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Browser Power Consumption Compared 274

Posted by timothy
from the read-it-for-the-pictures dept.
theweatherelectric writes "Over on the IE Blog they've posted a power consumption comparison of the five major browsers. They write: 'Power consumption is an important consideration in building a modern browser and one objective of Internet Explorer 9 is to responsibly lead the industry in power requirements. The more efficiently a browser uses power the longer the battery will last in a mobile device, the lower the electricity costs, and the smaller the environment impact. While power might seem like a minor concern, with nearly two billion people now using the Internet the worldwide implications of browser power consumption are significant.'"
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Browser Power Consumption Compared

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  • At least at this point in my computing; I'm all for low power consumption computers that are small and quiet.

    That said, as far as browsers, I run Chrome.

    • Efficiency (is greater than) Features.

      Since when could slashdot not show a greater than symbol?

  • It is on msdn.com. Can we consider this a partial and fair article? I'm asking, not accusing.
    • More specifically, the IE blog. While it's not exactly the mouthpiece of Microsoft PR, every development team is going to be biased toward their own product and show benchmarks that put their work in a positive light.

      That said, it wouldn't surprise me in the least if IE9 is slightly more efficient than other browsers on Windows, since the IE devs have closer access to the OS than other teams, Safari brings a truckload of extra libraries to clone OS X, and Opera... is Opera. [youtube.com]

      Oh, and what idiot modded the par

    • by Gadget_Guy (627405) * on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @10:16PM (#35662348)

      It is on msdn.com. Can we consider this a partial and fair article? I'm asking, not accusing.

      Given how well Firefox fared then it seems that they have been fair with their reporting. Considering the tiny difference between IE9 and FF4 then you might as well choose between the browsers based on the features that you want.

      That said, this is an IE9 blog we are talking about. I doubt that anyone could consider them to be impartial. They posted this because they want to spruik their browser. But at least they did not try to hide this by paying for it to appear in an "independent" magazine or website.

      My only complaint is that I would like to know the system specs of their test machines. I would like to see this comparison on a netbook platform with a feeble GPU, because if you are seriously concerned with power usage then you probably already use a power-friendly processor like the Intel Atom.

  • by synthesizerpatel (1210598) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @07:11PM (#35660862)

    Since they're not the fastest, they're claiming their the most power-friendly.

    "We did it on purpose.. see?"

    • by gman003 (1693318) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @07:24PM (#35660984)
      Actually, if you read TFA, on most (75%) of the their own tests, they're beaten by Firefox. One of the bits is particularly embarrassing - IE uses the most power of any browser when rendering about:blank. It seemed a bit unscientific (only four sites, one of which couldn't be run by Opera), but it's a blog, not the New England Journal of HTML Rendering.
      • by Xacid (560407)

        about:blank = all white screen. I'm not entirely schooled in the science of LCDs but with CRTs that meant much more energy required to produce that image. Is that a possible reason for the power draw?

        • by Rockoon (1252108)
          With LCD's, the backlight is always on regardless of what is on screen.
          • by Ash-Fox (726320)

            With LCD's, the backlight is always on regardless of what is on screen.

            My netbook (an Acer Aspire One) has a power feature where it can use low lighting and greater gamma values to use less power but present a picture at the same brightness depending on the pixel colors used on the screen. Appears to be a driver function in the AMD graphics provided.

          • But the level it is on at depends upon the brightest pixel on the screen. The whole "contrast" vs. "dynamic contrast" thing, after all.

          • by thegarbz (1787294)
            Yes but LCDs actually require more energy to produce black than white. The reason is the LCD panel is a sandwich of a horizontal polariser, a liquid crystal, and a vertical polariser. The default state of the liquid crystal rotates the polarity angle to match the front polariser, when charge is applied to it the light passes through unaltered in which case it won't pass through the front polarising screen. e.g. apply charge to pixel to produce black. It's not a universal power draw regardless of what you di
            • by Xacid (560407)

              You've single-handedly made me completely appreciate the widespread technology of the LCD SO much more. Seriously, that's crazy stuff.

