Can you play games on laptop battery power?
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Why Playing Games On Laptop Battery Power Is Bad (In My Opinion)

Playing most games on battery power is a bad experience for many reasons. Let’s discuss why playing games on battery should be avoided, and where it makes sense.

People seem to assume that simply because it’s a gaming laptop, you’re going to be able to play games no problem on battery power. This is far from the truth, here’s what to actually expect.

Low performance

A laptop battery is simply not capable of providing enough sustained power to offer a comparable level of performance when compared to AC power. As a result, lower gaming performance is expected on battery power. This one seems to catch a lot of newbies out, as I frequently get asked why performance is lower when gaming on battery power.

Even if higher frame rates are possible, this will typically drain the battery faster. Faster battery drain often results in higher temperatures too. This is why Nvidia Battery Boost caps the frame rate of all games to 30 FPS by default. You do have the option of increasing this through Nvidia GeForce Experience, however.

Nvidia GeForce Experience Battery Boost
Nvidia GeForce Experience – Battery Boost

Short run time

Even if performance is acceptable, for modern games, you’ll be lucky to play for an hour on battery. Battery life will of course vary by machine based on the specs inside, size of the battery, and the game you’re playing though. Less demanding titles, such as indie games for instance, will last much longer.

If you don’t need the machine otherwise, you’re out somewhere away from power and want to play a game for an hour and accept the issues covered here, then sure go ahead.

Unnecessary battery degradation

I get a lot of comments that imply people are playing games on battery at home, stopping when the battery runs out, waiting to charge up, then going again. This one really makes no sense to me. If you’re at home, you’ll likely readily have AC power available (how are you charging it, if not?).

Not only will you get better performance being plugged in, intentionally going through constant discharge/recharge cycles is a good way to reduce the life of the battery. The thought process seems to be that leaving the battery at 100% charge is worse, but that’s not the case.

Yes, leaving the battery at 100% charge for long periods of time when not in use is not optimal, but I don’t think this justifies the alternative just mentioned. Basically, if you can plug the power adapter in, do it.

Some gaming laptops can’t even handle it

When I test battery life while gaming, I play The Witcher 3 at medium settings with the default 30 FPS frame cap from Nvidia Battery Boost. As soon as I remove the power cable from some machines though, the frame rate dips down below this.

The amount it dips depends on the laptop and the battery, I’ve tested some that are instantly not even playable though. Many are capable of at least hitting 30 FPS in that game, but many will run at 20 FPS or lower the entire time, it varies.

Many laptops will simply drop to unplayable levels of performance anywhere from 30% charge remaining or below. You may not even able to use the full charge. Some will be able to offer a stable frame rate until the battery runs out completely, but that’s not always the case.

To Conclude…

For the most part, most people who are gaming on battery power should just use an AC adapter. You’ll get better performance, degrade the battery slower, and not have to wait to charge back up. Realistically, I think it only makes sense to consider playing games on battery power if you’re away from AC power and are happy to trade your charge for an hour or so of fun.

Personally, I would not buy a gaming laptop with the intention of ever being able to use it for high demanding tasks on battery power – but that’s me. If you game on battery power, let me know why in the comments, I’m interested to hear if I’ve missed something!

Hi, I’m Jarrod, a tech reviewer from Australia. I mainly focus on laptops, but am interested in all things tech related!

23 Comments

  • Vuyo

    Great article!

    With the upcoming mobile Renoir and Tiger Lake chips bringing much better supposed CPU+iGPU performance than before, have you considered introducing iGPU gaming battery life testing for science? I think it would be useful to people with limited or reliable power access.

    • Jarrod

      Thanks! I haven’t considered it yet. If they actually become useful to use unlike most of the current options, I’ll be happy to test it out. The major reason I’ve never done this yet is because almost all of the machines I’ve been sent to review have discrete graphics inside already. I rarely get anything that’s just CPU only and relies on the iGPU.

  • pepega

    So lets say my laptop is 100% now and I want to game for 4 hours, should I plug it in and keep it like that for 4 hours, even though it’s 100%?

