Does installing a lightweight DE make a difference to battery life?

Hi All,

I'm starting a new job soon and i have been given a laptop. I have been told that i can install any linux distro i like. I've currently installed linux mint 18.1 since i have that installed on my desktop. I checked the battery indicator and it stated that it only has an hour and half with a full battery. I googled around and i found conflicting statements regarding a DE making a difference to battery life, does it actually make a noticeable difference? The laptop does have a gtx 750m so i'm guessing that means it also has integrated graphics and i should switch to that? i will also turn down the brightness as well.

An unrelated question as well. At the new workplace everyone will have the latest ubuntu gnome installed on their systems. Should i install ubuntu as well so that we all have the same OS or should i stick to Linux Mint. The reason i'm asking is that i've been told to install docker and linux mint would have an earlier release of docker since it's based on ubuntu 16.04. I know i can add the official docker repo and other repos if i need to for other packages but wouldn't it be better just to use the same OS as everyone?


Yup, for example using i3 instead of Gnome (or rather GDM) will squeeze a bit of a longer uptime on a laptop. Also different software, usually lighter (but not always) will make a difference. For example Firefox with default settings consumes less than Chrome, or at least did a couple years ago.
If you install powertop you can check what's consuming the battery and waking up the CPU and start optimizing from there.
Install TLP and enable the service.

Mint is basically Ubuntu, so there's no actual difference apart from the repos.

A lighter DE will put less stress on the CPU and GPU, so common sense dictates that it lasts longer.
If it's a used laptop, the battery life may be so bad due to wear. Changing distros and DEs will only give small increases, 15 minutes if you're lucky. It's not like you'll suddenly have 5 hours of battery life.

If all your colleagues are using Ubuntu Gnome, I'd recommend doing that too. You know it works for the workflow there, and if you have a problem your colleagues won't have to work with an unfamiliar interface to help you out.

What DE do you have on Mint? I think disabling the GFX in BIOS would net you a larger power saving than any DE hopping would, that said, in my experience Gnome and KDE does use more CPU cycles at idle than Cinnamon, and XFCE and LXDE use even less than either of the first three. You should also install a power manager, like TLP.

I did some testing of whether disabling the GFX and running on the iGPU helped on a Lenovo W520, it turned out that the discrete GFX used somewhere between 3 and 5 watts at idle, which is quite noticeable, however, with the overall power usage of the W520, only netted a little over 30 minutes longer battery life. Your mileage may vary considerably though.

There will be an increase in the Battery Life

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But aren't the packages on the LTS version more outdated then the newer version?

Cinnamon, i really like that DE but i used to use Gnome before that.
I guess i'll try to find a lighter DE and see what happens. Would cinnamon be considered light? if not i might go for XFCE(Xubuntu)

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Absolutely switch to that. You should install nvidia drivers, open the app that comes with it and select the option that says use intel graphics rather than high performance nvidia. Even better if you have the option to switch it off in the BIOS.

As for the distro, I'd go for vanilla ubuntu with whatever DE you like.

Brilliant thanks. i'll do that when once i get home.

Why vanilla ubuntu though? doesn't that have a lot of bloatware?

What I meant by vanilla Ubuntu is just Ubuntu (not Unity Ubuntu) with the DE of your choice. As the others have said, the battery difference across different DEs would likely be negligible (my opinion). Sorry for the confusion.

It is based on Gnome 3, so not very light weight, no.

In theory yes.

but from my experience it hasn't. Usually the big difference in battery life is if I'm running a webbrowser or VMs.

Yeh that seems to be the consensus. I'll just keep using cinnamon for a week and then I'll install and use xfce for the week after and see of there is any difference.

Thanks all

I would recommend XFCE

Its light(er) weight than cinnamon and is pretty darn close in terms on functionality.

I have also heard that you can force KDE to be fairly light weight, but I am sure there is dark magic involved in that.