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The panic of needing a power socket is never fun

Google Chrome’s power management problems in OS X are far from subtle, with some stats showing it reduces battery life by as much as 3 hours versus Safari.

The one-time lightweight browser has become weighty around the edges and resource hungry in the middle.

Admittedly users don’t help matters by installing extension after extension after extension — but the core browser is in need of a little TLC.

The good news is that Google is not just aware of problems but actively working on resolving them.

In a post on Google+ Chrome developer Peter Kasting has detailed some of the ways that battery life and resource usage are being addressed, which some changes already present in the latest Canary builds of Chrome for Mac.

“One of the big complaints about Chrome currently is that it’s a battery hog, especially on Mac where Safari seems to do better,” he writes.

First in the cross-hairs was the power-hungry Flash plugin. Google announced earlier this month that Chrome (Beta) will ‘intelligently pause’ irrelevant flash content on webpages automatically, helping it close the gap on Safari.

But they’ve gone further.

Background Tabs Now Given Low Priority

Question: background tabs are in the background, not being looked at. So why does Chrome give the same amount of resources as those in the foreground?

Answer: It doesn’t. Not anymore.

This simple change (a logical one, some might say) delivers a big boost and reduces the amount of idle wake-ups (when a process tells the system to give it resources) by as much as 50%.

CPU Usage Reduced For Websites

Loading a Google search results page using Safari’s user agent Chrome sees:

  • ~390 wakes over 30s
  • 0.3 percent CPU usage

But loading a Google search results page in Safari yields:

  • 120 wakes over 30s
  • 0.1 percent CPU usage

Now, a few tweaks later, Chrome’s stats have been reduced by 66%. The browser is now “on par with Safari”.

Better still, these reductions are reflected on other websites too, including Amazon.

Far From Finished

Kasting adds that users shouldn’t expect these changes to  “[close] the battery life performance gap with Safari” on their own, noting that “there’s still a lot to do [but] the trend line should go in the right direction”.

And before you say it: “Memory use is certainly another complaint, which we’ve been working on separately.”

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