The Next Version of Chrome Could Remove a Major Source of Battery Drain

Illustration for article titled The Next Version of Chrome Could Remove a Major Source of Battery Drain
Image: Google

Google Chrome is often maligned as kind of a resource hog, which means it tends to suck up more energy on mobile devices like laptops. But a new experimental flag in the next version of Chrome could help reduce the browser’s battery drain and extend the life of your laptop by up to two hours.

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The feature was first discovered by TheWindowsClub. It appears that in Chrome 86, Google is testing a new feature that limits Javascript timer wake-ups for background websites to just once a minute. This is something Apple already does in Safari. After reviewing data showing that users don’t really benefit from Chrome tracking changes to websites in the background more than once a minute, by reducing the frequency of Javascript wake-ups, Google is hoping to cut back on Chrome’s battery drain.

On a broad level, this change makes a lot of sense: A lot of Javascript wake-ups are for things like checking the current layout of a website, managing trackers, or responding to ad calls. But more importantly, in a technical document from a test conducted by Google seen by TheWindowsClub, Google found that by limiting Javascript wake-ups to once a minute, Google was able to extend the battery life of a laptop with 36 tabs open in the background by 28%—or just shy of two hours of real time.

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But Google didn’t stop there. It ran another test with 36 background tabs running behind a full-screen YouTube video and found that even with a video playing in the foreground, limiting Javascript wake-ups extended the laptop’s battery life by 13% —for a real-world boost of more than half an hour.

In the current version of Chrome (85) the issue is that when one webpage executes a Javascript wake-up, it can cause every background tab to perform a wake-up check, which is almost certainly overkill in most situations. So in the future, Google will space out Javascript wake-up calls in Chrome across longer intervals to help reduce battery drain.

The change in Javascript timer wake-ups should apply to all the major versions of Chrome including Chrome for Windows, Mac, Linux, Chrome OS, and Android. Chrome 86 is expected to go official sometime this fall.

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Senior reporter at Gizmodo, formerly Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag. Was an archery instructor and a penguin trainer before that.

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DISCUSSION

Two questions:

1. Who the fuck has 36 tabs open at once? I use Chrome during work and almost every system I work with is web-based. SharePoint, Google Sheets, ftp sites, MS Azure, Jira, Smartsheets, and multiple web-based client applications. At MOST I have 10 tabs open at a time. What are these people doing?

2. Can Google do anything about the crazy battery loss on Gizmodo and other sites in this family? This place is so bloated and poorly optimized it drains battery 10x faster than any other site I visit. Just loading Gizmodo, reading this article, and writing this comment (about 5 minutes) drained my battery by around 8%. I can be on any other site for around 2 hours and not lose that much battery. Hell I can stream music to a BT speaker for a few hours and not lose that.