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I've been reading , a bit about users noticing a severe drop in battery life when using Google Chrome.

I'm curious if this is a real issue - and attributed to the rendering/flash engine it uses.

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Battery Life is different than Battery Duration. Battery life will be tied to the maintenance and usage you give to a battery. To put it simply, if your battery is designed to be charged 100 times before it dies (cycles), then using the 100 charges in one month will be the same as using them in 1 year. (or almost the same, since there will be a small loss of power when the battery is idle).

What I mean is, the battery life shouldn't be greatly affected by any application's usage pattern. But…

The truth is that battery duration is definitely affected by the power consumption. In other words: the more the power your computer uses, the less the batter will last with charge, before it requires to be recharged.

With that logic in mind, Chrome is a moderately CPU intensive application on its own (a tradeoff that is inherited by its One Process Per Tab design). It taxes your hardware a little bit more when creating new tabs and it uses slightly more RAM in order to keep things smooth. In exchange, you have a very solid -hard to crash- browser that will be able to keep working even if some of its tabs are literally dead.

Despite that, however, Chrome has Flash (as an extension you can disable). It uses the "same" Flash, but bundled internally. If chrome uses some more battery (something that I have yet to see in real life), Flash uses probably all the battery you can throw at it, but not because Flash needs battery, it's because it needs CPU power, a lot, all the time. CPU power needs electricity. Batteries have Electricity. In the absence of a power outlet, guess who's there to provide juicy power to that hungry CPU? Yes, mamma battery.

So Flash will definitely decrease your battery charge duration (and in turn, it will force you to cycle charge your battery more often, therefore decreasing its life), but this will also happen on Safari, Camino, Firefox and possibly other applications or browsers that use Flash.

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  • Good distinction, however, I do think most people refer to duration as 'battery life' regardless.
    – g .
    Mar 16, 2011 at 11:19
  • Actually, if you watch using DTrace, Chromium notably is always, always writing something to the hard drive. It never is still. Unsure why.
    – chiggsy
    Jul 17, 2011 at 11:46
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I'm not familiar with any issues with the MacBook. With a MacBook Pro (15" or 17" mid-2010 model and later), Chrome forces the use of the nVidia graphics card which drains the battery quicker than if it were running off the Intel HD graphics card.

I've been using gfxCardStatus (http://codykrieger.com/gfxCardStatus) to correct the issue. I have it set to force Intel HD Graphics mode when running off the battery.

Sources:

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  • Hi John. I have the early 2009 17" Mac Book Pro. With that one i don't think the graphics card can be switched on "on the fly". When I want it on it forces a log out log in. Does that mean I shouldn't be affected by Chrome?
    – andy
    Mar 16, 2011 at 23:51
  • Sorry, I just added clarification that this particular applies to the mid-2010 model and later. I'm not sure if prior models are affected at all. If it seems like the battery is draining faster than it should, you could try making sure the Graphics is set to "Better Battery Life" in the Energy Saver preference pane and see if that makes any difference. Mar 17, 2011 at 3:19
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Same with the MacBook Pro 2011 (I have 15"). Working from Safari yields more battery than with Chrome and this is with Integrated graphics being forced using Cody's program.

The multi process and "more memory up front" design are what add to the drain. Don't get me wrong, it's a great browser but the reason it's great is that it requires slightly more resources up front compared to other browsers.

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Apparently, Chrome 16 resolves this issue to some degree. Earlier versions of Chrome always forced the discrete video card to be activated, while Chrome 16 appears to enable discrete graphics when necessary (e.g. playing Flash), but it will leave the integrated graphics system active when higher graphics power is not needed.

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  • I'm seeing an improvement on my MBA i7 with the latest version of Chrome 16, even though it only has integrated graphics Dec 22, 2011 at 17:02
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Google Chrome drops my battery down to 2 hours on my brand new MacBook Pro 13. When I quit Chrome and switch to Firefox, battery goes up to 6 hours. I don't need any geeky explanation to prove the opposite, Google Chrome is definitely using A LOT more resources than Firefox. Safari is not too different from Chrome, since they both use WebKit engine.

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  • I'm not sure Apple would provide a browser that brings down its own OS battery life to 2 hours instead of 6. Sure Chrome and Safari share the same rendering engine, but they differ in a lot of ways. Apr 11, 2012 at 7:44
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I downloaded gfxcardstatus and there is no longer power based GPU switching. Additionally, it does not allow you to choose the Intel graphics card when Google Chrome is running. Google Chrome has 3 processes preventing the switch from Nvidia to Intel, which is probably what's consuming some power. I am going to switch to Firefox for a while, as the 3 hours I get on the battery is very little compared to the 6 I used to get on my MacBook, even though I really like Google Chrome.

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    I can switch GPU's while Chrome is running. But if Chrome is currently using the dGPU, it crashes. Just quit Chrome, force the use of the intel GPU, then re-open Chrome.
    – gentmatt
    Sep 28, 2012 at 17:09

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