    One interesting thing is that the battery level stayed at 7% for like more than half an hour. I guess this is where the calibration process really works.

    After doing that, the battery wear level decreased from 19.1% to 7.4%. I didn't expect this much improvement to be honest.

    upload_2016-11-26_13-42-31.png


    2. Reducing background services and apps


    Then I disabled some unnecessary background services and start-on-boot apps such as Evernote clipper, Google/Adobe/Itunes/Office update services/scheduled tasks, Maxx Audio service(Dell Audio) and so on.

    You can use a fantastic tool called "Autorun" to do this job:
    https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb963902.aspx

    I still have some start-on-boot apps enabled, such as Ditto, f.lux, some AHK scripts and Throttlestop. Because I rely on them very much and they don't seem to consume much power.

    3. Undervolting

    I use ThrottleStop (version 8.30) to undervote the CPU/cache to -179.7mv. This reduces much much heat/temperature and saves quite some battery.

    upload_2016-11-26_13-45-23.png

    You should do some stress tests, such as prime95, to make sure it is stable. You don't want any BSODs or sudden reboots.

    4. Windows power plans

    When running on battery, I use the "power saver" plan and enabled "battery saver" option. (Click the battery tray icon and you will see this option button. You can also set when to trigger it automatically in settings)

    If you use BatteryBar pro, it can change the power plan when plug/unplug.

    5. Dell Command Power Manager

    You can download Dell Command Power Manager from XPS 9550 drivers page and it provides a "battery extender" function. I don't use it because it sometimes limits my CPU freq to 1.7GHz even on AC (I have to reboot to solve this). Maybe you guys are lucky so go check it out.

    upload_2016-11-26_13-46-22.png


    It also provide fan noise control and charge modes (you don't have to go to BIOS to change the charge mode).

    6. Use Opera browser when on battery

    We all know Chrome is a battery hog. Internet Explorer and Edge are battery friendly but have very limited extensions.

    So I use Chrome on AC and Opera on battery. You can enable Opera's "battery saver" option and block ads to save much battery.

    upload_2016-11-26_13-43-37.png

    You may argue that opera lacks many useful extension compared to Chrome. But you may either:
    1. accept the fact and use fewer extensions
    or
    2. install "Download Chrome Extension" on Opera to enable it using Chrome extensions (which is super cool)

    Using Opera instead of Chrome usually gives me an extra hour of battery life.

    7. If you are a developer/programmer

    Some IDEs or devel tools may have options to reduce battery consumption. For example Android Studio/Intellij Idea have an option of "power save mode". You may google around to find suitable options for your devel tools.

    upload_2016-11-26_13-44-3.png


    After applying these optimizations I can get about 7 to 8 hours battery life, which becomes satisfactory.

    My use cases are: Browsing web/reading PDF, occasional watching youtube, writing code in Android Studio.

    Hope this guide can help some of you. If you guys have any suggestions or better tips please share them in your post.

    EDIT

    I asked Dell to replace my old battery with a new one. The new battery's wear level is 0 and battery life is even better. (appr. 8.5 or more hours)
     
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2016
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  2. antik

    antik Notebook Geek

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    Just a quick question with ThrottleStop, do you need to have the program running and minimized for voltage changes to be active?
     
  3. pressing

    pressing Notebook Deity

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    For undervolt to be applied, you need to have ThrottleStop running and also make sure it is "turned on" (the button will read "Turn Off"). ThrottleStop does not need to be minimized.
     
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  4. pressing

    pressing Notebook Deity

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    Thanks for putting this guide together arshcaria. A few quick comments

    That is a good undervolt. Every processor can be significantly different so as you well note, users need to spend some time testing. Based on a dozen or so user reports posted in these threads, I think the i5 is typically undervolted by 150-170mv; the i7 range is a bit lower.

    User EASON has produced a good primer for beginners to begin research:

    http://www.ultrabookreview.com/10167-laptop-undervolting-overcloking/

    ThrottleStop requires that "high performance" Windows power plan is enabled. It also requires that the SpeedShift is enabled in BIOS. There is plenty of general info and discussion on battery extension in the ThrottleStop thread here:

    http://forum.notebookreview.com/threads/the-throttlestop-guide.531329/

    XXX. SpeedShift

    For power savings, you might also consider enabling Intel's fancy new SpeedShift. That is a special option just launched with Skylake processors. ThrottleStop's TPL window is the easiest way to try this and I found it was rock-solid on my system. For the 9550, you might go to TPL window and:

    - check the two speed shift boxes
    - make sure the min and max are correct for your processor (e.g. 1 and 32 for my i5 that runs at 3.2 ghz max)
    - select the desired EPP (ranging from 0 for highest performance to 255 for maximum battery life

    If you want to disable the old SpeedStep, do that by unchecking SpeedStep in ThrottleStop main window.

    There is a thread dedicated to SpeedShift so read that first

    http://forum.notebookreview.com/threads/dell-xps-15-9550-skylake-speed-shift.796891/

    BTW - once you enable SpeedShift you can terminate ThrottleStop (but other ThrottleStop functions may terminate). However, if you turn off your 9550, you will need to run ThrottleStop to reenable SpeedShift. There are some workarounds discussed in said thread
     
  5. antik

    antik Notebook Geek

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    I actually just found my voltage settings were saved after a restart without opening ThrottleShop :) -175mV stable w/ 6700HQ, HWMonitor shows -180mV though hmm...
     
  6. arshcaria

    arshcaria Notebook Enthusiast

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    Well, the settings saving/applying behavior of ThrottleStop is a bit unclear to me. Even when I have pressed turn off button it still applies the voltage settings. But it is not a big issue.
     
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