Microsoft's browser Edges out others in battery usage

— 4:44 PM on June 20, 2016

It's a fair guess that the majority of users have a browser window open all day, often with multiple tabs or windows. That means it can considered an "always-on" piece of software for the most part, and software like that needs to go easy on that precious battery juice. Microsoft recently did a thorough comparison of power usage among major Windows browsers, and its Edge browser emerged as a clear winner. A video is worth at least 10,000 words, so here it is:

Edge took the battery life crown with a run time of seven hours and 22 minutes. Opera didn't fare too poorly at six hours and 18 minutes, either. Things aren't as rosy with the other two major browsers, however. The notebook's battery only lasted a little over five hours with Firefox running, and Chrome guzzled power at an alarming rate, turning in a run time of only four hours and 20 minutes. Yow.

Microsoft ran these tests in its dedicated power testing lab on a bunch of Surface Books. According to the company, the browsers were left at their default settings and ran the same tasks over and over again until the device's battery was dead. Those tasks included opening sites, scrolling through pages, watching videos, and wrangling multiple tabs. Microsoft also used a selection of popular websites including Facebook, Google, Wikipedia, and Youtube.

The graph above shows Microsoft's measurements of power usage per browser when running identical tasks. The company also collected power consumption data obtained from devices in actual usage via Windows 10's telemetry.

Microsoft doesn't intend to rest on its laurels, though. The upcoming Windows 10 Anniversary Update will add even more power-saving fixes and features to Edge and Windows itself. In Edge, background tabs ought to consume less power by triggering fewer JavaScript timers and coalescing them. That move alone should net great gains in terms of CPU usage. The company's internal tests show savings of 90% for some sites.

Background JavaScript timer management improvements

After the Anniversary Update, the thrice-darned Flash plugin will run inside a separate Edge process, too. That change will let the operating system monitor and control the plugin's resource usage more closely. Edge's Reading Mode is also getting a few power-saving improvements. Finally, Windows 10's networking stack will receive a host of IETF-sanctioned optimizations , like TCP Fast Open, Initial Congestion Window optimization, implementation of the Tail Loss Probe algorithm, and a improved packet loss detection feature called Recent Acknowledgment. The more the merrier, we say.

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