TechSpot: Testing video players and formats impact on battery life

Battery life is a critical aspect to consider when purchasing a new portable device. Hardware companies are targeting efficiency more than ever, and while battery life has certainly improved in recent years, there’s always more that can be done.

Video playback is one common case scenario where efficiency is crucial and where a lengthy battery life is an infrequently found godsend. Hopping on an intercontinental flight and wanting to catch up on Game of Thrones? The number of episodes you can watch is going to be dictated by your laptop or tablet’s battery life, and of course, settings like screen brightness and background tasks.

But what you may not realize is that the video player itself, and the format your videos are encoded in, can also have an impact on battery life consumption. Or do they?

Read: Media Players and Video Formats: A Detailed Battery Life Analysis

These articles are brought to you in partnership with TechSpot.

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My Dell venue 11 pro 5130 with mobile keyboard can go for 5 days straight without a charge. Browsing, playing metro based games, watching tv shows in videos app, streaming across my workgroup, etc... Really impressed with it.

To bad Daum Potplayer wasn't included. Very popular player and aimed for Windows. And IMO better than VLC. Probably lower on battery usage too.

Well, if it's not MPC-HC, there are some settings wrong. By default it doesn't use all hardware decoding because it depends on the hardware you have. If you're on an Intel GPU you want it to use QuickSync, on nVidia CUVID is a better idea. With those options and the right renderer there is no way MPC-HC is not the most efficient software.

Or you could set it to DXVA2 and have hardware acceleration for AMD, Intel, and NVIDIA.

Also, MPC is also not optimized. I use exclusively custom builds by JanWillem32 because they offer much better performance, specifically when it comes down to subtitles.

I guess VLC is inefficient because it's not really written to take advantage of what the Windows OS can do, instead it does things the hard way.

It is also still a fairly buggy Beta/alpha build.. So I doubt they've gotten around to optimizing much of it yet, Hope they do(the modern app anyway)

dingl_ said,
It is also still a fairly buggy Beta/alpha build.. So I doubt they've gotten around to optimizing much of it yet, Hope they do(the modern app anyway)

VLC Desktop (classic) and VLC Metro offer the same battery life performance.

Enron is right VLC is Linux centric video player.

I personally never found VLC to be all that good, I dislike the way it rendered video. Not sure if it's been fixed since then but for desktop purposes I've always used WMP for audio and WMC for video. As I have no interest in buying a Windows 8 tablet this is all academic for me but it is interesting to see that the default metro app is the most efficient for tablet use.

Windows Media player, and Windows 8 videos app are the most efficient.
IE11 is also by far the most efficient. Great work from Microsoft engineers. I wouldn't expect less.

Had no idea the videos app was so efficient, it lacks some features but for simply watching a movie or tv show that needs no messing with, its perfect.

Microsofts Video app.. Winner, by all counts
btw, same goes for Battery efficiency using various browsers.. guess which one Tops them all?
IE11

I hope Microsoft keeps on innovating, the stuff they do is amazing when it comes to optimizing their OS

dingl_ said,
Microsofts Video app.. Winner, by all counts
btw, same goes for Battery efficiency using various browsers.. guess which one Tops them all?
IE11

I hope Microsoft keeps on innovating, the stuff they do is amazing when it comes to optimizing their OS

unfortunately some reviewers use google chrome and vlc when comparing web browsing and video playback battery life on win8 tablets with ipad/android tablets, which makes their conclusions completely wrong.

that also explains why we see so much differences between different reviews of the same devices.

the most interesting part of this review is that the Metro Video App included in windows performs much better than WMP. Metro haters would certainly expect the opposite.

link8506 said,

unfortunately some reviewers use google chrome and vlc when comparing web browsing and video playback battery life on win8 tablets with ipad/android tablets, which makes their conclusions completely wrong.

that also explains why we see so much differences between different reviews of the same devices.

the most interesting part of this review is that the Metro Video App included in windows performs much better than WMP. Metro haters would certainly expect the opposite.


The video app that comes with Windows actually is horrible. Yes it's better than WMP but that wasn't such a challenge.
Great its lower in battery usage, but most Win8 users are on a Desktop.
I would love to see a broader range of formats.

Shadowzz said,
I would love to see a broader range of formats.
FLAC, MKV, subtitle and multiple track support and I'd be more than satisfied in the Music and Video apps.

Romero said,
FLAC, MKV, subtitle and multiple track support and I'd be more than satisfied in the Music and Video apps.

MKV is just AVI 2.0, container != formats IMO. But yeah would be nice to support MKV as 9 out of 10 times its using an already supported format >.>. WMP/VP just don't "know" how to open it.

Shadowzz said,
MKV is just AVI 2.0, container != formats IMO.
I know, but MKV is a better container than MP4 and as you said most of the time the codecs are already supported so shouldn't be all that hard to just add a splitter for the container.

Romero said,
I know, but MKV is a better container than MP4 and as you said most of the time the codecs are already supported so shouldn't be all that hard to just add a splitter for the container.
No its not, Its a non standard compared to an iso standard thats so ubiquitous it can be played back by browsers

MKV is a standard in 1 world. The warez is the only place where I encounter it :p
I don't really get the love for it, usually its h.264 anyways. Which offers no benefit for being stored in an mkv container. Except that people for some reason are in love with MKV.

Shadowzz said,
MKV is a standard in 1 world. The warez is the only place where I encounter it :p
Same old hoary chestnut trotted out by people who think that's the sole use for it and thus it's somehow disqualified from being supported natively by the OS. I rip all my DVD and BR discs to MKV without re-encoding.

