Most of us get stuck in a routine when it comes to how we work.

On a flight to and from Europe recently, I decided to experiment with some settings on a Google Pixelbook on the flight to my destination and on the flight back. It was a wonderful discovery because I ended up squeezing out twice the amount of power. (And I mean actual usage time, not just a theory based on what the battery indicator says or what Google might estimate in their official info.)

With the screen at full brightness the way I usually work, all settings enabled, and leaving it on even when I go grab a black tea refill, the thin Chrome OS notebook lasts five hours, or not through my workday. Yet, I discovered the Pixelbook is made to last much, much longer--and with these tips, I cranked out the full ten hours of usage time and then some. It was still humming along after I landed and even at the hotel later.

First off, these steps really require that you break some patterns. When you are ready to board the plane or before you crack open the lid while airborne, make sure you have an open mind and don't stick to the settings you know and use the most often.

Also, these tips apply to pretty much any laptop--they are not limited to the Pixelbook. In fact, the tips might work even better on other laptops that have a smaller screen or a bigger battery. Just make sure you do all of the steps to get the most juice.

Step 1: Lower the brightness to an insane level

I tend to type incredibly fast, and I don't really need to see what I'm typing. It might sound weird, but you can adjust the brightness of a laptop down to almost a black screen. (The Pixelbook is so dim at the lowest level you can barely read the text anymore.) Pick a brightness level you can live with, but know that the lower you go the more battery you'll have at your disposal. That was my experience on the flight--low brightness works.

Step 2: Turn everything off but the power

A laptop that is turned off is not exactly useful. Yet, you should disable just about everything else you can think of including the Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and any mobile data connection. On the flight without Wi-Fi, you don't need to enable that option anyway, and you really shouldn't be using Bluetooth on a plane. Turning off every single wireless connection saves quite a bit of power.

Step 3: Sleep don't power down

There's a setting on most laptops to cause the laptop to power down completely after a certain period of time. For the plane, it's not as helpful. Make sure you enable the sleep function instead so the display turns off but the laptop doesn't. In my tests, having the system turn off entirely made the battery life worse, not better--presumably because it takes more power to turn it back on. (I still wonder about this feature on cars, especially now that GM doesn't make it optional to turn the engine off when you stop.) With the idle setting set to sleep only, you'll extend your battery further.

Step 4: Close the lid when not in use

Another battery-saving measure, one that made the Pixelbook last for about ten hours for me, is that I closed the lid every time I wasn't using it. This causes the entire system to go to sleep and saves the most power (obviously). But it's amazing how many laptop users leave their device running when they grab a drink or run to the bathroom. Again, we're all stuck in patterns, but creating new ones means getting more work done.

Published on: Jun 22, 2018
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