Does your browser choice actually make a difference to your laptop’s battery life? We run the numbers
There are lots of reasons why your laptop might be running out of juice before you have a chance to recharge it. It could be loaded with bloatware, rubbish software running in the background, as we explored in How to remove bloatware and speed up your PC. Or, as we discovered in our investigation on download sites, seemingly innocuous free software could be loaded with harmful and processor-hungry malware and adware.
But could you choice of browser have anything to do with it?
Browser battery tests
To test the theory that some browsers might be greedier on battery life than others, we ran tests with each of the three most popular browsers on the web. We tested Google Chrome, both its 32-bit and 64-bit beta version, Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer.
Each browser was run on a laptop with the same pages open. We conducted three tests: the first was with eight relatively intensive tabs open, including a YouTube video. The second was a YouTube video only and the third was Google’s constantly-updating Flash-based Analytics web tool.
During our testing, Google released a new beta version of Chrome that automatically pauses annoying Flash animated adverts, so we tested this, too. You’ll see this highlighted with a * in the first graph. Our results, as you can see below, show a marked difference between each browser.
Our testing generally pointed towards Firefox and Internet Explorer as the superior browsers in terms of battery conservation, although in the Analytics test, Chrome came out on top.
So your browser does make a difference, but of course it’s mainly your browsing behaviour that’s going to affect your battery life. Chrome is widely regarded as being one of the more battery-hungry browsers, but it has plenty of other virtues, so simply not using it isn’t the best course of action.
Here is are a few easy tips and tricks that you can use to get more out of your laptop’s battery.
If you have been experiencing reduced battery backup on your laptop compared to when you started using it, the reason may not be the quality of the laptop but something you have been ignoring for a while. All day-to-day tasks you thought could easily be carried out on your laptop take a toll on its battery. Thus, making it drain faster and showing a performance dip. However, you do not have to worry as there are a few easy ways to get more out of your laptop’s battery.
Not so bright
Most of the time you do not need to turn your brightness to its maximum level. With most of us working from home and not in a well-lit office space, turning the brightness down will not affect your ability to view the contents on the laptop’s display. It is a possibility that most of the laptops have two function keys to help you increase or decrease brightness easily. If your laptop does not have these buttons, you can simply go into the Settings > System > Display.
Use Microsoft Edge browser
There have been multiple memes around Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. However, Microsoft claims that the Edge browser saves a substantial amount of battery percentage when compared to other browsers like Google Chrome, Firefox Browser, or Opera.
Don’t wait for battery to drain
Most people have the habit of either keeping charging cable connected to the laptop all the time or connecting it when the battery is critically low. Avoid these things to increase the longevity of your battery. When the laptop’s battery is below 20 per cent, it puts a strain on it and results in reduced charging capacity.
Turn off keyboard backlights
Until and unless you have a gaming laptop with red backlight or working in a badly lit room, you don’t need keyboard backlight. You can simply turn off by pressing a function button on your keyboard or turn it off from Windows Mobility Center.
Longer battery life or best performance
If you are doing regular office works and not using heavy software, it is recommended that you simply switch between these two power modes — ‘Best battery life’ or ‘Best Performance’. You simply need to click on the battery icon in your taskbar and find the right balance between saving battery or best performance.
Similar to your android and iOS devices, laptops also use battery saver mode once the battery percentage reaches below 20 per cent. You can check if the battery saver is on by simply going into Settings > System > Battery. When the battery saver mode is activated, email and calendar syncing, push notifications, and apps from running in the background are disabled.
Unplug unnecessary devices
When not in use, you can unplug unnecessary devices like webcam, external hard drives. You can even disconnect a mouse when the laptop is in sleep mode as it consumes battery as well.
Turn off Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
When not in use, you can turn on Bluetooth and wi-fi. This is doable for those who do not have a wirelessly connected Bluetooth or speaker. Also, you can turn off the Wi-Fi if you don’t need the internet to do your work. You can simply turn it back on when in need of sending a mail, surf the internet, or something else.
