While power might seem like a minor concern, with nearly two billion people now using the Internet the worldwide implications of browser power consumption are significant.
In an effort to underline how hardware accelerating Internet Explorer 9 has improved overall power efficiency, Mircosoft ran some engineering tests comparing browser power requirements.
To measure power consumption, Microsoft monitored the power consumed by individual PC components (CPU, GPU, GMCH, Memory, Uncore, Hard Disk, Network, USB and others) across different real world scenarios.
Before running any power test the instrumented machine is restored to a baseline configuration of Windows 7 Ultimate, fully updated with the latest updates and device drivers, and a defragmented hard drive.
The scenarios Micrrosoft looked at today were Windows 7 without any browsers running (provides baseline); browsers navigated to about:blank (power consumption of the browser UI); loading one of the world?s most popular news Web sites (common HTML4 scenario); running the HTML5 Galactic experience (representative of graphical HTML5 scenario); and fish swimming around the FishIE Tank (what test is complete without FishIE).
Scenario #1: Power Consumption with Idle System
Microsoft started by measuring Windows 7 Ultimate without any additional software installed or running. Each PC component consumed between 0.2 and 1.5 Watts. Over the course of this test the average power consumption for each component was System (10.529), CPU (0.042), Memory (0.257), Uncore (1.123), GPU+GMCH (1.359), Disk (1.120), and LAN (0.024).
Scenario #2: Power Consumption with about:blank
To gauge how much power the browser UI itself consumes, Microsoft next measured each browser navigated to about:blank. In this scenario the browsers were not executing any markup and are close to idle, however differences in power consumption began to emerge. Each browser exhibited the following power consumption patterns, according to Microsoft:
Scenario #3: Power Consumption on News Site
To understand the power consumption when browsing between Web sites, Microsoft next measured each browser loading and viewing one of the world?s most popular news sites.
According to the results, the average power consumption for Internet Explorer 9 follows a different pattern but does not consume significantly more power than the system idle scenarios.
Google's Chrome 10 showed a different behavior. Where Internet Explorer 9?s power consumption was relatively stable, Chrome 10 power consumption was cyclical with regular power spikes that push GPU and Uncore power consumption to nearly 3 Watt?s for those components.
Firefox 4 gave a stable pattern consistent with Internet Explorer 9, Microsoft found.
Opera 11 also returned a cyclical consumption pattern.
Finally Safari showed a stable pattern similar to Internet Explorer 9 and Firefox 4.
Scenario #4: Power Consumption on HTML5 Application, Galactic
Internet Explorer 9 exhibited again a fairly stable pattern with the GPU clearly being utilized. Compare with Internet Explorer?s power consumption, Chrome 10 exhibited a very different pattern. The two camel hump CPU power consumption was paramount consuming over 5 Watt at its peaks. In addition the GPU and Uncore usage was also up to a Watt larger than in Internet Explorer. Both of these factor into the dramatic difference in overall average consumption of IE?s 14.345 and Chrome?s 19.283.
Firefox 4?s power consumption for each component was System (16.708), CPU (1.188), Memory (0.784), Uncore (2.146), GPU+GMCH (2.550), Disk (1.335), and LAN (0.697).
Safari 5?s power consumption was significantly higher than all of the other browsers.
Scenario #5: Power Consumption on HTML5 Application, FishIE Tank
Finally, Microsoft tested the browsers running the FishIE Tank demo. The company ran 10 fish swimming around the screen. This allowed every browser to be able to achieve 60 frames per second (FPS). In this scenario each browser must update the screen 60 times per second which is considered real time animation and something we believe is important to ensure HTML5 success.
In this scenario each browser?s power consumption looks dramatically different by comparison:
A typical laptop uses a 56 Watt hour battery, which means the laptop can consume 56 Watts worth of energy for one hour before running out. The fewer Watts the browser consumes the longer the laptop battery will last.
According to Microsoft's tests, the power consumption and battery life of a 56Wh battery is: