Windows 10 EcoQoS Feature Could Bring Big Battery Life And Fan Noise Benefits To Laptops


There's a struggle deep within every portable PC between the need for maximum performance and a desire for longer battery life. Reduced power consumption is why modern processors spin down to very low frequencies when they're not busy. At the same time, maximum performance is why seemingly every processor these days has boost clocks that scale far beyond the base rated speed of the CPU. Even boost modes can help power efficiency, as most work loads are burst-focused and processors race towards an idle state. This behavior requires the cooperation of the operating system, and now Microsoft has introduced a new way to find the right point on the curve between power and efficiency.

Most enthusiasts already know the basics of the relationship between power consumption and performance. Getting most of the potential speed out of a processor requires a nominal amount of energy, while getting the last few percentage points takes a whole lot of extra juice. We see this in action whenever we look at factory-overclocked graphics cards like the MSI GeForce RTX 3060 Ti Gaming Trio, which uses 12% more power for 5% more megahertz. That's fine in a gaming scenario where every last frame counts, but what if a load doesn't require constant pressure, or isn't time sensitive? That's where Microsoft's new EcoQoS API comes into play. 

New in Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 21359, EcoQoS is a new Quality of Service level that can play a valuable role in lowering power consumption which both extends battery life and reduces heat production, thereby reducing fan noise. Raymond Li, the Program Manager for Windows Fundamentals, says that this new QoS level is valuable when a workload doesn't have a significant latency or performance requirement. This is great for background tasks that don't prevent the user from going about their work. The result is that this time-insensitive workload reduces its power consumption since it's not on a clock, and the results can be dramatic. 

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In Microsoft's DevBlog post, Li said that the Windows team has demonstrated EcoQoS reducing CPU power consumption by as much as 90%. The types of workloads that EcoQoS targets includes updaters, sync services, indexing, and any other background service that doesn't stop users from being productive. EcoQoS is not a magic bullet, though, as developers have to incorporate the API into their applications.

Microsoft is encouraging developers to consider EcoQoS for these workloads in an effort to increase sustainability, reduce heat and fan noise, and improve performance of other workloads by preventing thermal throttling. The company says this new API is part of its own efforts towards sustainable software and its initiative to be carbon-negative by 2030.

Right now, EcoQoS is in the earliest phases of public release, as it just hit the Windows 10 Insider builds this week. At the present time, EcoQoS is compatible with only the newest processors from each vendor. Intel's 10th and 11th generation mobile Core CPUs, AMD's Ryzen 5000 Mobile family, and Qualcomm's Arm64 SoCs are the only options currently supported. Li says that over time, the Windows team will tune EcoQoS for a wider array of silicon, including desktops and presumably the datacenter, where EcoQoS should result in snappier response times from web services while still keeping background tasks running.