Looking to improve your laptop’s battery life? Upgrading hardware is much better than tweaking software to improve energy efficiency. Unfortunately, not all mobile computers offer easy component upgrades. However, most full-size laptops can be upgraded, a process that takes surprisingly little time or effort. Ultrabooks, on the other hand, require a bit more elbow grease to upgrade.
Four components are relatively easy to upgrade:
- WiFi map
- Bluetooth module
- Battery upgrade
Endlessly reworded software packages
Easy hardware upgrade
Solid State Drives
Anandtech has reduced the power consumption of modern SSDs. They found that Samsung drives typically use less power than OCZ drives, for example. Hard drives consume power in (mostly) two ways — idle or active. Active consumption tends to be higher for spinning HDDs (because they have to literally spin the drive) than for SSDs. On the other hand, solid state drives may suffer from higher idle (and sometimes active) power consumption as it contains the equivalent of a miniature computer (which includes RAM, multi-core processors, and more).
Such hardware requires significant overhead, although that is why SSDs jump ahead of hard drives. Solid state drives tend to live in extreme power consumption conditions. Some of them can burn up to 5 watts per hour when active. Others consume around 1 (or less).
For power consumption, I recommend any Samsung 840 or 850 drive. In theory, the 850 series, which uses a smaller nanometer manufacturing process along with «3D» stacked memory cells, should offer some of the highest power consumption figures. Early reports confirm this, as Anandtech rates the 850 as the third most energy efficient drive.
Wireless-AC and Bluetooth 4.0
Fortunately, most modern laptops use a mini-PCI-express (or mPCIe) module for WiFi and Bluetooth access. Most budget mobile computers use older mini-PCIe cards that combine Bluetooth 3 and 802.11n wireless. They consume significantly more than the latest Bluetooth 4 and 802.11ac standards. Both standards require compatible peripherals to obtain power savings.