        • by gman003 (1693318) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @08:04PM (#35661342)
          1. They did not measure the power consumption of the screen, only the CPU, memory, GPU, GMCH, disk, NIC and "uncore", whatever that last one is. Only time I've heard the term was in reference to clock multipliers on certain Intel processors.
          2. LCD screens use constant power - you'd use as much power displaying all black as all white.
          • by taktoa (1995544)
            Uncore is the cache, internal cpu circuitry (other than the actual core), and possibly the chipset.
        • by dakameleon (1126377) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @08:07PM (#35661374)

          LCDs are slightly more efficient at white [scientificamerican.com]; in an LCD, the backlight is typically white and the pixels determine which colour is let through, so for black the pixels need to block the light coming through. The difference is only just passing statistical significance at 6%.

          Note however that this isn't true of AMOLED [wikipedia.org] screens.

        • by jrumney (197329)
          Are you suggesting that Firefox, Chrome and Opera are cheating by rendering the background of about:blank as slightly grey? Because I can't think of any other scenario in which the LCD would be the differentiating variable here.
          • by Xacid (560407)

            You're absolutely right. My brain was going on some weird tangent with it that probably didn't make sense but who knows what that was.

      • by dgatwood (11270)

        IE uses the most power of any browser when rendering about:blank.

        So in other words, IE's idle performance sucks. That's usually an easy thing to fix.

    • by VortexCortex (1117377) <VortexCortexNO@S ... t-retrograde.com> on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @10:42PM (#35662540)

      Since they're not the fastest, they're claiming their the most power-friendly.

      "We did it on purpose.. see?"

      Actually, I just got a new notebook with Windows 7 pre-installed. I immediately imaged the system, then installed Linux (dual boot). I do believe that MS's products use FAR less power than open source software like Firefox & Linux... bear with me...

      I used an external USB hard drive enclosure to transfer my over 21,000 songs ( not pirated -- I fervently support local indie / folk bands ).

      Linux was copying files faster than I was used to ( only 1h 40m est. time ), I attributed this to the faster hardware. When I checked back in on the copy process the computer was locked up. At first I thought that a flaky NTFS Linux driver was the problem, the caps lock key was flashing (usually means a kernel panic occurred)... so I re-booted into Windows7 and re-initiated the file transfer.

      After 1 and a half hours the estimated time till completion was still 2.5 hours. Thinking that was pretty strange for Windows7 to take over 150% more time than the Linux system reported, I tried again with my Linux install: wiping out the music partition and starting again.

      Sure enough, the files transfered almost twice as fast. The CPU usage went to 100% on both cores, and the fans went into high gear... Near the end of the transfer (98%) at 1h:33m the computer froze again with the same flashing capslock indicator...

      I completed the file transfer with Windows, and noticed that it only used 70% of one core to do the file transfer... Searching online led me to a hardware user guide for the system that said the flashing capslock meant that the CPU overheated. It wasn't a problem with Linux after all. I sent the machine back to the manufacturer and they stress tested the CPU, found it was weak, and replaced it with a new one.

      I purchased a cooling mat for when I use Linux -- I don't need it when running Windows: MS won't let me use the hardware to its full potential, so it uses less CPU gets better battery life and doesn't overheat.

      Of course, I can always adjust the CPU usage on Linux to achieve the same power consumption, but I can't make Windows use the full CPU power -- It won't let me.

      Without the multi-core aware Linux, I wonder how long it would have taken me to notice I had a weak CPU. If I had used only MS Windows, I probably wouldn't have noticed until after the warranty expired...

      I posit that most times MS software is getting better power consumption than their competitors -- It's because the routines aren't using multiple threads to get the best speeds... Which is just dumb if you ask me, multi-core machines have less power per core on average. Single threaded code on a 3ghz single core machine goes twice as fast as the same code on a "faster" 6Ghz quad core machine (1.5Ghz per core). If you're not writing multi threaded code you're burying your head in the sand.

      (Wooo! Lookit how much battery life you get with dumb single threaded code!)

      • Although.. that would be a nice setting to be able to toggle: throttle back to avoid turning the fan on. If I'm moving a large number of files in the background, ofte I care less about how long it takes and more about what else I can do while they're moving around.

      • by alexhs (877055)

        A few remarks on your post...