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- Google is testing new power-saving functionality in Chrome.
- In some cases, the feature can increase battery life by as much as two hours.
- Currently, you can only access the feature through a flag in Chrome 86, but it works on both desktop and mobile.
You have to go back almost to the beginning of Chrome’s history as a web browser to find a time when it wasn’t considered a battery and memory hog. But it looks like Google is working on something that may address at least one of those issues. According to The Windows Club, the company is testing an experimental feature in Chrome 86 that reduces battery drain.
Conducting a test using the feature, Google reportedly saw battery life extended by two hours when it had 36 tabs running in the background. The one important thing to note here is that the one foreground tab was open to a blank page. The battery savings Google saw were more modest when the company ran the same test but with a YouTube video playing in fullscreen mode. After turning off any screen settings that could affect the trial, the company saw a 36-minute improvement in battery life, according to TWC.
At the moment, this power-saving feature is only available as a flag in Chrome 86, which means it’s not something you can activate in the standard version of Google’s web browser. As with most in-development features, there’s also a chance the company could scrap it altogether. The good news is that it’s available across both desktop and mobile versions of the browser, so if it does eventually make its way to the consumer version of Chrome, you’ll be able to take advantage of its power-saving capabilities on most of your devices.
There is a problem with Google Chrome on Microsoft Windows that is potentially very bad news for laptop users. It can drastically affect battery life, and even slow down your computer.
So, why is Chrome eating through your battery quicker than other internet browsers? The problem is down to something called the “system clock tick rate”. This is something that Windows uses internally that you won’t hear about unless you go looking. What Chrome does, as soon as it is opened, is set the rate to 1.000ms. The idle, under Windows, should be 15.625ms. The numbers are a bit confusing, but it’s what’s happening that matters here rather than the figures themselves.
What is a clock tick anyway, and why does it matter? In an OS like Windows, events are often set to run at intervals. To save power, the processor sleeps when nothing needs attention, and wakes at predefined intervals. This interval is what Chrome adjusts in Windows, so reducing it to 1.000ms means that the system is waking far more often than at 15.625ms. In fact, at 1.000ms the processor is waking 1000 times per second. The default, of 15.625ms means the processor wakes just 64 times per second to check on events that need attention.
Microsoft itself says that tick rates of 1.000ms might increase power consumption by “as much as 25 per cent”. It’s also a problem because, by its very nature, the system tick rate is global, meaning that one application is able to spoil everything, and because regular users don’t care about tick rates, most of us would never know this was a problem.
So, what about other browsers? Well, when you open the most recent version of Internet Explorer, the rate stays at 15.625ms until the browser needs to do something where the rate must increase. If you go to YouTube, say, and play a video IE will increase the rate to 1.00ms. When you shut that tab, and carry on with normal browsing, it will return to 15.625ms. In Chrome though, it is increasing the rate as soon as the browser is opened, and it keeps it high until you shut the browser completely.
Google’s Chrome is the second most popular web browser
Many people – like me – will never shut the browser. For one, I use Gmail as my main email, so I need to have a browser open for that. My writing is usually done in Google Drive, so there’s almost no point where I don’t have my web browser open. This means, if I’m using Chrome that the browser is eating more than its fair share of battery power, and for no good reason.
Indeed, in a very casual test I did it made a noticeable difference to power consumption on my desktop PC. In my test, at idle, my computer uses between 15 and 20 Watts with Chrome running. If I shut Chrome, I can get the power consumption to drop to between 12 and 15 Watts. In this environment, ignoring the wasted electricity, it’s not a major problem. That’s not true on a laptop where power consumption is massively important. And if you want to consider the global impact, imagine how much power is just being wasted on the world’s PCs down to a problem like this.
A small utility allows you to see the system clock resolution
It’s worth pointing out that Macs and Linux machines don’t have this problem, because they use something called “tickless timers”. Pointing that out doesn’t solve the problem for Windows users though, and the fact remains that IE and Firefox don’t exhibit this issue at all, instead they up the refresh when needed – to play media, say. Microsoft might address this problem in the future, but it’s unlikely to be in a rush when other developers seem able to work around the problem.
