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Which browser is best for battery life: We test Edge vs. Chrome vs. Opera vs. Firefox

Gordon Mah Ung | June 28, 2016
In this power struggle, the answer is not what you'd think.

This vendor-written piece has been edited by Executive Networks Media to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favour the submitter's approach.

Lots of claims are made about which browser is better or worse for a device’s battery life. Can a browser really make that much of a difference? Yes indeed, but determining just how much of a difference and whether it even matters to your individual use case is the difficult part.

I began testing the question of different web browsers’ impact on battery life about two months ago, and what I’ve concluded is that there’s a lot of work to be done here.

What’s generally wrong with browsing tests

I’ve read about people using browsing as a rundown test for laptops but I have concerns about how that’s done. As you know, the internet is a dynamic living organism. What I get when I point my browser at PCWorld.com at 2:14 a.m. EDT on August 29, is going to be different than what I get on 8 a.m. on January 1.

Even trying to browse with the same laptop just minutes apart could yield quite a different experience in terms of Flash ads, embedded videos, and other dynamic elements.

That’s not even mentioning that the route the packets take to reach your screen could differ considerably moment to moment. These and other uncontrollable variables are enough to scare me off of running comparative tests using the live internet.

Enter EMBC BrowsingBench

EMBC is a small benchmarking outfit that claims its BrowsingBench test removes the variability in testing browsers. The benchmark runs on Linux from a USB key. You boot into Ubuntu on a laptop that’s connected via ethernet to a wireless router, and then connect your test laptop to that router’s Wi-Fi.

screenshot 1

With EMBC’s BrowsingBench, you can test browsers in a controlled environment.

You select between page types, how long you want the test to dwell on a page, and even set the bandwidth you want simulated. The pages are stored and served by the benchmark, which means every single page and every single Flash ad is the same.

I configured BrowsingBench with a rather long “dwell” time on each page, rather than just jamming through a bunch of pages. I figured people don’t browse that way so what’s the value of it.

If you were to watch the benchmark run, it would look like a person went to a site, scrolled down maybe a third of the page, paused, scrolled another third, paused, and so on.

 

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