n900 Battery Duration: Ogg vs. MP3

There have always been complaints about Ogg being more of a battery hog on the Nokia tablets compared to Nokia optimized MP3. I decided to measure the difference.

All tests were run on a preproduction n900 device that Nokia distributed at the Maemo Summit. The software is the Maemo5 41-10 release which was already installed in the device. I installed Ogg Support, gst-av, ffmpeg and OpenSSH. Otherwise the device is the default 41-10 release. WLAN connection was configured but not activated during the tests. A SIM card was in place only in the SIM idle test.

Before every test I charged the device, disconnected the charger once I noticed the green led, and rebooted the device. After the boot I started a simple script in the xterm. The script logged current time to a file, run “sync” command and slept 60 seconds after which it started the loop again.

Idle tests

I run two idle tests between the libvorbis and ffvorbis tests but I’ll introduce the idle results first.

First idle test was a generally idle device. I.e. it did have the default processes running but I didn’t start anything, except my logging script. During the test I did check a couple of times if the device was still on. The battery lasted for 93.8 hours.

According to Igor Stoppa, there’s a cellmo sw bug that makes current higher without a SIM card. Therefore I rerun the idle test with a SIM card inserted. During the test I received two phone calls which I hung up, I received two SMS messages and wrote one. At one point the notification led was blinking for 45 mins. The battery laster for 93.6 hours.

There’s probably a few hour error margin on those tests, so basically the battery lasted roughly a bit over 90 hours in both tests.

Powertop shows that after 60 seconds of showing the xterm with display blanked, the CPU is mostly in the highest C4 sleep state:


C# Ratio Avg/dura Frequency Ratio
C0 0.3% 600 MHz 0.0%
C1 0.0% 550 MHz 0.0%
C2 0.1% 1.1ms 500 MHz 0.0%
C3 0.2% 15.2ms 250 MHz 100.0%
C4 99.5% 2297.0ms    

Ogg vs. MP3

Now that we know how long the device will last when idle we can move to the actual results.

I run two sets of tests. First one was with the Ogg Support 1.0.5 from Extras and the second one with Felipe’s gst-av (2009-09-25) which is using vorbis decoder from FFmpeg (2009-09-07). I repeated both tests three times, running every other test with MP3 and every other with Ogg.

After restarting the device with a fully charged battery I started the logging script in the xterm, started the File Manager and clicked on the MP3 or Ogg file which then started playing that single file in a loop in the Media Player. Both files were encoded with variable bitrate 192kbps settings. Volume of the device was set to minimum and no headphones were connected.

This is what powertop shows while playing MP3 in Media Player compared to libvorbis:


MP3 libvorbis
C# Ratio Avg/dura Frequency Ratio
C0 37.9% 600 MHz 3.1%
C1 0.0% 0.2ms 550 MHz 1.1%
C2 7.0% 3.0ms 500 MHz 17.5%
C3 55.1% 8.0ms 250 MHz 78.3%
C4 0.0%    
C# Ratio Avg/dura Frequency Ratio
C0 70.1% 600 MHz 18.2%
C1 0.0% 0.1ms 550 MHz 0.0%
C2 4.7% 2.7ms 500 MHz 28.8%
C3 25.1% 7.8ms 250 MHz 52.9%
C4 0.0%    

Clearly while using libvorbis the CPU spents more time in lower sleep state and running with higher frequency. The following graph shows how this affects the battery. The battery lasts around 18 hours while playing MP3 but only around 11 hours while playing Ogg.

Battery duration: MP3 vs. libvorbis

Next numbers are with ffvorbis instead of libvorbis. Powertop shows that while using ffvorbis the time spent in different sleep states matches quite closely to the ones of MP3 usage:


MP3 ffvorbis
C# Ratio Avg/dura Frequency Ratio
C0 37.9% 600 MHz 3.1%
C1 0.0% 0.2ms 550 MHz 1.1%
C2 7.0% 3.0ms 500 MHz 17.5%
C3 55.1% 8.0ms 250 MHz 78.3%
C4 0.0%    
C# Ratio Avg/dura Frequency Ratio
C0 38.4% 600 MHz 2.1%
C1 0.0% 0.1ms 550 MHz 0.0%
C2 5.7% 3.1ms 500 MHz 13.2%
C3 55.9% 8.3ms 250 MHz 84.6%
C4 0.0%    

The similarity of the powertop numbers can be seen in the battery duration as well:

Battery duration: MP3 vs. ffvorbis

The average battery duration while using ffvorbis was slightly better than while using MP3 but probably well within the error margins. So basically they are equal when battery duration is concerned.

It’s interesting to see how the situation changes in a year, will Nokia make better optimizations to their MP3 decoder than the community to the FFmpeg. These tests were run in a preproduction device with a pre-sales software. I’m sure the overall power management of the device will get (even?) better in the future software releases.

Addition (2009-11-17):

When using the speakers the n900 runs some “speaker protection algorithms” that take extra power. I repeated the ffvorbis test case with Nokia’s headset and here are the results:

Battery duration: ffvorbis with headphones

On the average the battery duration improved a bit over three hours.

Addition (2009-11-25):

I run the same tests (Ogg Support 1.0.5, no headset) for Flac:

Battery duration: libflac

n900 with a pre-sales w41-10 software can run Flac roughly 1.5 hours longer than MP3.