Browser Face-Off: Battery Life Exploredby Jarred Walton on September 11, 2009 6:00 PM EST
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Seven years ago, the browser wars seemed all but ended. AOL bought out Netscape, Microsoft Internet Explorer dominated the market, and the era of browser-based exploits began. In 2003, Microsoft's stranglehold on the browser market didn't change much, but the Mozilla group began their efforts at an open-source alternative. It still took almost two years before we finally saw the birth of Firefox, the first serious contender to the browser throne since the passing of Netscape… okay, so Netscape was more on life-support, but let's not argue semantics.
What we are going to look at today is the impact of your choice of browser on battery life, plain and simple. Except, coming up with a benchmark is neither plain nor simple. We have used several different methods for testing battery life on laptops, and depending on the type of content you're viewing battery life ranges from nearly equal to what you can expect at idle down to roughly the same amount of battery life you would get when viewing high-definition videos. Like it or not, we feel that Adobe's Flash is used on many websites, and so we picked three websites that we frequently visit and used those for our testing. As a point of reference, here's the sort of battery life difference you're looking at when viewing "simple" webpages versus the three websites we selected, from our article comparing AMD and Intel battery life.
Obviously, that's a huge difference in battery life. You get roughly 50% more battery life in simple Internet surfing compared to surfing sites that use of lots of Flash content (along with frames, numerous tables, etc.) Last we checked, your average website is nowhere near what would qualify as "simple", and Flash content is ubiquitous. For better or for worse, we're going to focus on battery life when viewing three websites. One of the websites is AnandTech.com, and the other two shall remain nameless. Suffice it to say, all three sites have approaches to web design that we see replicated all over the Internet.
For testing, we load the three sites into tabs on our test web browser, wait 60 seconds, and then reload all three tabs. We are using three recently tested laptops that offered decent battery life. Two of these are the Gateway NV52 and NV58 that represent the current state of entry-level AMD and Intel laptops. The third is a netbook, the ASUS Eee PC 1005HA. None of these laptops would qualify as high-end solutions, mostly because we don't think users interested in battery life are going to be looking at high-end laptops. These three laptops provide a reasonable view of the current mobile market. If there is interest, we may look at extending this testing to other laptops in the future, but first let's see what sort of results we get from the test candidates.
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IntelUser2000 - Monday, September 14, 2009 - linkAgain, you posted the reason I replied in the very first place. It's not my "beef" that whether people care about battery life on high end or not. It's that you put different settings on two kinds of portable devices for no reason(the Notebook and the Netbook). Why not keep them both on "Balanced"(or something equivalent).
"As far as I can tell, the power saving setting does not influence the individual browser results, though to be sure I would need to run every single test again with different settings. That's not something I really feel is necessary"
Then you should have tested with "Balanced" just like on the Atom Netbook. Because that would be the most common setting. Unlike "Balanced", "Power Saver" has a bit of performance to be sacrificed(I'm not arguing about the %ages).
I don't know why you did the "Power Saver" in the first place. As you say, its not 50% reduction(actually its even greater), but its some sort of performance reduction, and the possibility of that changing browser ratings was there.
JarredWalton - Monday, September 14, 2009 - linkI do have "Maximum Battery" results for certain tests on the 1005HA, which I'll discuss in a different article. I'm not denying that "Power Saver" can impact performance, but your link is to tests of gaming on different power settings. Typical gaming performance is HORRIBLE on battery power, even on high-end notebooks, because the GPUs have to run in reduced power modes. The batteries simply can't provide enough juice to run everything at maximum performance.
Since "Power Saver" isn't always the same among laptops - you can customize a lot of settings - I don't know what was being tested specifically on that forum post. Was Max CPU at 50%, 20%, or something else? What about the GPU setting -- if ATI or NVIDIA GPUs are set to maximum battery, of course gaming performance is reduced. It could very well be that the problem with reduced FPS in those tests is from the GPU running slow rather than the CPU. Regardless, if you have the AC adapter connected, you can tweak the "Power Saver" AC settings to allow full performance while still giving maximum battery life when unplugged. For Internet surfing, the different power modes aren't as big of an impact on browser speed.
Anyway, it's an interesting test to look at, but with only so many hours in a day I have to pick and choose what to run. In this case, I ran the ASUS on the standard XP setting while I let the two Gateway setups get a boost in battery life.
Update: Okay, so I looked at the power numbers again, and it turns out that Power Saver can do far more than 6% increase on Vista, but the Max Battery option in XP didn't help out as much. Assuming I have all the settings correct, the NV52 improved by a whopping 30% by switching to "Power Saver", and the NV58 likewise improved by an impressive 25%. The ASUS 1005HA on the other had only showed an improvement of 7.5%. The 6% figure is for disabling the Super Hybrid Engine underclocking of the FSB, but I got it confused with the other scores. Sorry.
jasperjones - Saturday, September 12, 2009 - linkYou state:
First, the margin of error between runs is around 3% because of network issues, website content, and fluctuation in battery discharging rates. That's why we ran each test at least twice, so the results above should be accurate to within around 1%, for the best-case results.
