Here’s When a Dark Theme Can Save Battery Power

Windows 10's blacked out Settings menu.

Dark themes are becoming more and more popular. On some devices, they can even save battery power. It all depends on what type of display your device have—only devices with OLED displays can reap the power-saving benefits.

Devices With OLED Displays Only

You’ve probably heard of OLED displays, especially if you’ve been on the market for a new TV in the last year or so. OLED screens differ from LCD and LED displays typically found in electronics in that OLEDs don’t have a backlight layer: each pixel is individually illuminated. This makes the display thinner, but the main draw is that black pixels don’t get lit up at all.

The result is higher contrast in your favorite films, inky blacks throughout any interface, and battery savings when you’re using a dark theme on your laptop or cell phone.

When a Dark Theme Can Save Battery Power on Your Laptop

Microsoft Edge's dark theme

OLED laptops are starting to appear, with some newer models just announced at CES 2019. There haven’t been any macOS or ChromeOS laptops with OLED screens, but there are a few Windows options. HP’s Spectre x360 15 is shipping with a 15-inch Samsung AMOLED display, while Lenovo is offering its Yoga C730 with an OLED panel. Surface fans will be out of luck—Microsoft hasn’t shipped an OLED screen on its laptops yet.

Changing to Windows’ dark theme is easy, and that will darken all of the built-in applications at the same time. Microsoft Office lets you change to a dark theme, as do a lot of third-party apps. Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome all offer dark themes, but your favorite websites may or may not. Google’s official dark theme isn’t stable on Windows yet but will arrive in the next few months.

You won’t get the battery savings benefits if your laptop isn’t using an OLED display, and you could find the dark theme may harm your battery life—in theory, at least. A dark theme could lead you to crank your laptop’s brightness to read text and see buttons in the interface, and the higher brightness would draw more power from the battery. This will depend on how much light is in your environment, how well your eyesight works, and how efficient the backlight is—so you may not notice any difference. Just keep that in mind when you’re switching to the dark side.

Of course, if you’re looking to save battery power, there are plenty of ways to increase your Windows laptop’s battery life. You could even use Windows 10’s battery saver mode. We’ve covered a lot of tips for saving battery power on your MacBook, too. And the same basic principles apply to extending your Chromebook’s battery life, too.

When a Dark Theme Can Save Battery Power on Your Cell Phone

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Morning Briefing: Second-Gen AirPods, Google’s EU Android Solution, and More

Morning Briefing
Kaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock

Good morning! A bunch of stuff happened this morning, with Apple quietly announcing new AirPods, Google’s solution for its EU Android woes, some interesting takes on Google Stadia, and more. Here’s your morning briefing for March 20th, 2019.

Apple News

Apple has been on a slow roll of announcing devices updates every day this week, and today is no different—new AirPods are here!

  • The second generation AirPods have a wireless charging case, better battery life, and support for Hey Siri. That’s pretty much what everyone wanted, right? [Review Geek]

Google and Android News

The big news here is actually from yesterday: Google Stadia. Here’s a roundup of related information and interesting takes regarding this new game streaming platform. Oh, there’s some non-Stadia stuff in here too.

  • Google announced Stadia, and it is wild. [Review Geek]
  • It also released a nice little four-minute recap of the announcement if you want to get the gist without watching the full one-hour presentation. [9to5Google]
  • There’s a partner program for Stadia, offering free hardware and resources to help game developers get started with Stadia. Good, good. [9to5Google]
  • The Verge has some interesting thoughts on what Stadia means for the future of gaming. This could very easily be the first real model of what’s to come. [The Verge]
  • Similarly, our own Michael Crider talked Stadia and what it needs to succeed. It’s a great read. You can find it in your feed. I hope I don’t have to plead. Okay, I’m done (and sorry). [Review Geek]
  • While most details were scant (catalog, internet speed, price), Google told Kotaku that Project Stream—Stadia’s test phase—needed “at least a 25 Mbps connection” to run games at 1080p. Curious. [Kotaku]
  • In other news, Google is going to implement a browser and search ballot in Android devices in the EU. [Ars Technica]
  • Like the Google Doodle? Good, because it might be coming to your Android home screen. Cute. [Android Police]
  • Opera for Android now has a free, built-in VPN. Surf safely, my friends. [9to5Google]

Other News

NVIDIA is going to make you a great artist, Pandora offers more ways to find music, and more.