So, what can be done? Well, not much. I found out about this bug a long time ago, and it’s been raised with Google via its Chromium bug tracker for a long time. It has, for the most part, been ignored. The first report was in 2010, but the last confirmed bug addition was made yesterday. If Google doesn’t take the problem seriously, then the bug will remain, and Windows laptops running Chrome will drain the battery faster than the same machine running Internet Explorer or Firefox. I’ve tested both of these myself, using a tiny utility called Clockres, and I can confirm Chrome is the only one that increases the rate on startup. Both IE and Firefox only do so when content like video demands it.
The best possible option for Chrome users now is to “star” the issue on the bug tracker. This adds a vote for the issue to be looked at, and will also send you updates about the bug, including if it actually gets fixed. Perhaps if enough people do this, Google will actually take note and look into fixing the problem.
The other option is to stop using Chrome and move to IE or Firefox. I have considered both of these options, but I despise that memory hog Firefox and IE just doesn’t offer the same functionality that I love about Chrome. So for now, I’m going to have to deal with reduced battery and a slightly slower machine. But I really hope a fix can be developed, as Chrome is my browser of choice for a reason – I really like it.
UPDATE: I’ve made a slight addition to this article to clarify what’s happening and what the problem is. Google has also assigned this bug internally now, so it is getting some attention. For that reason, the bug is locked for new comments. It should still be possible to “star” it though, and thus vote for its resolution.
UPDATE 2: I’ve added some details to an update after Google has looked into the issue, and has upgraded its priority.
Redmond really wants you to use Edge
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Share All sharing options for: Microsoft’s war against Chrome battery life now includes Windows 10 notifications
Microsoft decided to target Google’s Chrome browser back in June with a new campaign designed to highlight how bad the browser is for your laptop battery life. While Microsoft’s marketing effort was initially limited to a YouTube video and associated website, the software maker has started to take things a step further in its battery battle in recent weeks.
Windows 10 users are reporting that the tips feature of the OS is generating notifications to try and convince people to switch away from using Google’s Chrome browser. “Chrome is draining your battery faster,” reads the notification. “Switch to Microsoft Edge for up to 36 percent more browsing time,” it advises. The alerts started appearing in early July for both Chrome and Firefox users, but not everyone using Windows 10 is receiving them. I personally received an alert this morning, and was surprised Microsoft was using Windows itself to convince me to ditch Chrome.
Google has used similar tactics in the past
Google has used similar tactics for years on its homepage to convince Internet Explorer users to switch to Chrome, and with a search task bar it supplied for IE users to install in their browsers. Both were key methods of attracting more Chrome users, and they’ve been effective in making it the most popular desktop browser. However, Google hasn’t been able to generate Windows system notifications like Microsoft can. Microsoft’s use of Windows 10 notifications feels like uncharted territory, and it risks alienating and irritating users with notifications to switch to its Edge browser.
I reached out to Microsoft to ask how long these notifications have been appearing, and the reasons behind them. “These Windows Tips notifications were created to provide people with quick, easy information that can help them enhance their Windows 10 experience, including information that can help users extend battery life,” says a Microsoft spokesperson. “That said, with Windows 10 you can easily choose the default browser and search engine of your choice.” If you don’t want to receive Microsoft’s recommended “tips,” you can simply disable them from the notification settings in Windows 10.
Edge continues to have the best battery life among the top web browsers.
Microsoft’s Edge may have the lowest market share among the leading desktop/laptop web browsers, but it has had the best battery life for the past two years. Market-share leader Chrome comes in second but it’s narrowing the gap.
Microsoft runs regular battery life tests comparing Edge, Chrome and Mozilla’s Firefox. The test involves using the browsers to play the same film on three identical Surface Books. In the most recent test, Edge lasted 14:20:07 compared to 12:32:58 for Chrome and 7:15:16 for Firefox. Put another way, Edge lasted 14% longer than Chrome and an immense 98% longer than Firefox.