TPreston said,
No its not, Its a non standard compared to an iso standard thats so ubiquitous it can be played back by browsers
Shadowzz said,
I don't really get the love for it, usually its h.264 anyways. Which offers no benefit for being stored in an mkv container. Except that people for some reason are in love with MKV.
MKV is the superior format, especially when dealing with a wide variety of audio/video codecs, subtitle formats, chapter info etc. Even WebM is descended from it for a reason. If I'm not mistaken things as common as AC3 or DTS audio and VobSub subtitles aren't part of the MP4 standard and if at all supported are implemented as hacks. If all you have is an H.264 video track with an MP3 or AAC audio track then MP4 will do. The only reason MP4 became so popular is because of the proliferation of iDevices which support it (the format is descended from QuickTime's after all), but all my devices support MKV just fine either natively or using third party players.

Why rip it to MKV if you can rip it directly to mpeg or h.?

MKV is not a format, its a container. Based on that, AVI is just as superior....

The formats used in MKV are 9 out of 10 times either MPEG4 or H.264.

Shadowzz said,
Why rip it to MKV if you can rip it directly to mpeg or h.?
I simply remux the audio/video tracks, subs, chapter info etc. into an MKV container as fast as possible. No hours wasted on re-encoding and no quality loss whatsoever.

Shadowzz said,
MKV is not a format, its a container. Based on that, AVI is just as superior....
When I said "superior format" I obviously meant container format, and I was directly comparing MKV to MP4. AVI just as superior as either of these two? Don't make me laugh.

Shadowzz said,
The formats used in MKV are 9 out of 10 times either MPEG4 or H.264.
I told you already an MP4 will do if your requirements aren't for the extra features MKV supports. I require those features and use the better container, as simple as that. Don't see what's there to argue. MP4's popularity doesn't mean it's superior to MKV, period. As long as I can play all my media in my chosen format on all my devices why should I care for an inferior format?

Romero said,
. If I'm not mistaken things as common as AC3 or DTS audio and VobSub subtitles aren't part of the MP4 standard and if at all supported are implemented as hacks.

Why the hell would you want to do that ? MP4 is for highly compressed audio/video there are other containers for that if there weren't how would they be distributed to begin with ?

"the only reason MP4 became so popular is because of the proliferation of iDevices " Because its an ISO standard, And virtually anything with a screen supports it.

Romero said,
I simply remux the audio/video tracks, subs, chapter info etc. into an MKV container as fast as possible. No hours wasted on re-encoding and no quality loss whatsoever.
Reencode what? It usually already is MPEG4 or H.264 :/

When I said "superior format" I obviously meant container format, and I was directly comparing MKV to MP4. AVI just as superior as either of these two? Don't make me laugh.

It is just a container... It can be handy for subtitles, but that was fixed in the players itself. The thing is, it being a container. It can be in countless formats. So you _could_ start supporting mkv in a way so it plays the MPEG4 and H.264 videos..... But then its just waiting for the complaints to roll in from people that used different encoding in the MKV file.

Go do some research on the reasons why Microsoft abandoned the support on AVI. (and it wasn't because it just went outdated)


I told you already an MP4 will do if your requirements aren't for the extra features MKV supports. I require those features and use the better container, as simple as that. Don't see what's there to argue. MP4's popularity doesn't mean it's superior to MKV, period. As long as I can play all my media in my chosen format on all my devices why should I care for an inferior format?

You can chose to use it, but not everyone will chose to implement such 'wide' containers.
Microsoft walked in to that rat trap with AVI before.

TPreston said,
MP4 is for highly compressed audio/video
Says who? Lossless codecs like ALS and ALAC are very much allowed by the standard.

TPreston said,
"the only reason MP4 became so popular is because of the proliferation of iDevices " Because its an ISO standard.
Just because something's an ISO standard does not automatically guarantee popularity. There are lots of image, audio and video compression standards that never became popular, and conversely proprietary formats and codecs that were and still remain very popular indeed. I bet if Apple had decided to support MKV that's what everyone would be using now. Anyway, standard or not MP4 is inferior to MKV so there's not much else to say here.

Shadowzz said,
Reencode what? It usually already is MPEG4 or H.264 :/
You were the one who asked me "Why rip it to MKV if you can rip it directly to mpeg or h.?" What am I going to do with the raw audio and video streams ripped from a DVD or BR disc without placing it in a container like MKV? As for re-encoding, something like AC3 or DTS-HD would require me to re-encode to AAC if I use an MP4 container. No such problems with MKV. And MKV has far better open source tools and the entire format is open and freely licensed as opposed to the patent encumbered MP4. For some this makes a huge difference.

Shadowzz said,
The thing is, it being a container. It can be in countless formats. So you _could_ start supporting mkv in a way so it plays the MPEG4 and H.264 videos.....
Could? MKV does support MPEG4 and H.264 codecs. And MP4 supports different codecs too and I'm pretty sure Microsoft by default doesn't support every single one in Windows. Do MP4s with ALS or ALAC (part of the MPEG4 Part 14 standard) play in WMP or Xbox Video by default? I bet not.

Shadowzz said,
You can chose to use it, but not everyone will chose to implement such 'wide' containers.
Some do, some don't. Clearly Microsoft doesn't. My hardware players do though, and for every other platform I have software players to do the same. So ultimately even though I'd like XBox Video to support MKV and Xbox Audio to support FLAC, I'm not too concerned that they don't. Plenty of other far better fish in the sea when it comes to media players.

Edited by Romero, Apr 1 2014, 11:35pm :