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Seeing the whole picture

In past posts, we’ve discussed how people tend to focus on hardware differences when comparing performance or battery life scores between systems, but software factors such as OS version, choice of browser, and background activity often influence benchmark results on multiple levels.

For example, AnandTech recently published an article explaining how a decision by Google Chrome developers to increase Web page rendering times may have introduced a tradeoff between performance and battery life. To increase performance, Chrome asks Windows to use 1ms interrupt timings instead of the default 15.6ms timing. Unlike other applications that wait for the default timing, Chrome ends up getting its work done more often.

The tradeoff for that increased performance is that waking up the OS more frequently can diminish the effectiveness of a system’s innate power-saving attributes, such as a tick-less kernel and timer coalescing in Windows 8, or efficiency innovations in a new chip architecture. In this case, because of the OS-level interactions between Chrome and Windows, a faster browser could end up having a greater impact on battery life than might initially be suspected.

The article discusses the limitations of their test in detail, specifically with regards to Chrome 36 not being able to natively support the same HiDPI resolution as the other browsers, but the point we’re drawing out here is that accurate testing involves taking all relevant factors into consideration. People are used to the idea that changing browsers may impact Web performance, but not so much is said about a browser’s impact on battery life.


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