Laptop battery life question

user55009

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I bought a laptop fairly recently, and haven't used it very much. What I have noticed, however, is that it runs out of battery within a few hours, as opposed to the "11 hour battery life", or whatever it boasted (Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Gen 2). I understand that the 11 hours, or whatever it was, is probably achieved by turning the brightness all the way down, and not doing anything too taxing, but prior to purchasing the laptop, I did look at reviews, and some said they would get 8 or 9 hours of continuous use out of the battery, while surfing the internet and streaming video, etc... Why exactly does mine die so quickly? I run brightness at about half of the total brightness it could be, and I don't do extremely taxing things on it, mainly typing and watching a video or something simple. Is that just how laptops are, they boast a long battery life and in reality, the way people use them, they end up running out of battery much quicker?

NOTE: I have owned laptops before, however they didn't have the best of batteries to begin with, so the fact they didn't last long didn't bother me, so I didn't look much into it. Owning a laptop now that is meant to have a longer battery life, and it simply doesn't, is prompting me to try and understand this better.
 

TMTOWTSAC

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You can try keeping Task Manager up in the background, on the Processes tab, and sort by CPU usage. You may need to show processes from all users. In Win 10, I think you access that from the users tab.
 

user55009

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I'm using "balanced", which is also the recommended one on my laptop (or so it says).
 

TMTOWTSAC

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Ok, sounds like something is definitely wrong. Lenovo claims up to 11 hours, actual reviewers seem to be getting more like 8 or so, which is about what you'd expect. Either the battery is defective, or something else is causing it to use more power than it should. If you open up Task Manager, anything stick out? High CPU or Disk usage? Do the fans spin up, or does it get unusually warm?

Also, did it ship with any sort of battery utility that can tell you the current condition of the cells?
 

user55009

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The fans do spin up, I can hear them, although they're quite quiet. It didn't come with any utility to check the condition of the cells, at least not that I know of. I don't think I've ever noticed it get unusually warm. When I look at task manager while my laptop is just sitting there, the CPU fluctuates between 0% - 20%, memory hovers around 26%, disk around 0% - 2%, and network 0%. I'm not really sure if anything is sticking out, as I'm not quite sure what to look for. It has 70 background processes, but that seems normal I think, at least when I compare it to my desktop's background processes.
 

TMTOWTSAC

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Not sure if this still works, but try opening up a command prompt, and typing:

powercfg /batteryreport

If that doesn't work, I'm also reading that somewhere under Power Management there's some way to access battery settings and get a health report.
 

user55009

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The battery report command for cmd worked, and at the very end of the report, it estimates that based on usage, my battery life is 5 hours and 25 minutes or so. So not bad necessarily, but I feel like it should be longer if I'm only watching videos or typing and such, nothing too taxing. If I didn't use half brightness, do you think that would extend the battery life so significantly? I mean using it on lower brightness doesn't even seem plausible that people would do that with everyday use, it makes it tougher to see as a whole after a certain a point.
 

TMTOWTSAC

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What does it say for Design Capacity compared to Full Charge Capacity? Design Capacity is what the battery should be able to hold when new. Full Charge Capacity is what it's actually capable of holding right now. Lenovo says it's a 3 cell, 42 Wh (Watt*hours) so it should read somewhere close to 42,000 mWh (milliwatt*hours) if the battery is in good condition. Was the Cycle Count significantly higher than you'd expect?
 

user55009

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Design Capacity: 42,0140 mWh
Full Charge Capacity: 41,060 mWh
Cycle Count: 11

I don't really understand what the cycle count is, but the full charge capacity seems like it is where it would be expected.
 

TMTOWTSAC

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Yeah, the battery seems to check out ok. Cycle count is roughly how many times it's gone through a full battery's worth of energy, or one cycle. Doesn't have to be continuous though. ie 5 sessions using the full 41060 mWh each time would register the same as if you did 10 sessions each using half (20530) as much. Mostly it shows total wear, and can tell you if someone foisted off a used battery on you.

Since it doesn't look like you've got any power hogging background tasks, and your battery condition seems healthy, I guess it's time to look at usage. When the fan starts spinning that's usually when a laptop is using the most power. So that's a good time to check Task Manager to see if the CPU is working hard on something. Also, do you have any external devices plugged in? Hard drives and gaming mice can use a fair amount of power, as can backlit keyboards.
 

user55009

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I do not regularly have any external devices plugged in, unless it is a flash drive (occasionally). I'll start checking task manager when the fans spin up. I have noticed them spinning up at times where I've thought that they shouldn't really need to be going. I'll use it later today to test when they start spinning. As for a backlit keyboard, my keyboard is backlit, but I keep it turned off all the time, so that shouldn't be a factor if it isn't using power.
 

