Windows 10 users who chose Edge will see hours of extra battery life when compared to using competing web browsers, Microsoft said. And it has the data—and a corresponding time-lapse video—to help prove its superiority.
When it comes to battery life, a number of factors play a role. Modern hardware backed by the right drivers and a modern OS like Windows 10 help, of course. But so does running the right software. In my ongoing experiences testing and rating PC battery life, I’ve identified apps that really hurt performance—Photoshop, Chrome—and those that improve matters. For example, using a native Windows app like Netfix, Hulu or Microsoft Movies & TV for video playback dramatically improves battery when compared to using third party browsers or legacy desktop applications.
But web browsers hold a special place in any debate about battery life because so much of what we do on a PC these days is channeled through the browser. For all the talk about modern app platforms, the real successor to Win32 on PCs, at least from a popularity standpoint, is web apps, not UWP (Universal Windows Platform). So having a browser that can efficiently use battery power on the go is a must.
Most people know that Google Chrome, for all its functional superiority, is not such a browser. And now Microsoft is sharing its telemetry and testing data to show how big the divide has gotten between its carefully engineered Edge browser and the competition. Yes, even Opera, which recently unveiled a new power saver mode aimed at achieving the same end.
“We’ve been focused on power management since beginning of the Edge project,” Microsoft director Jason Weber told me last week. “It was part of the original objective of the browser and our multi-device strategy. It’s something we measure every day, and at every code change, in our power and performance lab.”
And what Microsoft found, after a year of testing, was that its Edge browser provided 35 to 53 percent more battery life on the same hardware than competing browsers from Google, Mozilla or Opera.
Microsoft also performs discharge testing, where you stream video on laptops to see how long it takes for the battery to die. In a test it is publicizing, using identical Surface Book devices, Edge wins big, with 70 percent more battery life than Chrome.
And then there’s the real world. In addition to testing battery life internally, Microsoft also looks at tens of millions of PCs that send telemetry data to the firm, Weber said. And what it sees there is simple: A small advantage over Firefox, but massive gains of about 50 percent additional battery life when compared to Chrome.
Weber also discussed Opera’s recent addition of a power savings mode. Interestingly, this change didn’t help Opera outperform Edge. But its better efficiency also comes with a cost: After turning this feature on manually, users experience a degraded experience. “Our approach is that everyone benefits from our efficiency without requiring a special mode,” Weber said. “The experience is not degraded, and the user doesn’t need to be conscious of it.”
What’s perhaps most interesting about the data Microsoft is sharing today is that its representative of the current, shipping version of Windows 10. In the Anniversary update due this summer, Edge is being updated further, and will include even better battery life efficiency. “We’re being smart about how the browsers handles background tabs,” Weber told me as an example of coming changes. “We coalesce background tab work to occur with other OS scheduling so that we’re not waking up the CPU, GPU, Wi-Fi or other components ourselves, we’re just tagging along when that happens. Power management is often about opportunity, doing the right thing at the right time.”
With Microsoft Edge finally catching up to the functionality of rival browsers in the Windows 10 Anniversary update, thanks largely to the addition of extension support, this one-time also-ran browser is suddenly looking interesting. It’s clearly time for Windows 10 users to take another look.