Sorry, Opera: Microsoft Has the Edge

Posted on June 23, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 0

Sorry, Opera: Microsoft Has the Edge

I was curious to see how or even if Microsoft would respond to Opera’s attack on its Edge battery life claims. But as it turns out, Microsoft’s response required only a single tweet.

Here’s a crazy thought: Microsoft Edge has been in the news all week. Here’s a crazier thought: Microsoft Edge is getting good enough in Windows 10 version 1607 (with the Anniversary update) that I’m actually considering using it full time, am in fact testing that right now.

Part of the reason—a bigger part than I perhaps even understood at first—is this week’s revelation that Microsoft Edge usage will result in dramatic battery life savings when compared to competing browsers from Google, Mozilla, and Firefox. In fact, Edge provides 35 to 53 percent more battery life on the same hardware, according to Microsoft.

That figure, for the relative power consumption of web browsers on Windows 10, is only part of the data Microsoft provided this week, and it includes a breakdown of the impact these browsers have on your PC’s CPU, GPU, and Wi-Fi, which in turn impact the battery life of your device. But it wasn’t the only data Microsoft provided: It also provided a time lapse video demonstrating discharge testing during HD video streaming, and here Edge provided an incredible 70 percent more battery life than Chrome. And there was also telemetry data collected from tens of millions of PCs in the real world: Here, Microsoft said, Edge shows gains of about 50 percent additional battery life when compared to Chrome. (And small gains over Firefox.)

Opera, a relatively tiny player in the web browser market, recently announced a new power saver feature which it says can improve battery life by about 50 percent when compared to Chrome. So it is perhaps no surprise that Opera took great exception to Microsoft’s claims. Battery life, apparently, is their only shtick these days.

But any thinking person should take great exception to Opera’s retort.

First, Opera complained that Microsoft clearly made a “big PR effort,” using a link to a Verge article as proof that the software giant was in cahoots with the media on this deception. (Not noted: Opera’s subsequent “big PR effort” likewise netted an article on the same site, by the same blogger. He accepted Opera’s data without question too.)

So, yes, Microsoft did in fact contact several blogs and news organizations in order to tout its battery savings work in Edge. But then it does so for all such announcements. You might assume that virtually anytime there’s reasonably big Windows 10 news that I speak to Microsoft, and in fact my own article about Edge’s battery life prowess was based solely on an interview with Microsoft’s Jason Weber. That’s not a conspiracy. That’s everyone just doing their jobs.

But worse than that is Opera’s misrepresentation of Microsoft’s data. It says that it only wants “to see if it actually is the case that ‘Edge gives longer battery time than Opera’.” But to do so, it only provides a single, limited test, done in time lapse video form, which only looks at one thing: “a set of popular websites where the automation simulates interaction with the website, making it close to what we expect normal browsing would be on such page.”


Remember that Microsoft provided three data points: browser power consumption over a year of testing, discharge testing using video playback, and real world telemetry derived from tens of millions of PCs. But here’s the kicker: Even though Opera’s power saver feature is off by default, Microsoft enabled it for its tests. How’s that for fair? Opera ran just one video time lapse test, using scripted web site interactions. And Microsoft tested tens of millions of PCs over the course of a year. Hm.

Opera’s use of a time lapse video was of course intended to counter Microsoft’s time lapse video. But this is comparing apples to oranges: Where Microsoft’s video is comparing video playback, Opera’s is using scripted web site interactions. They’re not the same thing.

Or, as Microsoft engineer David Storey put it on Twitter:

Blocking ads on hand selected ad heavy sites reduces battery consumption. Who knew?

Which adds another layer of deception to the tests: In those scripted web site interactions, Opera was blocking ads. And Microsoft Edge was not. So that test not only doesn’t correspond to Microsoft’s testing—easily duplicated—it actually hamstrings Microsoft’s browser too. It’s not a fair test. And yet, Opera beat Edge by a not-so-wide margin, delivering 3:55 hours of battery life compared to 3:12 for Edge (and 2:54 for Chrome). Remember: Microsoft enabled Opera’s special battery saver mode in its own tests. Opera tested a version of Edge with no ad blocking in its tests.


Opera also used a developer version of its browser that has the power saver feature activated.

So let me give Opera a bit of help. Because as distressed as I am by the above deceptions and mischaracterizations, I’m equally amused that they didn’t spot the one real issue with Microsoft’s data as presented.

That is, where Microsoft’s power consumption and discharge testing tests do provide some data on Opera, its average power consumption telemetry data does not. That test only compares Edge to Chrome and Firefox for some reason. Did Opera do pretty well in that test? We don’t know. (It is perhaps notable that Edge barely beat out Firefox in this test.)

Regardless, I take Microsoft’s claims at face value: “These numbers from actual Windows 10 (version 1511) use ‘in the wild,’ not artificial tests or hypotheses. People using Microsoft Edge simply get more out of their battery every day.” And I take Opera’s claims to be a lot less credible, as they rely on a single artificial test that, as Mr. Storey puts it, includes hand-picked sites with lots of ads.

That’s my opinion. But what conclusion should anyone draw from this episode?

That Google Chrome is a terrible web browser when it comes to battery life. And for those of us who compute on the go a lot, that is reason enough to consider an alternative. Be it Microsoft Edge, Opera, or Mozilla Firefox.

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