Lenovo rails against discreet graphics in notebooks: too power hungry

Water cooling: embedded graphics use far less power says Lenovo. (What the guy is doing in a tank of water with a laptop we’re still unclear on.)

So your notebook PC still can’t get anywhere near the ‘all day battery life’ that we’re constantly being told is just a few years away? Don’t blame the laptop manufacturer. Don’t blame Intel AMD or even Microsoft says Lenovo. It’s everything else in your notebook and especially discrete graphics cards which are the roadblocks for road warriors.

“Battery capacity is increasing by around 5% per year but the power demands of systems are increasing by 25% per year” says Matthew Kohut Lenovo’s resident ‘worldwide competitive analyst’.

“Intel and AMD are doing a great job with their processors but the graphics card vendors haven’t kept up” Kohut claims. “They’re packing in more functionality and more transistors and those transistors need to be powered which takes a lot of electricity. In some cases graphics chips in high-end desktops have more transistors and draw more power than the CPU and as we’ve seen what starts in the desktop eventually gets trickled down into notebooks at some point”.

All that graphics grunt Kohut explains comes with a significant cost. “What we’re finding with our own benchmarking is that (on a notebook) with discrete graphics you could lose an hour to an hour and a half of battery life compared to integrated graphics. Now for people who need that graphics power that’s worth the trade-off. But for your average (notebook user) it makes no sense”.

Despite the fact that Lenovo offers graphics cards as options on all of its notebooks bar the smallest sub-notes and tablets Kohut told apcmag.com that he recommends most notebook buyers skip on the graphics card and stock up on RAM. Really stock up.

“We recommend 2GB for Vista” says Kohut. “For most people it just doesn’t make sense to spend the money on a dedicated graphics chip. Buy a new (Santa Rosa) notebook with integrated graphics and spend up on memory for your system. That has a much better cost/performance tradeoff.”

However Kohut doesn’t lay the laptop’s limited battery life solely at the feet of the GPU brigade.

“The displays themselves are getting brighter every year and it takes more energy to make the display brighter. You’ve got more devices such as wireless — Wi-Fi Bluetooth now there’s 802.11n with multiple transmitters and in some cases 3G and 3G will suck a battery down pretty quickly.

“There’s more memory to power than there ever was before — instead of 512MB for XP Vista needs 2GB — and hard drives themselves are spinning faster which also takes more energy. That’s all driving up the power demands of the systems. Processors? Intel and AMD have got that very well in hand it’s everything else that really needs more work.”