        A friend of mine noticed years ago that MS-Windows 2000 used tiny buffers for copy, which means that hard drive heads move from source to destination constantly, which is slow, wears out the hard drive, and uses more power (maintaining the rotation speed of platters doesn't use much energy compared to the heads actually moving and writing). He wrote an alternative copy program that was much faster by allocating big buffers. I would bet that MS-Windows 7 still uses small buffers.

  • by MojoRilla (591502) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @07:12PM (#35660870)
    If you can't compete on innovation, and you can't compete by bullying standards bodies, and you can't compete by leveraging your monopoly, and you can't compete on performance, and you can't compete on security....well, at least you can say you use less power.

    And yes, when you work for the same company that wrote the freaking operating system, one would hope that IE would use the least amount of power.

    Whatever.
  • They're right (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PhrostyMcByte (589271) <phrosty@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @07:18PM (#35660920) Homepage

    When I'm on my netbook, I want a browser that gives me the most battery life possible. Unfortunately my netbook doesn't have meaningful GPU acceleration, so their comparisons don't do much for me. Is IE9's rendering anywhere near as power-saving with software rendering? They also don't account for the battery saved in FF/Chrome by blocking intrusive graphical ads and their related javascript/flash. They also don't test real-world Javascript-heavy web apps like Gmail, or having multiple tabs open/opening at once.

    The graphs also blow the differences out of proportion. The Chrome/FF/IE numbers are all within 15% of each-other most of the time, while the graphs make IE9 sometimes appear with a very wide lead of half the power usage.

    • They also don't account for the battery saved in FF/Chrome by blocking intrusive graphical ads and their related javascript/flash.

      Yes, this is huge. AdBlock/FlashBlock can save a lot of power.

      They also don't test real-world Javascript-heavy web apps like Gmail

      Very true. I'd expect the browsers with the fastest JS engines, Chrome and Firefox, to be better there, since faster JS engines means scripts complete faster, and the CPU is used for less time.

      • by Bengie (1121981)

        One of the IE blogs that I read a while back said IE9 looks at current power modes and adjusts javascript timings. So if you're running on the battery, it will cause some of the async timer based calls to wait a few milliseconds longer to reduce calls being made in general. Even if Chrome is 10% faster, if IE9 makes JS calls 50% less, there will be a power savings.

        I have no idea how often a modern "web 2.0" site makes timer based JS calls. But it makes sense. If you're trying to save power, wait 10ms instea

    • by fermion (181285)
      I think what we want is best efficiency we can get What that means is that we get the best value from power consumed. For example, we can get much better fuel economy from driving slower, 70 mph might consume quite a bit more fuel as 50 mph, but that does not always mean we want the double nickel limit. We might want to trade fuel for time. Likewise we might get 10 extra minutes of life by using IE, but what does it matter if we get the exact same or less work done?

      Also, this reminds me of the days when

    • by msauve (701917)
      "I want a browser that gives me the most battery life possible."

      You want to use Lynx [isc.org], then.
    • If you code, you could consider automating a empirical test with Selenium: http://seleniumhq.org/ [seleniumhq.org]

      Set it up to browse the sites you use the most, and simply run it until the battery dies. Rinse and repeat with other browsers.

      A hassle to implement, though...

    • IE9 actually includes ad blocking, it's just renamed such that you wouldn't know what it does. It's called a "tracking protection list" [microsoft.com], and is described primarily as a privacy tool, but in practice it can (and is) used to block ads as well.

  • OMG.. that right-hand picture.. In FF4, this end of the rack spaces are almost perfectly in line with the scrolling demarcations. Rapidly scrolling up and down makes it look 3D-esque and screws with my mind.. :O

    I just hope I wasn't the only one tripped out by the visual effect. :)

  • Well, when you program a browser to do less than everyone else's I would assume it doesn't need as much power.
  • Keep it simple, just disable flash in entirety. You will reduce your power consumption as flash is a poorly coded. Run the numbers with and without flash and see what a difference it makes. This is arguably one of the reasons Steve Jobs won't allow flash on the IOS...

  • by BitterOak (537666) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @07:35PM (#35661082)

    While power might seem like a minor concern, with nearly two billion people now using the Internet the worldwide implications of browser power consumption are significant.

    I wonder when the day will come when the government starts mandating energy efficiency requirements in software, much the same way they do appliances, cars and other things. I wonder if such rules would apply to open source, or other freely exchanged software.

