Ian Morris of Forbes has discovered that Google's Chrome browser for Windows can drain a laptop's battery. The problem was first reported back in 2010, and Google is just now getting around to addressing the problem.
Morris reports that the issue stems from a misuse of the "system clock tick rate." When a user opens the Chrome browser, the rate is automatically set to 1.000 ms, and it stays that way until the user closes the browser. That means the processor, which stays "asleep" when nothing is going on, is awakened 1000 times per second. That can raise power consumption by as much as 25 percent.
When consumers open Internet Explorer or Firefox, the rate will stay at 15.625 ms until the processor is required to do something, and the rate is increased to 1.000 ms. Watch a YouTube video, and the tick rate jumps to 1.000 ms. Close the tab, and Internet Explorer and Firefox will shift back to 15.625 ms.
Morris said that he performed a test on his desktop, and discovered that when idle, it eats up 15 to 20 watts with Chrome running. When he closed Chrome entirely, the power consumption dropped down to 12 to 15 watts. He points out that on a desktop, this isn't a problem, but on a laptop, power consumption is "massively important."
So what can consumers with laptops do about this problem? Switch to a different browser until the issue is resolved. Web surfers can also "star" the issue on the bug tracker. However, given that Google is now looking into the problem (thanks to the coverage, no doubt), using an alternative browser for now seems to be the best option.
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You could also run Noscript in Firefox to really minimize the CPU hogging garbage. To be honest it becomes a pain to deal with.
When I used to use Chrome to watch baseball games on MLB.tv, my Surface would get hot, high CPU usage, and i'd barely get 2-2.5 hours. I thought it was just mlb.tv. I started using Metro IE... I was able to watch 2 games back to back without it being hot to the touch.
Needless to say, I'm not using Chrome on battery anymore...
Firefox v30.0 will go to 1ms after a New Tab is opened and then drop back to 10 or 15.625ms after a minute as long as a video isn't started. Tabs that contain a playing video seem to stay at 1ms even if the video is paused. Once the tab has been closed, then a minute later it will go back to 15.6 (notice not 15.625).
IE9 will go to 10ms, even during video playback, but I have not looked at newer versions of IE to know how they behave.
Standalone video players may have the same behavior while they are running, even if not playing a video.