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Microsoft is Trying to Improve Device Battery Life with Chromium-based browsers

Chromium is a popular web browser engine used in most popular software, including Google Chrome, Opera, Vivaldi, Yandex Browser, and Microsoft Edge (in its pre-release version). While providing the impressive rendering speed and web standards compatibility, Chromium is known for draining the device battery and consuming a lot of RAM. Microsoft is working to improve its behavior in this area.

The solution Microsoft is proposing is to stop media content from being cached to the hard disk on a device.

Today, streaming media content is cached to disk during acquisition and playback. Keeping the disk active during this process increases power consumption in general, and can also prevent certain lower-power modes from being engaged in the operating system. Since media consumption is a high-usage scenario, this extra power usage has a negative impact on battery life. This proposal will prevent the caching of certain media content to disk for the purpose of improving device battery life for users.

The team behind the Edge browser did local testing of a preliminary implementation playing back unencrypted 1080p streaming media content on a laptop while disconnected from power. The test configuration sampled power metrics every 10 seconds. Results for both the baseline build and a build with the implementation added were determined by the average of five runs each, with each run lasting five minutes.

The tests showed a 62mW improvement for the main battery rail with the change enabled. During this test, the system disk write activity decreased by 309KB/sec. There were no significant changes in virtual working set observed.

Microsoft is catching the following goals:

  • To improve battery life for devices by reducing power consumption during media playback.
  • To minimize adverse impact on common scenarios that may rely on disk caching, specifically the optimization of seek time when the user forwards or rewinds by a few seconds.

Microsoft's suggestion is to add a special flag to Chromium for this new behavior is not approved yet. If it eventually added, we will be able to play with it and to check it in action.

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