    • How about, "it's none of their fucking business". the ONLY effing reason our industry (Information Technology) thrives is because of lack of involvement by the Feds. The last thing we need is more more government over-site dictating how best to run IT. Government and their bureaucracies will only act as a viscous substance in an already hyper-fluid environment that thrives on turn-on-a-dime change. Government would serve to be the problem, not the solution.

    • by hedwards (940851)

      I think the problem there is that it's going to vary across computers to the point that the software itself isn't really being measured. Measuring OSes for energy efficiency might be realistic, but applications that run on them would be ridiculous. Plus, the hardware components use the energy anyways, if you minimize the power usage of each component to the extent possible you'll minimize the usage of the entire computer.

      Yes, that's a bit simplistic for the important aspects it's correct.

  • Odd argument (Score:4, Informative)

    by MCSEBear (907831) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @07:35PM (#35661090)
    Since the same computer is MUCH more power efficient running Mac OS X than running Windows, this seems to be an odd argument for Microsoft to be making.

    Anandtech: [anandtech.com]

    Apple claims 10 hours of battery life for the MBP13 when running OS X, and Anand hit pretty close to that mark when testing it out with his light web browsing test. Now, we’ve shown before that OS X is more optimized for mobile power consumption than all versions of Windows, so going into this test the expectations were a fair bit lower.

    And for good reason; the MBP13 (running Windows 7) showed fairly similar battery life to some of the older Core 2-based systems. With it’s 63.5 Wh lithium polymer battery, the MBP hits 5.5 hours on our ideal-case battery test, and exactly 5 hours on the web browsing test. While this is decent for the average Core 2 notebook, it’s pretty woeful compared to the OS X battery life of the MBP. If you have no reason to run Windows (program compatibility, gaming, etc) you’re better off in OS X just so that you can get about double the battery life.

  • This is why you need to build a "mobile web browser" as opposed to just a "browser". This is why Myriad, Isis and Polarity browsers were bought out - they provide a specific function for a select group of devices at the right power level with plenty of functionality.
    There's simply no way to put IE9 on most devices and expect anything pleasant to happen to your battery.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @07:42PM (#35661162)
    The second comment makes a very good point about the bar graphs.

    For the record, the fact that you're using bar charts that don't line up zero means that those charts are in fact very misleading. Because the power consumption charts start at 10 W, differences as little as 5% look like nearly 100% differences. Int the about:blank example alone, it's scaled to show opera consuming over 93% more power, while the raw data and even the accompanying text show that it only consumes a little over 5% more than IE9. In the battery life chart at the end, the origin is 2 hours, which makes a 38% increase in battery life look like closer to a 150% increase in battery life.

    Sure, you could make the argument that people should read the accompanying text and data, but the entire point of using charts and graphs is to provide the data in a consumable way that doesn't require the use of the accompanying text. Someone skimming this article and moving on to other things is likely to be completely misinformed by these charts. I'm not sure if it's just a simple oversight, an attempt at making them more "interesting" or deliberate misinformation, but it makes me severely distrust the quality of the rest of the experiment over all. Poor form, Microsoft. Poor form.

    Possting anonymously not to whore karma.

  • What's the situation on IE integration in Windows these days? Is it still true that IE is really kind of always running when you start up Windows, like it was in Windows 98 or XP? If so... could you say that running just IE is more power efficient than running other browsers along with it?
    • by afidel (530433)
      It's still integrated, but Trident isn't doing much most of the time and it's just a very small part of the web version of IE.
    • It's integrated in the same sense as WebKit is integrated in OS X - it's a stock system library, and various parts of stock UI use it when they need to render HTML (help system, for example). It's not "always running" in a sense that there is some kind of background IE process. It does mean that IE will likely cold start faster, simply because some other stock application (most likely Explorer) would have already loaded the engine DLL, and so it's cached in memory.

  • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @07:49PM (#35661204)
    They completely missed the fact that the only browser in their list which requires Windows is IE9. I'm guessing that ANY of the browsers would beat IE9 hands down if it were running on linux instead of Windows 7.
  • There are certain flash ads on some web pages which make the fan of my laptop turn on. There are also badly written javascripts which do the same - for essenrially doing nothing.

    • Then why don't you block them?

