The Test

Overall, many factors go into web browser battery usage, like GPU accelerated rendering and content caching. Chrome, despite its aggressive timer usage, may still be more battery efficient than other browsers. I should note that AnandTech has historically used Safari on OS X and desktop IE on Windows devices when performing battery life testing.

With this article we are debuting a new browser benchmark tool. Developed in house, this tool automates the usage of a desired web browser as if a user was sitting at the computer. It performs common tasks like launching and closing the browser, opening and closing tabs, loading websites, and scrolling through longer articles. As usual, the websites visited are popular sites cached on the AnandTech server, so the content of the sites does not change between runs. Additionally, the browsers are all run in private browsing mode to prevent local content caching from interfering with reloading our limited set of server-cached sites.

Browsers tested:

  • IE11 Desktop Mode v11.0.9600.17207 (Update versions: 11.0.10 KB2962872)
  • IE11 Modern (Metro) Mode
  • Firefox 31.0
  • Safari 5.1.7
  • Chrome 36.0.1985.125 m
  • Chrome 37.0.2062.68 beta-m (64-bit)

There are several other browsers we would have liked to test, however, due to the time intensive nature of battery life testing, we chose to focus on the most popular browsers. We also chose to test the beta version of Chrome as it is a significant update. Chrome 37 changes from 32-bit to 64-bit and from GDI (legacy) rendering to DirectWrite (modern) rendering. This makes the browser actually usable and no longer blurry on HiDPI displays.

To take advantage of operating system and hardware advances since our last test, testing was performed on the high end model of the Dell XPS 15 (9530) late 2013 edition running Windows 8.1 with all updates as of this writing.

Dell XPS 15 (9530) Late 2013 Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-4702MQ
(Quad-core 2.2-3.2GHz, 6MB L3, 22nm, 37W)
Chipset HM87
Memory 2x8GB DDR3-1600
Graphics GeForce GT 750M 2GB GDDR5
(384 cores, 967MHz + Boost 2.0, 5GHz GDDR5)

Intel HD Graphics 4600
(20 EUs at 400-1150MHz)
Display 15.6" Glossy PPS 16:9 QHD+ (3200x1800)
(Sharp LQ156Z1 Touchscreen)
Storage 512GB mSATA SSD (Samsung SM841)
Optical Drive N/A
Networking 802.11ac WiFi (Intel Dual-Band AC-7260)
(2x2:2 867Mbps capable)
Bluetooth 4.0 (Intel)
Audio Realtek HD
Stereo Speakers
Headset jack
Battery/Power 9-cell, 11.1V, 8000mAh, 91Wh
130W Max AC Adapter
Front Side N/A
Left Side Battery Charge Indicator LEDs
Headset jack
2 x USB 3.0
1 x Mini-DisplayPort
1 x HDMI
AC Power Connection
Right Side Flash Reader (MMC/SD)
1 x USB 3.0
1 x USB 3.0 (Sleep Charging)
Kensington Lock
Back Side Exhaust vent (inside LCD hinge)
Operating System Windows 8.1 64-bit
Dimensions 14.6" x 10.0" x 0.3-0.7" (WxDxH)
(372mm x 254mm x 8-18mm)
Weight 4.44 lbs (2.01kg)
Extras 720p HD Webcam
87-Key Backlit Keyboard

The latest edition of this laptop upgrades to the "Haswell Refresh" i7-4712HQ with an extra 100 MHz clock rate compared to our test laptop. That should have little to no impact on the browser battery life testing.

Windows Timers Results and Analysis
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  • asmian - Saturday, August 16, 2014 - link

    Please note - the Pale Moon developer states that it does NOT use 1ms timers, and since this is directly based on FF code (and he does not state that he has changed that part of the code) it is unlikely that FF does either. Maybe there is another app causing this behaviour.
  • lucas1024 - Thursday, August 21, 2014 - link

    And yet in reality it DOES use a 1ms timer, even when all plugins and extensions, as well as hardware acceleration, are disabled. powercfg reports the timer requested by mozjs.dll.
  • rhughesjr - Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - link

    Often beta software will not have all optimizations enabled in order to more easily debug issues. I wonder if that is the case, and would be very interested in seeing this revisited once Chrome 37 comes out of beta.
  • Freakie - Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - link

    Would have been kind of interesting to compared 64bit Firefox (Nightly) to 64bit Chrome, just to see which 64bit version is the best for battery. Would be humorous if Firefox was.

    I use 64bit Waterfox myself, which even though it is a build of the latest version of Firefox, just compiled as a 64bit program. It's compiled using specific optimizations that the Firefox team doesn't use, so it wouldn't be fair to use a 64bit off-shoot version of Firefox, unfortunately.
  • Oxford Guy - Wednesday, August 13, 2014 - link

    Yes, I was wondering why Chrome was tested for 64-bit but not Firefox. However, one might say that Mozilla has been less supportive of the 64-bit variant than Google has been of its 64-bit Chrome variant.
  • AnnonymousCoward - Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - link

    I like Pale Moon over Firefox. No UI BS to deal with.
  • Paapaa125 - Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - link

    It would've been interesting to see how OSX+Safari would compare to Windows+Chore on the same MacBook Pro.
  • tuxRoller - Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - link

    Any chance of running these tests for both osx and linux (fedora, preferrably as they tend to be amongst the most vanilla [least amount of changes from upstream] of the major distros)? Linux, at least, also supports various levels of timer coalescence (timer_slack), and attempts to wakeup as little as possible when not under load. I'd imagine osx does the same.
    Also, firefox has beta, aurora, and nightly that are easy to get ( , ,, and chrome has the same.
  • Samus - Wednesday, August 13, 2014 - link

    Firefox is definitely an underrated browser. It's amazing how it still gets such a bad rap from a few crap versions from years ago. Firefox has been an especially superior browser, in my opinion, since the customizable menu center released earlier this year.
  • xype - Wednesday, August 13, 2014 - link

    This is kinda stupid. Compare Firefox, Chrome and Safari on OS X and Firefox, Chrome and IE on Windows, if you want to get a good idea of the differences between browsers. Eventually Chrome and Firefox on Linux, too, if you have too much time.

    As it is, the Safari "part" is meaningless, and without Safari you don’t even have a "Browser Face-Off". And having Firefox and Chrome compared between Windows and OS X (and Linux) would at least allow people to get a good idea of how much of a difference the operating system makes in these tests.

    I expected a better article, but then, this is still better than no article (and no information), so thanks for it anyway.

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