Gaming laptops are finally powerful and affordable enough to be viable systems for gaming enthusiasts. The thing is, they’re notoriously hard on battery life while gaming. While you’re not likely to get much game time playing the same way you do while plugged into the wall, there are some things you can do to make gaming, when you don’t have an outlet handy, last longer than 15 minutes.
Change Windows’ Power Mode
Windows has a sophisticated set of power settings and policies. They allow you to fine-tune exactly how your laptop should allocate power to its components, but who has the time for that when there are games waiting?
Luckily tweaking them is fairly easy.
- Press the Windows button and then select “Settings”.
- go to “System-> Power & Battery -> Power Mode.”
- Select “Best Power Efficiency” from the dropdown menu which pops up once you click on the tiny downwards arrow.
Note: If your power plan is set to “High Performance” you’ll have to change it to “Balanced” before you can access Power Mode options.
Limit Frame Rates
While gaming laptops usually have high-refresh monitors and the components to drive high frame rates, this is also a great way to empty your battery before finishing your game’s tutorial section.
You can limit the number of frames that a game generates. This drastically reduces its power consumption in a number of ways. For Nvidia GPUs, you can for instance, activate “Battery Boost” in the Geforce Experience App.
As for AMD GPUs, take advantage of “Frame Rate Target Control” in the Radeon Settings app.
You can also use in-game frame rate limiter options for titles that support this feature, which includes most modern games.
Limiting your frame rate to 60fps (frames per second) is a balanced option, but for maximum battery life with acceptable playability, 30fps is the best option.
Turn on Vsync
Vsync is an option found in virtually all video game menus. It ensures that the GPU waits until the monitor is ready to draw a new frame before sending it. This is effectively a frame rate limiter because it means that the game will never render more frames than the screen can actually display. It’s useful because it applies globally, even if your GPU app or game doesn’t support frame rate limiting.
Not only does Vsync prevent “screen tearing” where two partial frames are on-screen at once, it also prevents wasteful rendering that pushes your GPU and CPU to the limit.
Of course, if you have a high refresh rate monitor, that’s still too many frames for battery-based play. So you can also turn your laptop screen refresh rate down.
- To do that go to “Settings-> System”.
- Next, select “Display-> Advanced Display-> Choose a refresh rate.”
- Then select a lower number (such as 60Hz) from the options. At lower refresh rates, your monitor itself also uses less power, so it’s a win-win situation.
Turn Off HDR and Crank the Brightness Down
HDR (High Dynamic Range) is a display technology that allows a wider color and contrast spectrum. Games look amazing in HDR, but if you have a laptop with an HDR-capable display, it can also use a lot of energy. So turning off the HDR option in your game settings might be a good idea.
Even if your laptop doesn’t have an HDR display, having the screen brightness too high is also an issue. Turn the brightness down as much as you can tolerate and it should have a meaningful impact on battery life.
To turn HDR on (or off) in Windows, here’s what to do.
- Open the Start Menu and click on the “Settings” cog.
- Go to “System”, then select “Display” on the right.
- Ensure you’ve selected the correct display if you have more than one.
- Under “Use HDR”, ensure that the switch is toggled to the off position.
Turn Off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and RGB
Pretend you are on an airplane and that it’s going to be a long flight. To conserve battery life, you could turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. If your laptop has an RGB keyboard, turn it off or reduce its brightness.
To activate Airplane mode in Windows 11, left-click on the Wi-Fi, speaker, and battery icon and then click on “Airplane mode” to toggle the feature.
Just remember that you may have to activate an offline mode in certain game clients or you can’t play your games.
Use Headphones or Turn Down the Volume
If you’re one of the few people who use the internal speakers on their laptops while gaming, turn down the volume to reduce power consumption. Although it’s even better to use a headset, which consumes much less power and almost certainly sounds better.
Kill All Background Applications
PCs are awesome because they can do far more than gaming. However, if you only have a limited amount of power, it’s better if your gaming laptop concentrates on running your game and nothing else.
If you have power-hungry apps such as web browsers open in the background, close them. You may want to pause or temporarily close applications such as anti-virus software that does background scanning until you are back on main power.
Dial Down In-game Settings
Your CPU and GPU are the main power hogs when gaming. If you give them less work to do, your battery will last longer. Limiting frame rates already helps a lot, but you can do even more by reducing detail settings in the games you play when on battery power.
You don’t have to spend time tinkering, just change the preset to medium or lower. We don’t recommend reducing the game’s resolution. It’s usually better to play at the screen’s maximum resolution, or you risk seeing ugly scaling artifacts.
Play Less Demanding Games on the Go
Your Windows gaming laptop has access to decades of PC gaming history. You don’t always have to play the latest and greatest AAA games. Being away from a power outlet is the perfect opportunity to enjoy older games. These titles only need a fraction of your laptop’s power to run. Both Steam and GoG offer a large variety of classic games that are no less fun for being older!
Use a Power Bank (If You Can)
Modern gaming laptops with USB-C or Thunderbolt ports often support charging the battery through those ports. This is thanks to USB PD (Power Delivery) technology. Not every laptop with USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 ports supports this. However, USB PD support is a minimum requirement for Thunderbolt 4.
If you have a battery bank that offers USB PD over USB C, it can help extend your laptop run time. USB PD does not provide enough wattage to keep your laptop running at full gaming tilt. However, if you’re using the other tips in this article to reduce power consumption, it can slow down or almost halt battery drain while plugged in. At worst, it offers a way to recharge your laptop while you aren’t actually playing anything. When it’s in your backpack, for example.
You can get USB PD power banks up to 99.99 Wh of capacity, which is just below the 100 Wh limit enforced by many airlines. The biggest gaming battery laptops have a similar capacity, so theoretically you could double your cumulative battery life this way.
This is possibly the most drastic (and costly) option here, but gaming laptops usually have easily removable batteries. If you own a model that has a battery you can remove without opening the laptop, you might consider buying a second one.
Having a second battery effectively doubles your total battery life. Although you’ll have to interrupt your gameplay to make the change, it should only take a few minutes to be back in business. Assuming that budget isn’t an issue for you, you can buy as many batteries as you like.
Just make sure to buy an original certified battery and not a third-party or counterfeit unit!
Nothing Lasts Forever!
No matter which way you slice it, gaming laptops are power-hungry beasts and even the most efficient models won’t last as long as a Nintendo Switch or Valve Steam Deck. Still, if you know how long you’ll need to keep the fun going on battery power, these tips and strategies are bound to be invaluable.
All screenshots taken by Sydney Butler.
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