      • by drolli (522659)

        I do for my normal surfing. But sometimes i use another browser/machine to test sth and my usual set of extensions to make the web bearable is not installed.

  • All of these tests appear to have been done with a wired LAN setup, but power consumption matters most when you're mobile, and the power draw from Wi-Fi will far outstrip the draw from any browser in typical usage. Who cares which browser is more power efficient if the technology you need to access the Internet in the first place draws several orders of magnitude more power?

  • by swb (14022) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @08:12PM (#35661418)

    responsibly lead the industry in power requirements.

    Why is being energy efficient so frequently expressed in the most ingratiating and sanctimonious terms? I like using less power, too, but I'm not going to pretend for a minute that it makes me a more moral and deserving human being.

    I think like most geeks, getting more work done with less energy input is inherently valuable -- at a minimum your batteries last longer. But I can't help but want to waste energy when energy efficiency becomes a question of faith, and I'm pretty sure a lot of other people who would otherwise find great appeal in what essentially amounts to getting more for less are turned off by it as well.

  • Try Youtube (Score:5, Interesting)

    by omni123 (1622083) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @08:36PM (#35661604) Homepage

    They really should try flash heavy sites like YouTube.

    I can have my battery life cut in half when using Chrome 10 on YouTube; so much so that I actually have to switch back to Firefox for extended browsing when I'm on the road. It's pretty poor because even if the video has stopped and it becomes an idle page it can still sit at 10-15+% while doing absolutely nothing (so I don't see how they can claim rendering speed is the cause).

  • What type of memory are they using in a useful working computer system that only draws 0.257 watts?
  • by QuietLagoon (813062) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @08:47PM (#35661704)
    IE9 currently is confined to Windows Vista and Windows 7, the two most bloated, power-hungry versions of Windows around. Maybe Microsoft should start telling the billions of computer users to ditch Microsoft Windows and move over to a more efficient, less resource-hungry, operating system.
    • by GORby_ (101822)

      You silly boy, you :-)
      Win7 is playing nice with the U4100 in my laptop, which consumes between 5,5 and 8W during light loads, while being quite fast (boot time, application load time, search, ... the U4100 isn't going to be a great performer on CPU intensive tasks, no matter what...).

      Light loads can be defined as reading and writing mail, documents, ... surfing the web (no heavy DHTML/flash stuff).

  • I'd have liked to see pages that specifically use flash heavily (youtube or some kind of flash-based game) compared here too. I've noticed that Flash in Chrome causes my fan to spin up like crazy. Other browsers, not quite so much.

  • I'd say this is unbelievable, but it's all too believable -- grasping at anything to show that we are better than them.

    Just how is this relevant in the real world? Oh, you measured a difference -- but is this measured difference repeatable over repeated runs on the same system let alone repeated runs on a wide cohort of systems, and is this difference really significant to a user? Let's see -- a ten minute difference over a 220 minute period, that's a whopping four percent! Run these tests a few more
  • Can you run IE on an ARM processor yet? I'd like to see IE9 running on Intel Atom (or whatever the lowest power x86 processor supported is), versus Firefox or Chromium running on Linux/ARM. Then we should see some significant differences.

  • If my browser consumes a kilowatt of power, but renders a page in a millisecond.... then this would use less energy than one using 2 watts, but takes a second to render. The whole test is just wrong!, they should be calculating the energy usage, not the power usage.

  • I guess mobiles were excluded from this study since IE9 doesn't run on them? Because anyone who cares about low-power browsing would have to swap in an ARM chip for Intel. And in practice they would be running MobileSafari on iPad which can browse the Web over Wi-Fi for 10-12 hours on a single charge with a smaller battery than any of the PC's Microsoft tested.

    Basically, excluding mobiles is like doing a portability study and only including desktop PC's, not notebooks.

    Even if you had to run an Intel chip an

  • Browser benchmarking tools are mostly ridiculously biased - or to be very generous, mysteriously seem to perform far, far better on the browser from the same company that created them. And not just the commercial browser vendors, the little guys are guilty too.

    So it should come as a surprise to nobody that Microsoft uses their own benchmarks in this test as well as an unnamed news site (can you say CHERRY PICKING?), and in the end IE happens to come out on par with or better than all the competition, in thi

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