  • NVIDIA showed off tech that takes MS Paint drawings and turns them into some legit Bob Ross stuff. Dude. [Engadget]
  • Pandora now gives you five options for finding new tunes. Dig it. [Engadget]
  • Netflix’s new series “Battle Kitty” is an interactive show for kids. Because they don’t already watch enough TV. [Netflix]
  • Speaking of, the first trailer for Stranger Things Season 3 is here. Because we don’t already watch enough TV. [YouTube]
  • Amazon announced a new Kindle with an adjustable front light. And higher price tag. [Amazon]
  • In less happy news, a bunch of people got scammed because of a fake eBay ad in Google Search last week. Oof. [Bleeping Computer]

Shadow Game Streaming Review: Powerful Niche Service, but Skip the Hardware

The Shadow service is available on a variety of platforms.

Shadow wants to sell you a dream: a super-powerful, always-connected computer that you can access from anywhere and with any device. That computer is meant primarily for gaming, but since it’s running Windows, it can also do anything a normal PC can do.

And at a basic level, Shadow does that. The service works, and the experience is surprisingly good… so long as you’re accessing it from another computer. Move to a phone, a tablet, or even Shadow’s first-party Ghost hardware, and things fall apart quickly. That doesn’t mean that Shadow isn’t worth investigating, but it does mean that its appeal is limited to a very specific audience—and that a large portion of that audience probably already has access to a gaming PC.

Shadow is cool. But it isn’t living up to its potential, and for lot of users that’s going to mean it isn’t worth a fairly hefty $35 a month to access it.

What You Get with Shadow

So, a quick rundown of what Shadow is: it’s a platform that allows you to “rent” a high-end Windows machine, virtualized on Shadow’s servers, and accessed remotely from your Windows/MacOS/Linux PC, Android device, or the Shadow Ghost set-top box. The remote machine is fine-tuned to play PC games, with a powerful and dedicated NVIDIA GPU, a super-fast web connection at Shadow’s data center, all streaming to you at up to 1440p (or 1080p for 144 Hz speed).

Shadow, running its remote PC interface in a window on my desktop.
Shadow, running its remote PC interface in a window on my desktop. Michael Crider

That’s a neat trick. It’s nothing you can’t do with your own home PC and a remote access program—indeed, there are already services like NVIDIA GameStream and Steam In-Home Streaming that do pretty much the same thing. The advantage of the Shadow setup is that it’s in the cloud and accessible from anywhere with a fast data connection, and it’s also managed remotely for optimum stability and speed.

If you want a high-end gaming PC without having to build it or buy it, or even store it in your home and pay the extra electricity to run the thing, this is a good way to achieve your goal. That’s assuming that, one, you have a fast enough connection to make the streaming interface worth it (25 Mbps at least), and you’re willing to pay the $35 a month to access the service.

Shadow's hardware runs as a mid-to-high-end Windows PC.
Shadow’s hardware runs as a mid-to-high-end Windows PC. Michael Crider

A few other technical details. There’s basically no limit on the virtualized Windows machine, and you can install any software you like. Though you can’t change the hardware, it’s fairly generous in terms of specs. Your remote machine’s processor is an Intel Xeon E5-2678, with 12 GB of RAM and an NVIDIA GTX 1080 equivalent GPU (one of the fastest around, though recently superseded by the new RTX models). The virtual storage is a bit tight at just 256GB, but it’s fast, and the data center’s connection is so speedy (700-800 Mbps when I tested it) that you can download even the largest games with almost no delay.

…and What You Don’t

Unlike more high-profile game streaming services from NVIDIA and Sony PlayStation, you don’t actually get any games to go on your Shadow machine. It comes pre-installed with game store clients like Steam, Origin, and Uplay, and it’s compatible with anything that runs on Windows, up to and including the newest titles. But you’ll have to provide those titles yourself, downloading and installing them manually. This is an advantage if you already have a huge library of PC games, but if not, you’ll be searching for some free stuff like Apex Legends. 

Another thing that Shadow doesn’t provide is a game management interface. The connection works more or less the same as any remote computer access system: log into Shadow’s service, and you’re presented with a standard Windows 10 desktop in either fullscreen or windowed mode. Switching between those two is easy, but actually managing your Shadow computer is more or less impossible without a mouse and keyboard ready to go.

Shadow running with a remote connection to my Xbox controller.
Shadow running with a remote connection to my Xbox controller. Michael Crider

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