Laptops last longer with Wayland than with Xorg

Despite Wayland’s legion of detractors, it offers advantages over Xorg such as smoother graphics, an end to design tearing, and the ability to extend laptop battery life. The latter was recently demonstrated by Michael Larabelle, head of Phoronix and lead developer of the Phoronix benchmarking suite, who compared the performance and power consumption of Xorg and Wayland on GNOME and KDE Plasma.

As far as performance is concerned, we won’t go into that question as it is not the focus of this article, but to summarize, the trend remains the same in terms of equal performance with Wayland and Xorg. However, in KDE Plasma we can find that in some cases the Wayland session loses with a noticeable difference, while in GNOME the results are more consistent between the two graphical “servers” and Wayland appears better (GNOME participated in both comparisons, while KDE only in one).

To clarify our point, let’s look at the two most obvious examples, which cover performance tests when running Unvanquished and Warsaw.

For those who don’t know, Unvanquished is a free cross-platform multiplayer shooter created on the Id Tech 4 engine, the Doom 3 engine. Here you can see that the Wayland session in GNOME slightly outperforms the Xorg session, while in KDE Plasma we see that Wayland is almost 11 frames per second slower.

Wayland vs Xorg на GNOME и KDE Plasma под управлением Unvanquished
Wayland vs Xorg on GNOME and KDE Plasma running Unvanquished

On the other hand we have Warsaw 2.5 beta, another multiplayer shooter and free software using a heavily modified version of the Quake II engine. In this case, Xorg outperforms Wayland in both GNOME and KDE Plasma, but the difference is more pronounced in the case of the latter.

Wayland vs Xorg на GNOME и KDE Plasma под управлением Warsaw 2.5 beta
Wayland vs Xorg on GNOME and KDE Plasma running Warsaw 2.5 beta

Not to let down KDE Plasma, there is one test in which its Wayland session beats the rest by some margin, and that is the test with ParaView 5.9, an open source application for scientific and interactive visualization.

Wayland vs Xorg на GNOME и KDE Plasma под управлением ParaView 5.9
Wayland vs Xorg on GNOME and KDE Plasma running ParaView 5.9

Wayland vs Xorg: Power and temperature

And now we get to the really interesting part of the article: comparing Wayland and Xorg in terms of power consumption and temperatures. Here we can extract some interesting data confirming the feelings this server had when using the Acer Aspire 5 A515-54-735N laptop two years ago. Since Phoronix ran two tests, we will only give here the figures of the second one, where KDE Plasma and GNOME are shown at the same time.

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Before presenting the data, the machine used was a second-generation Lenovo ThinkPad T14s laptop with a Ryzen 7 PRO 5850U APU (with integrated graphics), 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD drive. GNOME version 40.5 and KDE Plasma version 5.22.5 were used via Ubuntu 21.10 with Linux 5.16 as the kernel.

First, we have the overall power consumption of the system. Here Wayland showed two to three watts less power consumption than Xorg in both GNOME and KDE Plasma. This is a significant saving, given the power consumption of modern laptops, especially low-power laptops, although it remains to be seen whether this saving is fixed or more of a percentage.

Wayland vs Xorg в GNOME и KDE Plasma: энергопотребление системы
Wayland vs Xorg in GNOME and KDE Plasma: System power consumption

CPU power consumption, as measured by PowerCap, was also lower in Wayland sessions.

Wayland vs Xorg в GNOME и KDE Plasma: энергопотребление процессора (CPU)
Wayland vs Xorg in GNOME and KDE Plasma: CPU power consumption

And when it comes to measuring CPU temperature, Wayland wins again (obviously, if its lower power consumption is any indication). Curiously, in all three tests, the results between GNOME and KDE Plasma are flatter when using Wayland than when using Xorg.

Wayland vs Xorg в GNOME и KDE Plasma: монитор температуры процессора (CPU)
Wayland vs Xorg in GNOME and KDE Plasma: CPU temperature monitor


The fact that Wayland sessions outperform power efficiency is a big plus, especially considering that laptop battery life is traditionally an unfinished business for Linux desktops.

If you take the results of the two sets of tests linked in this article, it’s clear that GNOME has doubly won here, as its Wayland session performance is more or less even and outperforms Xorg in more than one case. Add to that greater power efficiency, and it’s clear that it makes more sense to use Wayland than Xorg on a laptop these days, especially given GNOME’s mature protocol implementation.

For my part, it seems that KDE Plasma still has some unfinished business with performance and performance, but let’s hope that the constant push that its Wayland session gets will eventually fix the outstanding issues.

What do you use Wayland or X org? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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