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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  • DanNeely - Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - link

    I suspect there would be major technical challenges in doing so. IIRC the standard browser tests just cycle loading a series of pages; this can be done in browser using a bit of javascript; making it easy to do cross platform. This test included things like opening/closing windows that need to be done outside the browser; and which makes me suspect it was done by recording and playing back user input. That would require a cross platform, OS level, UI testing tool. I'm not aware of anything capable of doing that on the market. Reply
  • Stephen Barrett - Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - link

    Exactly Reply
  • MrSpadge - Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - link

    Thanks for this test!

    I'm not surprised Firefox came in almost last. I like it, but simply having a few tabs open (with adblock and flashblock active) and just leaving the browser minimized consumes a constant 2-3% CPU. That's 16 - 24% of one logical core of an i7 3770K @ 4.1 GHz!

    I also encourage you to pepeat this test with a regular display. Remember that by now there's just a tiny fraction of high-DPI displays out there. The differences between those 2 tests could sheed some light onto the practical cost of running high-DPI displays.
    Reply
  • Stephen Barrett - Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - link

    Good points. If there is time (this type if testing takes days and days) I hope to do a follow up using Opera and comparing Chrome 36 & 37 at 1600x900 Reply
  • seapeople - Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - link

    Honestly, forget opera, nobody cares other than the two whiners who post here.

    But I do agree about running a normal resolution display - it's just not fair to benchmark blurry crap against crisp high res fonts and give a performance or battery life number that favors the blurry crap. That's like comparing fps between a laptop running 768p and 1440p and saying that the 768p laptop gives you better performance.

    Ok, I somewhat apologize to the opera users. But seriously - it's 2014, get a normal browser. And not Safari on windows, obviously.
    Reply
  • furnace51 - Thursday, August 14, 2014 - link

    <emerges from the shadows> I agree, forget Opera, This is not the browser you are looking for <retreats back into the shadows> Reply
  • jabber - Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - link

    Yeah I have to say I think we'll be waiting a long time still for those super display sizes to filter down to the 'regular price' brackets.

    I bet this time next year most laptops will still come with 1366x768 screens. Yet my new $200 7" tablet will have a 4K screen on it.
    Reply
  • Stephen Barrett - Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - link

    I will be oh so sad if that is true :-/
    and.... not surprised
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - link

    I doubt we'll see them on race to the bottom laptops this side of the 15" 1366/768 panel being discontinued by manufacturers. With demand from tablets/phones pushing high volume production of high DPI panels though; I think the main barrier in the way of them being standard in $1000+ laptops is the number of windows apps that still don't play nicely with highDPI/the roughness of Windows scaling options. Reply
  • zodiacsoulmate - Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - link

    Chrome always eat up my battery when watching youtube @ 720p/1080p MP4, however IE11 works just great...
    Please test video play back ! and audio playback!
    I was hoping for more testing for this matter, chrome have been quite disappointing these days
    Reply

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