Final Words

A lot of technology has changed in five years, and not surprisingly, so have our browser battery life results. Nearly everyone is used to changing their display brightness to conserve battery, but changing browsers might be a wise move as well. Most interestingly, changing to Google Chrome 36, despite its known power consumption bug, is apparently a wise move as far as battery life is concerned. However, that may be short lived, as Google Chrome 37 beta moved Chrome from first place to last place in our battery life results. The drop is possibly thanks to Google finally supporting HiDPI displays. Update: Chrome has been tested at 1600x900

It's interesting to note that Google's bug report thread shows they attempted to fix the timer issue in Chrome 37, but they had to revert the fix due to some failing automated tests. As of this writing, they have not yet re-implemented the fix, but they did try to add some power monitoring auto tests to their suite to keep an eye on this topic. Unfortunately, a few days later, they removed those new automated tests due to other unforeseen issues.

In terms of current standings, Microsoft still knows a thing or two about creating a power friendly browser, and the Modern UI version came in second place next to Chrome 36 on our tests. Looking forward, if Google could resolve their timer issue in a future revision (37 or later), they could potentially pass Firefox and maybe even IE. In the future, we hope to test this more often than every five years so we can keep up with browser changes, and possibly test on OS X as well.

Of course, battery life isn't the only factor to consider when choosing a browser. Personally I prefer Firefox due to the "awesome bar" that works better, in my opinion, than other web browser's address bar. Additionally, I can't reasonably use Safari or Chrome 36 on the XPS 15 because they do not properly support HiDPI rendering like IE and Firefox do- at least until Chrome 37.

Hopefully this article keeps the pressure on software authors to use power efficient APIs and autotest for power draw with each subsequent release. You can check for software that abuses the battery yourself with the command line tool powercfg /energy. I've found one other piece of software abusing high resolution timers, and I reported it to the author. Let us know in the comments if there are other applications you've encountered that don't play well with battery power.

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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