Is Vista's Aero interface a battery hog?

Yes, says Microsoft -- but just a little

Microsoft responded Monday to discussion of Windows Vista's over-hearty battery appetite by acknowledging that the new operating system's fancy graphics use more power. But it downplayed the impact of the UI's power needs.

Recent stories on Web news sites, in newspaper technology columns and in popular blogs moved Microsoft to react with a posting of its own. Nick White, a program manager with the Vista team and the usual author of the group's official blog, owned up to Vista's power needs with one breath, then dismissed it the next.

"The Aero theme drives the GPU [graphics processing unit] harder and therefore uses more power," said White. "But in the big picture, it's really not that much more."

Most of the criticism about Vista's laptop lifespan centered around the Aero interface, with claims batted back and forth that it did -- or did not -- have an impact on battery use. The drop in battery performance, reported some users, ranged between 15 percent and 30 percent compared with the same system running Windows XP SP2.

White contested that. Most laptop displays, he said, account for between 15 percent and 25 percent of the system's total power drain, but "in our testing we've seen that turning on Aero consumes only about 1-4 percent more of battery life," White argued. "In terms of making your battery last longer, turning off Aero will not go very far."

Although Vista's power manager automatically disables windows transparency when a laptop's running off battery power, there's no option to completely disable the Aero interface. One programmer decided to fix that. According to a blog on the Microsoft Developers Network (MSDN) site, Clint Rutkas has created a small utility that automatically disables Aero.

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Gregg Keizer

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld
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