Here’s a table showing Microsoft’s demonstrations of Edge’s advantage over Chrome and Firefox beginning in 2016. When you look at the changes over time it’s clear that Chrome is steadily closing on Edge in terms of battery life. What’s going on with Firefox is anyone’s guess.
Net MarketShare estimates that Edge had 4.5% of the browser market in April. That’s not much compared to Chrome’s 61.7%. Firefox has a 10.2% share. (Percentages are rounded.)
Getting comfortable with more than one browser can be time consuming, but if you use Chrome or Firefox, use your browser on battery frequently, and regularly run into charging problems, it might be helpful to switch to Edge when your computer is not plugged in.
If an ad reaches its limit on CPU usage or network bandwidth, Chrome will pull the plug on the ad, forcing it to show as a gray blank space.
Google is working to make the Chrome browser shut down ads that drain your device’s battery life or needlessly consume your internet’s bandwidth.
The scale of the problem is pretty minor, affecting 0.3 percent of all the ads on the internet, according to Chrome Product Manager Marshall Vale. Nevertheless, these intrusive ads can hog system resources without your knowledge.
“These ads (such as those that mine cryptocurrency, are poorly programmed, or are unoptimized for network usage) can drain battery life, saturate already strained networks, and cost money,” Vale wrote in a Thursday blog post.
In response, Google will limit the system resources an online ad can use before you click on it. “When an ad reaches its limit, the ad’s frame will navigate to an error page, informing the user that the ad has used too many resources,” Vale added. As the example below shows, the intrusive ad will come up as a gray blank space, rendering it useless.
According to Vale, Google plans on targeting the most egregious ads that use more CPU or network bandwidth than 99.9 percent of ads that tap the same system resources. Specifically, the company will block ads that meet any of the following criteria:
- Uses the main CPU for more than 60 seconds in total.
- Uses the main CPU for more than 15 seconds in any 30-second window.
- Uses more than 4 megabytes of network bandwidth.
“While only 0.3 percent of ads exceed this threshold today, they account for 27 percent of network data used by ads and 28 percent of all ad CPU usage,” Vale added.
The scale of the problem, according to Google.
The plan is to experiment with the ad-blocking technique over the next few months before rolling out the feature in a Chrome stable release near the end of August. However, you can actually activate the feature now. Simply type in “chrome://flags/ #enable-heavy-ad-intervention” into the browser’s web address bar. You’ll then be brought to a screen, where you can turn it on.
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Shady ad companies and in-browser cryptocurrency mining providers will probably hate the move, but the upcoming change is part of the company’s ongoing effort to prevent users from flocking to more powerful ad-blocking software, which risks undermining Google’s main business of serving ad space.
“Our intent with this extended rollout is to give appropriate time for ad creators and tool providers to prepare and incorporate these thresholds into their workflows,” Vale said. “To help advertisers understand the impact of this intervention on their ads, they can access reports to learn which ads Chrome unloaded.”
