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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  • normadize - Wednesday, August 13, 2014 - link

    This had the opportunity to be a very valuable test but as it stands, it isn't.

    First, excluding Mac OS X (and Linux) is a big negative - at least it could have had a less misleading title, e.g. add "under Windows" to be fair.

    Secondly, and more importantly, the testing methodology is very vague and doesn't state how often the requests, scrolls etc are made. It also does not say how many tabs were open and what kind of content was browsed (static vs dynamic/animated ratio at least?), which websites?

    The most important aspect is that it seems it does not replay an actual user session of 10+ hours exactly as it happened, with large pauses between clicks and scrolls.

    There is a huge difference between actual idle/low usage and this article's seemingly rushed simulated idle/low usage. An actual idle/low usage spans a lot longer time scale, during which the user is reading (or away) and the browser is taxing the battery due to timers/IRQs of animated GIFs / Javascript / Flash / etc that keeps running in the background and in other tabs. Different browsers behave VERY differently in this scenario. The critical aspect is that this is the state the browser spends most time in.

    As it stands, although I commend the effort, this test is of little use to me, and in my opinion it should not be taken seriously due to the poor methodology and its reporting.

    A true test that lives up to the current (misleading) title would be a replay of an actual real-world browsing session, exactly as the user "played" it.
  • dstarr3 - Wednesday, August 13, 2014 - link

    Surely IE would give you the best battery life, as it would rid you of any desire to use the internet and make you pocket your phone.
  • wantthefun - Thursday, August 14, 2014 - link

    I am on Surface Pro 2 and I find Chrome reduces my battery life more than IE. I have almost quit using Chrome, because of this reason (switched to IE metro). I wonder if the extensions, or running it in a non-simulated environment with all the sync and programs installed makes a difference, else it could be the use of flash... Not sure, but does not agree with my 8 months of experience with this computer, had to make an account to chime in. Thanks for publishing this!
  • hallstein - Thursday, August 14, 2014 - link

    Safari for Windows was discontinued several years ago and should definitely not be included in this article.

    I thought this would be super interesting, especially as Apple have made a big fuss about Safari’s energy efficiency, alas it was windows-only. For mac, this could have been a really interesting contribution to the safari-chrome-firefox debate.
  • janawatson - Monday, August 18, 2014 - link

    I keep seeking for new fighting games. Can anyone provide me some new links? Thank you
  • Heavensrevenge - Tuesday, August 19, 2014 - link

    Then explain this: I set my power plan to "Power Savings and start Chrome AFTER setting to the power savings power plan and here: to see chrome NOT requesting the higher timer WHILE running sunspider twice during the recording period
    AND!thBUCKCT!RxVWNSEbw0b_-tCJCdrc... is the entire energy report that shows all the details of more chrome.exe processes vs just that single screen shot with 1 entry + the timer resolution to show u chrome doesn't ONLY request the high resolution timer no-matter what.
  • djsvetljo - Tuesday, August 19, 2014 - link

    Chrome has huge issues with utilizing graphic card acceleration for videos. It does NOT work on certain pro cards, such as NVIDIA NVS series, as well as certain Intel GPUs. As a result, a video that is a piece of cake for a GPU struggles to play with CPU only resulting in super high CPU usage, which results in high power consumption. I have 3 machines that suffer from the same issue, some don't - it depends on the GPU model. Same machines tetsed with FF or IE and CPU load is times less.
  • darwiniandude - Sunday, August 24, 2014 - link

    Can you test Safari Firefox and Chrome under OS X? And the others under Windows / Bootcamp on the same hardware? Would be good to test and challenge the 'OS X gets better battery life' rumor/myth
  • mtcn77 - Wednesday, August 27, 2014 - link

    Could this Micro-trololo article EVER be biased by any outside variable unbeknownst to the almighty editor? Something other than the new kid in town, the Google? No! ABSOLUTELY NOT! Microsoft Windows is the best engineered piece of hardware and this is an issue for Google to fix (only for Windows).
  • John.S - Sunday, August 31, 2014 - link

    This article is a bit miss leading, in future you may want to consider that these browsers all run differently on different OS. Run these tests again on OSX or Linux and you will find different results. I point this out because you put in Safari due to the "OSX / iOS crowd". This is a "MS Windows" , "browser face-off", not an overall "best browser face-off"

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