Browser Face-Off: Battery Life Explored 2014by Stephen Barrett on August 12, 2014 6:00 AM EST
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.