By switching to the Chromium rendering engine, Microsoft is cutting down on the amount of testing developers need to do for their websites and apps, but there’s also an opportunity to embrace features other browsers using Chromium already enjoy. As part of a discussion on Reddit about the Edge engine switch, Edge Project Manager Kyle Alden, confirmed one of those features is Chrome extensions . \r\n\r\n
The Reddit discussion also points out that progressive web apps (PWA) will be supported and installable through the new browser. A PWA is software that looks and acts like an app, but relies on web browser technology to function. Examples include Google Photos, Contacts, and Maps. \r\n\r\n
At the same time, existing Universal Windows Platforms (UWP) apps will continue to rely on EdgeHTML\/Chakra to function. Microsoft has no intention \”to shim under those with a different engine,\” but a new WebView will be offered allowing the choice of using Chromium as the rendering engine instead. \r\n\r\n
Regardless of the web browser you use, we all rely on the back button to return to the previously visited page. But some websites abuse the back button to stop you leaving. It’s infuriating, but soon to be a thing of the past for Chromium -based browsers. \r\n\r\n
There are two ways a website can currently break the back button. The first is by introducing redirects which sees a website first load another page that instantly redirects to the intended website. By doing that, clicking the back button simply loads the previous page which once again redirects back to the page you are attempting to leave. \r\n\r\n
The second method is called history manipulation. The back button relies on your pages visited history to know which previous page to load. It’s possible to add multiple \”pushState\” commands to this history (thanks to HTML5) which stops the previous page from loading. These pushState commands can be stacked up so it doesn’t matter how many times or how quickly you keep pressing the back button it will never leave the page you are on. \r\n\r\n
The new behavior being introduced to Chromium means anything added to the history that didn’t require a \”user gesture\” will be ignored in future. So a redirect page or pushState commands won’t work anymore much to the frustration of websites using this underhanded technique, but much to the relief of users who hate being trapped like this. \r\n\r\n
The behavior change will be available across all platforms including Windows, Mac, Linux, Chrome OS, Android, and Android WebView. It’s already approved for launch so should appear in a future update for all major browsers using Chromium soon. \r\n\r\n
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Mobile devices are exponentially more powerful than a decade ago in both battery power and capabilities. But that has resulted in more taxing apps being developed. Advanced graphics, added functionality, and improvements in coding ensure that mobile phones are utilized to their full potential.
But not all apps are created equal. While something like Twitter isn’t that resource-intensive, mobile games can eat away at graphical capabilities and battery life. Tap or click here for three ways to get more life out of your iPhone or Android battery.
There is a hidden side to mobile apps, though. Several applications that seem innocuous are the biggest culprits for your phone battery draining to a minimum. It isn’t always obvious, but apps that utilize many internal functions cause the most chaos.
Here’s the battery backstory
It’s nearly impossible to go through the day without using an app. A recent study suggested that 93% of mobile phone users opened a variety of apps daily. Cloud computing company pCloud set out to find the secret phone killers. The apps that drain the most battery power.
For the study, the company looked at three things:
- Functions used by the app,
- Battery drainage under normal use,
- Whether a dark mode is available.
“By combining the results of these three factors, we were able to calculate which of the 100 most popular apps are the most demanding and crown them the ultimate phone killers,” pCloud explained in its research.
The biggest culprits? Fitbit and Verizon apps. Using 14 out of the 16 available phone features, both apps scored 92.31% from pCloud’s calculations. Both apps made use of high-draining functions like:
- Camera for photo and video uploads
- Location tracking through GPS
- Wi-Fi connections
Social media is a killer
Rather unsurprisingly, social media and dating apps are also to blame for dwindling batteries. From the top 20 apps on the list, six of those are social media-related. Given that most social media and dating apps allow for location tracking and uploading photos, it’s expected.
The top 10 social media and dating apps that kill your battery are:
- Facebook (82%)
- Instagram (79%)
- Bumble (77%)
- Snapchat (77%)
- Tinder (77%)
- Grindr (72%)
- Likke (72%)
- Twitter (69%)
- Houseparty (62%)
- TikTok (62%)
Your memory is not what it used to be
Battery power isn’t the only precious resource siphoned off by apps. Your phone’s memory (storage space) can also lag due to intense requirements from applications. The app that uses the most space might surprise you. It turns out to be the app for United Airlines.
The top 10 apps that take up the most space:
- United Airlines
- Uber Eats
- Microsoft Teams
“The study clearly indicates that social media apps are still one of the biggest phone killers when it comes to draining your battery. However, it also highlights that apps such as fitness or travel – which require multiple applications to run in the background – are even more demanding on our phone’s battery and storage systems,” pCloud concluded.
Microsoft is crowing about Edge browser battery-saving capabilities, claiming you can surf longer while unplugged as it has ’17-70% more battery life’ than Chrome, Firefox and Opera.
Do you use Microsoft Edge, the default browser included in Windows 10? Some people have used it once, to go get another browser version and download it. But if you want your laptop to last longer before you need to plug it in, then use Edge for your surfing – or so claims Microsoft.