    On my old laptop I used to play on battery until the low battery message pops up and plug it in after that, charge to 100%, then remove the plug and repeat the cycle.

  • senthur

    i just got a asus zephyrus ga502 and i tired gaming on it with battery power and i got horrible fps and games were unpalyable. but when plugged in i got good performance. is this normal or is there something wrong with my laptop

  • Meir

    I have G5 15 5587 – not only the fact that on battery the performance is degraded to 0.79GHz (constant)
    in practic – its even imposable to do a regulare task, like write an email, like you expect from a laptop, not to mention a game on it.
    * regular task like watch movie, write documen, every thing is stucks.

    so this rise me a a question, what is actualy a laptop?, a PC with build-in screen? or a “demi-battery”
    cose to be honest i even cant take it to univertity, with this kind of performance.

  • Hidayat Noh

    In Lenovo vantage they had this settings which is conservation mode allowing battery plugged in not exceed 60% but stays in between 50 to 60%. Does it recommended to use it on while gaming? Or it has a side effects to the battery?

    • Jarrod

      It would be preferable if you always run the laptop plugged in and rarely need to unplug it and need maximum battery life.

  • Mike

    I have g531gw and I turned battery health charging on balanced mode, that means it will be charged up to 80%. so do I still have to keep it on 80% while Im gonna play for long time?

    • Jarrod

      If you don’t need to unplug and need the extra 20% battery then leaving it at 80% full most of the time vs full at 100% is probably better long term.

  • jessica

    for example I played with laptop for several hours and it was plugged in all the time.After I finished using laptop and I wanted to shut it down , should I unplug it?
    if I should , do I need to plug it in again if i wanted to play or use it for another few hours?even though it was fully charged due to previous use.

    • Jarrod

      Doesn’t matter if you leave it plugged in or not when it’s off. It is suggested to leave it plugged in while using it for best performance rather than using the battery when possible.

  • Hossam

    So after reading the article, it raised me a question. Will it be better (in terms of conserving battery life) to manually remove the battery hardware and game depending ONLY on AC power?

    I got the ideapad L340-15irh and I will not work on it these days, but I will later, so I want the battery to be at its best when I use it later for work.
    *By later I mean after like 2-3 months.

    If yes, are there some specific steps to do before/after removing the battery hardware?

    • Jarrod

      Depends, if you take the battery out but it’s at 100% charge then no, it won’t make a difference and you might as well just leave it in the machine rather than going through all that effort. Honestly I left a laptop on 24/7 at work during week days for over 3 years and the battery was still fine.

    • Jarrod

      Yes but unnecessary and not really recommended, if there is a power outage or brown out you’ll lose what you’re doing, I’d rather have the battery in instead of taking off the bottom panel and doing that each time.

    • Jarrod

      It doesn’t constantly charge though. That said, yes leaving it at 100% for long periods of time is suboptimal, but it’s far less optimal to keep pointlessly running through discharge/recharge cycles.

  • Justin Zorbas

    Hey Jarrod, fantastic article mate! 🙂

    I purchased an Alpha X from Metabox a few years back after watching your reviews, and have recently upgraded to a Prime V after watching more of your reviews on it. You always go into fantastic detail about each laptop. I’m loving it so far! I was playing Kingdom Come Deliverance yesterday on Ultra settings, and noticed the FPS was very low (20 -30 FPS), then I discovered the laptop wasn’t plugged in and it immediately jumped up to 70fps when I plugged it back in. This does make a lot of sense, especially since the Prime V does have some very powerful components in it which need that extra power to function at its peak. I had a few mates concerned about this and questioned the laptops reliability, though I figured that this is a common situation where the more powerful your laptop is, the more power it needs.

    Keep up the awesome work and thanks for the great content!

    – Justin Jet Zorbas

    • Jarrod

      Cheers! Yeah definitely lower performance on battery is expected. I’ve got a couple of Prime-V machines here at the moment, keen to get the review done!

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