user55009

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I've been trying to pay attention to the battery percentage and time left, as well as what my laptop is doing and what task manager says. I don't really notice anything out of the ordinary in task manager, but then again, I'm not quite sure what would be a red flag in task manager (I don't know what the typical CPU and memory usage and so on is, so I have nothing to compare it to). What I have been doing is messing with the brightness of the screen, to see how the prediction on the time left on the battery changes. At 0% brightness and 41% battery, it predicts I should get 4 hours and 35 minutes out of it. At 40% brightness, which is what I typically use, and 40% battery, it predicts I will get an hour more. This is quite confusing to me. Is the battery time left prediction just a very poor rough estimate, or is it fairly accurate? With this laptop, even though I've kept an eye on the prediction in the past, the battery running out has seemed to sneak up on me, and I get the notification when there is a small percentage left on the battery.
 

TMTOWTSAC

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Battery life predictions are similar to estimated mileage. If you always drive at exactly the same speed on a flat road and never brake, they would be pretty accurate. If you're going uphill and downhill and sometimes stop and go traffic but other times freeway speeds, not so much.

If you check power usage at a complete idle, it might think it could last 10 or 20 hours. If you check right when a program is loading and a mechanical drive is moving the heads and the CPU is at 100%, it would probably calculate maybe 90 minutes at best. Then the program finishes loading and it goes right back to idle usage levels. The estimated time left is usually calculated by averaging the power usage for the last X amount of time, and dividing the remaining power by that figure. But modern laptops can change their usage levels tens or even hundreds of times per second to try to be as efficient as possible. Odds are something else was using power while you were adjusting brightness that affected the calculation.

If you're just typing or watching a video I would expect pretty decent battery life. Typing and watching a video at the same time would result in a bit less. Streaming a video over wifi would also eat into the time. Basically, laptops take every opportunity to power down anything that isn't currently in use, so multitasking is one of the worst case scenarios, even when it's light multitasking.

About how much battery life are you getting? Have you tried changing your power plan to Power Save? And as far as Task Manager goes, in addition to total CPU usage check the per-core use. Having 1 core running at max is usually more power intensive than having all cores at a moderate level.
 

user55009

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I understand it now, thank you for explaining that. I would say that I typically get around 5 hours, give or take a little bit, depending on what exactly I'm doing. I have the lenovo companion app, and it says there is a BIOS update, and they do not recommend it or say it is optional, they categorize it as a "critical update". What I do know is that a BIOS update is something to stay away from, unless the drivers that a computer has or the hardware in it is not working correctly because of an outdated BIOS (i.e. having a new CPU on an older motherboard). Because this is a laptop that I haven't added or removed hardware components from, would this BIOS update be something to ignore, or could that potentially be something I need, perhaps for power handling improvements or something? In the description of the update it doesn't seem to mention anything related to power consumption, so I would assume this isn't an update I need.
 

TMTOWTSAC

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People are wary of BIOS updates because if something goes wrong, they can potentially brick an expensive device. But it's not quite as bad as people make it out to be. If you run the update while your laptop is plugged in for power and a reliable internet connection, you avoid most of the problems people experience.

Laptops are all custom designed so it's not surprising they need BIOS updates periodically. Bug fixes, compatibility, new features, adjust firmware values etc. Critical could mean anything from a microcode update (MCU) to fix AVX math errors, to changing temperature threshold values to keep your battery from bursting into flames.

Not sure if this is your exact model, but you can read the .txt files at the bottom for each release to see what kinds of things change from version to version:

http://pcsupport.lenovo.com/us/en/products/laptops-and-netbooks/thinkpad-13-series-laptop/thinkpad-13/downloads/ds112474
 

user55009

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Okay, that makes sense. I have had a BIOS update fail to flash on a desktop, which is where my knowledge of why not to do the BIOS updates if not needed comes from. For my model of laptop, it says that the changes made in this update are the following:
[Important Updates]
Nothing
[New functions or enhancements]
- Update lenovo diagnostic in-ROM 03.10.01
- Updated Kabylake H-0 MCU to J-1 MC0806E9_0000005D_0000005E
[Problem fixes]
- Fixed an issue that SVP verification failed after ReadyBoost

I don't know what some of that means, but my guess is that nothing too important for battery life improvement.
 

TMTOWTSAC

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Are you just looking at the newest update? Changelogs usually show differences from version to version, not cumulative. If there were earlier versions you skipped over, they could contain other updates that would only be listed in their release notes.
 

TMTOWTSAC

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The only thing that sticks out is the MCU (microcode update) for Kaby Lake. They're used to address fundamental CPU parameters. That could include power usage, the Skylake Prime 95 crash bug, the famous Pentium math errors, and so on.
 

user55009

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Okay, would you say this is something I should get then? If it is, what is the safest way to go about doing a BIOS update? It's currently under warranty, so if it screws up I can get it fixed, but I'd rather not have that happen.
 
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