The Test

Overall, many factors go into web browser battery usage, like GPU accelerated rendering and content caching. Chrome, despite its aggressive timer usage, may still be more battery efficient than other browsers. I should note that AnandTech has historically used Safari on OS X and desktop IE on Windows devices when performing battery life testing.

With this article we are debuting a new browser benchmark tool. Developed in house, this tool automates the usage of a desired web browser as if a user was sitting at the computer. It performs common tasks like launching and closing the browser, opening and closing tabs, loading websites, and scrolling through longer articles. As usual, the websites visited are popular sites cached on the AnandTech server, so the content of the sites does not change between runs. Additionally, the browsers are all run in private browsing mode to prevent local content caching from interfering with reloading our limited set of server-cached sites.

Browsers tested:

  • IE11 Desktop Mode v11.0.9600.17207 (Update versions: 11.0.10 KB2962872)
  • IE11 Modern (Metro) Mode
  • Firefox 31.0
  • Safari 5.1.7
  • Chrome 36.0.1985.125 m
  • Chrome 37.0.2062.68 beta-m (64-bit)

There are several other browsers we would have liked to test, however, due to the time intensive nature of battery life testing, we chose to focus on the most popular browsers. We also chose to test the beta version of Chrome as it is a significant update. Chrome 37 changes from 32-bit to 64-bit and from GDI (legacy) rendering to DirectWrite (modern) rendering. This makes the browser actually usable and no longer blurry on HiDPI displays.

To take advantage of operating system and hardware advances since our last test, testing was performed on the high end model of the Dell XPS 15 (9530) late 2013 edition running Windows 8.1 with all updates as of this writing.

Dell XPS 15 (9530) Late 2013 Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-4702MQ
(Quad-core 2.2-3.2GHz, 6MB L3, 22nm, 37W)
Chipset HM87
Memory 2x8GB DDR3-1600
Graphics GeForce GT 750M 2GB GDDR5
(384 cores, 967MHz + Boost 2.0, 5GHz GDDR5)

Intel HD Graphics 4600
(20 EUs at 400-1150MHz)
Display 15.6" Glossy PPS 16:9 QHD+ (3200x1800)
(Sharp LQ156Z1 Touchscreen)
Storage 512GB mSATA SSD (Samsung SM841)
Optical Drive N/A
Networking 802.11ac WiFi (Intel Dual-Band AC-7260)
(2x2:2 867Mbps capable)
Bluetooth 4.0 (Intel)
Audio Realtek HD
Stereo Speakers
Headset jack
Battery/Power 9-cell, 11.1V, 8000mAh, 91Wh
130W Max AC Adapter
Front Side N/A
Left Side Battery Charge Indicator LEDs
Headset jack
2 x USB 3.0
1 x Mini-DisplayPort
1 x HDMI
AC Power Connection
Right Side Flash Reader (MMC/SD)
1 x USB 3.0
1 x USB 3.0 (Sleep Charging)
Kensington Lock
Back Side Exhaust vent (inside LCD hinge)
Operating System Windows 8.1 64-bit
Dimensions 14.6" x 10.0" x 0.3-0.7" (WxDxH)
(372mm x 254mm x 8-18mm)
Weight 4.44 lbs (2.01kg)
Extras 720p HD Webcam
87-Key Backlit Keyboard

The latest edition of this laptop upgrades to the "Haswell Refresh" i7-4712HQ with an extra 100 MHz clock rate compared to our test laptop. That should have little to no impact on the browser battery life testing.

Windows Timers Results and Analysis
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  • SanX - Wednesday, August 13, 2014 - link

    Linux market share was below 1% for almost two decades.
  • fokka - Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - link

    i find it slightly worrying that firefox is tied last in this test. ff has been my browser of choice for years and using anything else than my nicely customized setup makes web-browsing less comfortable than what i'm used to. but getting an hour more battery life out of my aging laptop when away from the socket wouldn't be bad either.

    maybe i'll give chrome (or one of its derivatives) another chance and try to set it up to my liking as good as i can. we'll see.
  • CaedenV - Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - link

    Mozilla has not managed to put out anything good recently. The last few years they have been playing a 'me too' game with Chrome, to the point now where they even look similar. Outside of that FF has gotten slow, fat, and buggy. Unless you have privacy concerns or pet plugins that only work with FF then it is time to move on to Chrome or IE.
    And the issue is not limited to their browser. I mean look at the FF Phone and some of their other recent projects... sad to see a traditionally good company flounder like this.
  • edzieba - Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - link

    You could also try something like Palemoon, which is essentially firefox's core but with some of the more dubious UI decisions removed or reversible and a lot of legacy crud cleared out.
  • asmian - Thursday, August 14, 2014 - link

    +1 for Palemoon!

    After reading this post I was curious. I just transferred, migrating my Firefox profile with the tool available to Palemoon with absolutely no issues, and apart from some minor preference tweaks to the toolbars it's a virtually identical browsing experience but I can immediately see and feel the difference in faster page loading. All my extensions and stored passwords work right including FireFTP and site logins. And I'm now running 64-bit, unlike FF. Awesome. ;)

    Since the major principle of Palemoon is to cut unnecessary code from the stock FF source to speed up page rendering, it is exactly the sort of alternative browser that should have been included in this test for comparison, since it is now so divergent from official FireFox. Especially since the prevailing logic seems to be "Chrome wins, but sucks for privacy" and Palemoon, from my reading and so far happy experience, doesn't compromise on either.
  • lilmoe - Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - link

    I find your results rather interesting. So I have a question please.
    Which GPU was primarily active during your tests for hardware accelerated browsers (like IE) vs Chrome? IE is significantly more hardware accelerated, and therefore GPU intensive, than any other browser (on Windows). So it would be interesting to see if the dGPU was taxed during the test.
  • lilmoe - Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - link

    Sorry, forgot to note one more thing. When hardware accelerated rendering is disabled in IE, I noticed a significant reduction in GPU load % VS enabled. I have the same CPU as the test in this benchmark (Core i7 4702MQ, but with an AMD dGPU), and strangely, even CPU power is reduced when GPU rendering is disabled. This wasn't the case in my previous laptop's case (Core 2 Duo), but it's interesting to note. The better your CPU, the less more inefficient GPU rendering becomes.
  • lilmoe - Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - link

    the more inefficient**
    (please add an edit button for our posts...)
  • Stephen Barrett - Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - link

    All browsers used the integrated (Intel) GPU
  • BillBear - Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - link

    Since Apple made power efficiency a headline feature of the current version of Safari on OSX Mavericks, I would like to see how that tests out in the real world.

    Run the same test on a Retina Macbook Pro.

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