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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  • Stephen Barrett - Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - link

    Our test script uses windows API calls to move mouse, click, scroll, type, etc... so it will take some time for us to make an OS X version
  • PhilipJM - Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - link

    I just ran the powercfg /energy command you suggested and noticed that both steam and spotify set the request period to 10000 in the same way as chrome, (version 37.0.2062.68 beta-m 64-bit) on my machine. I hope you can inform them :)
  • The_Mantis - Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - link

    If you uncheck "Enable Hardware Acceleration" (both of them) in Spotify's Preferences, then it will not speed up the timer resolution.
  • lucas1024 - Thursday, August 14, 2014 - link

    The Hardware Acceleration setting did not have any effect on the timer, I also checked other potential culprits like the Flash plugin. I didn't find any setting or plugin that correlated with the timer. If it is an extension that's causing this, it is not something obvious.
  • lucas1024 - Thursday, August 14, 2014 - link

    Never mind, wrong post, and I can't delete it!!
  • Klimax - Wednesday, August 13, 2014 - link

    IIRC Steam uses Chromium. That could explain that.
  • Flying Goat - Saturday, August 16, 2014 - link

    I didn't know that, but looking but looking at the command line steam's subprocesses use, you're absolutely correct. Learn something new every day.
  • a1exh - Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - link

    This would have made for a more interesting read had it been about Android browsers.

    Although a critical bug in Android Chrome and Android Chrome beta has users leaving in droves!
  • johnny_boy - Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - link

    I too would have liked to see similar testing done across various oses.
  • johnny_boy - Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - link

    I would like to see similar testing done on linux and os x. It would make this article massively more interesting.

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