Over the last decade, CPU manufacturers have spent an enormous amount of time and effort reducing overall power consumption. This effort has paid huge dividends, with modern chips capable of power-sipping modes that older ARM and x86 cores could never match. In fact, CPU power consumption has been optimized to the point that other aspects of the system now account for a higher percentage of overall power consumption — a fact Intel hopes to change with its push into building new, ultra-low power displays with overall panel power consumption as low as 1 watt.
Intel has partnered with Innolux and Sharp to develop Low Power Display Technology, a new technique that reduces overall panel and backlight power draw by 50 percent, from 2W to 1W. Those gains might not seem like much, but cutting power consumption by a watt could extend battery life by 4-8 hours according to Josh Newman, the general manager of mobile innovation for Intel. In a conversation with PCWorld, Newman claimed laptops that already hit 12 hours of battery life could reach 20 hours with display optimization.
The push for LDPT is part of an overall effort on Intel’s part to compete with lower power devices arriving from ARM and Windows. Snapdragon 835 products and possible hardware based on the Snapdragon 850 represent a challenge for Intel. While these systems don’t offer native x86 performance, they do emphasize excellent battery life. Dropping overall power consumption of the panel is a solid way for Intel to push forward on better battery life while it also works on its own 10nm transition to create lower power processors overall. It’s also a useful bulwark against any progress from AMD, which has been pushing into the mobile market with its new Ryzen Mobile processors.
The other caveat to Low Power Display Technology is that it’ll only be available on systems that rely solely on Intel graphics. Intel’s testbed assumes a Core i5-8550U, 8GB of RAM, Intel 600p SSD, and Intel UHD 620 GPU, backed by a display set to 150 nits using audio via headphones. This roughly corresponds to the kind of configuration you might use for movie viewing or other light work. PCMag reports that LPDT will be offered to display manufacturers as an option to use when building panels for laptops, but that any cost adders are up to the companies in question.
That’s an important overall caveat to keep in mind about these kinds of announcements. The benefits of power saving panels or any other technology will always be commensurate to the total system load you’re generating. If your laptop is drawing 4W, cutting that to 3W represents a 25 percent power reduction. If your laptop is drawing 12W, that same 1W of power savings only corresponds to about 9 percent. It’s still enough to matter — 9 percent more battery life on a 5-hour battery is a bit less than half an hour — but it’ll only matter as much as Intel projects if your system is both a low-power rig to start with and you’re doing low-power tasks on it. High-end rigs or systems running at full speed won’t gain as much, simply because they’re primarily burning energy elsewhere.
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