Microsoft really wants you to use to Edge and this time, before the Anniversary Update rolls out, the company is crowing about how Edge uses less battery than any other browser.
Microsoft backed up Edge power-saving capability claims by three separate tests. The first measured browser power consumption in a controlled lab environment. The second involved super-snooping on users, worded as “real-world energy telemetry” collected “from millions of Windows 10 devices.” The third comes along with a time-lapse video of four identical laptops streaming the same video via four different browsers until the battery dies.
The lab environment test used Surface Books browsing with Chrome, Edge, Firefox and Opera. Each device completed the same tasks, “opening websites, scrolling through articles, and watching videos, opening new tabs for each task. We used the same websites you spend your time on – Facebook, Google, YouTube, Amazon, Wikipedia and more.”
The tests showed Edge as the most energy efficient browser on Windows 10 “with up to 36%-53% more battery life to get what you need done.”
The second test relied on telemetry. “These numbers are from actual Windows 10 use ‘in the wild,’ not artificial tests or hypotheses,” wrote Jason Weber, Microsoft Edge web platform team director. He added, “The billions of data points from these devices are consistent with the lab results, demonstrating that Microsoft Edge is more efficient in real-world, day-to-day use than the competition:”
At the start of the year, Microsoft claimed Windows 10 users spent 44.5 billion minutes using Edge in just one month. It was the same post with telemetry stats that set off more privacy concerns as the number of questions asked of Cortana, the amount of Bing searches, the number of photos viewed via the Windows 10 photo app and even the billions of the hours spent gaming were included in the data Microsoft collected from Windows 10 users.
Despite those “billions of minutes” in a mere month, Microsoft’s Edge browser barely registers a blip on browser stat analytic reports. Net Market Share shows 4.99% of surfers used Edge in May 2016, 2.7% of surfers visiting U.S. government websites over the last 90 days used Edge, and StatCounter Global Stats put Edge usage at 2.54% so far this month.
While Chrome is eating Microsoft’s lunch when it comes to browser usage, Chrome is also a power-hungry, battery-eating hog eating your lunch if you are unplugged. In the battery life experiment, Chrome crapped out first, draining the battery in about four hours and twenty minutes; doing the exact same task, Microsoft Edge lasted over seven hours. In other words, Edge ran 70% longer than Chrome, 43% longer than Firefox and 17% longer than Opera.
The results speak for themselves: Microsoft Edge outlasts the rest, delivering 17%-70% more battery life than the competition.
A second post on the Microsoft Edge Developer blog goes into more details about how Microsoft measures energy efficiency through customer telemetry. Brandon Heenan, Edge Program Manager, explained:
Some of our most important insights come from aggregated data from millions of Windows devices reporting billions of data points around Microsoft Edge’s energy efficiency to Microsoft on a monthly basis. We particularly pay attention to telemetry coming from systems with specialized hardware measurement – you just can’t beat 98% accuracy.
Additionally, the Windows 10 Anniversary Update will include even more energy efficient improvements such as to background tabs, Windows networking, the Edge user interface, and even Flash – but yikes, haven’t you kicked that highly exploitable app to the curb yet? Regarding the improvements to background tabs, Microsoft said, “Savings vary depending on the websites you have open, but we’ve seen energy savings of over 90% in some scenarios.”
Google has attempted to make Chrome more efficient; Opera recently came out with a new battery-saving mode so users can “browse up to 50% longer.” It remains to be seen if Edge will fare any better usage stats after the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, but Microsoft seems determined to make it so by launching its better battery life campaign.
And users of the free Windows 10 tool, Refresh Windows – which is supposed to wipe crapware from machines, will need to reinstall applications and drivers, meaning Edge will surely be opened at least once – even if that is to download a different browser. Maybe some of those users will switch to Edge when they are out and about, unplugged, to see if it really does slurp less battery power?
Darlene Storm (not her real name) is a freelance writer with a background in information technology and information security.