Assuming you base the margin of error on a 95% confidence interval, then a margin of error of 3% implies a standard error of roughly 1.5%. It then is utterly impossible mathematically to have accuracy within 1% when taking averages over two runs, considering the standard error is the population standard deviation over the square root of the sample size. (In plain English: to cut the standard error--and at the same time the margin of error--in half you need to go from 1 to 4 runs, as sqrt(4)=2.)
JarredWalton - Saturday, September 12, 2009 - linkI did not average the runs, which I suppose creates some of the confusion, because averaging assumes that all runs are representative. Instead, my statement is based off of performing the tests several times for certain configurations.
The difference from highest to lowest time is around 3%, but I found that out of four runs I would usually get something like 156, 161, 160, and 159. Thus, if I'm only looking at the best-case result (161) the margin drops to around 1%. (i.e. 161 vs. 160 or 159).
Statistically, it may not be the best way of doing things, but I prefer focusing on a best-case result instead of running four or eight iterations of a test -- especially when each test run can take anywhere from 3 to 10 hours.
ProDigit - Saturday, September 12, 2009 - linkThere's also the browser's loading speed.
The test does not show which pages where loaded.
Loading facebook, loading games in facebook like farmville, loading sites that show lots or little of flash based commercial,or gifs.
There are too many variables... A second thought to prove that these measurements are invalid...
I hate IE, don't use it, so you'll need to put up a lot more evidence and info for me to prove IE8 will be better than Firefox!
Numerous sites cited that FF is better than IE, loads faster, runs with a lower footprint, etc..
You telling the opposite need to spend more energy convincing the people.
As far as I see it now, indeed anandtech is payed by intel to get IE8 out... So not a single word of this article will I believe until I see more proof!
JarredWalton - Saturday, September 12, 2009 - linkHonestly, I was surprised that IE8 had better battery life in most cases than the competition. But then, that's the whole point of the article: to investigate something people may not have considered. Despite criticisms of IE8 for being slow, it does manage to provide better battery life under stressful Flash browsing scenarios.
Saying a test is "invalid" because you disagree is not only pointless, but it misses the whole introduction where I explain upfront that the testing is only looking at one particular stressful scenario. There were no Flash games, but there were plenty of Flash advertisements on all three web sites used. If I had used the Google home page, it would be less strenuous. As stated, one site was AnandTech, which appears to have 2 to 4 ads on the home page. The other sites were similar in that they were news-based sites. AnandTech was set as the active tab in all cases.
If you'd like, send me a list of three pages and I can run one or two tests to see if your list is more or less stressful. But then I don't know why I should spend energy on someone who is already convinced these results are invalid, simply because he disagrees with the measured results. Tell you what: go download and install this list of browsers and do a test that proves my results are wrong and we can talk more.
ProDigit - Saturday, September 12, 2009 - linkI think these results are invalid!
Simply because it's been proven on chippy's website umpcportal.com that on netbooks, the adblock definitely adds battery life to Firefox!
Second,adblock often blocks ads that are flash based,which internet explorer 8 will show regardless (IE does not have many good 'free' adblockers).
So in other words,simple logic tells me these benchmarks are invalid.
JarredWalton - Saturday, September 12, 2009 - linkYour "simple logic" is a bit too simple. You can see that Firefox with AdBlock does indeed improve battery life on the two faster laptops, but IE8 still comes out ahead. As stated, it appears IE8 being tied into the OS at a lower level helps them to use less CPU time... or perhaps it's just the Flash ActiveX version instead of whatever Flash setup Firefox and other browsers use. Obviously, Flash is a very weak point for Safari 4 under Windows.
As for UMPCportal proving this is "wrong", I assume you mean http://www.umpcportal.com/2008/12/save-battery-lif...">this post -- which is actually a reference to http://www.sectheory.com/browser-power-consumption...">a different site. SecTheory tested using a Kill-A-Watt meter, and that's not the same as testing battery life. I've noticed that when you switch to battery power, it does more than just use the same amount of power that you measure through a Kill-A-Watt unit. (It's something I show in every laptop review.)
Ultimately, your simple logic falls short because it was too simple. Logically, I'm sure there are other ways of improving battery life not investigated (yet). AdBlock Plus is rather heavy when it comes to processing HTML, since it has at present several hundred regular expressions/pattern to check. However, it's also the easiest way to get comprehensive ad blocking and it takes no effort to set it up. If I made a custom filter and only blocked ads from the three test sites, things would be better, especially on netbooks where the Atom CPU had to work really hard processing the ABP list.
In other words, the benchmarks aren't "invalid"; they just show that you should check your assumptions at the door, and they show that AdBlock Plus may not be the most power efficient means of blocking ads. If you have suggestions on some better alternatives (preferably something easily configured), I'm more than happy to hear them.
ciukacz - Monday, September 14, 2009 - linkyou could try http://adsweep.org/">http://adsweep.org/
JumpingJack - Sunday, September 13, 2009 - link:) There are fanboys and then there are fanboys, but fanboy's for web browswers? What is the world coming to :) ....