Google last week promised to lower the power appetite of Chrome on the Mac to make its browser more competitive with Apple’s Safari.
“One of the big complaints about Chrome currently is that it’s a battery hog, especially on Mac where Safari seems to do better,” acknowledged Peter Kasting, a senior software engineer on the Chrome UI (user interface) team, in a Google+ post last Wednesday.
Kasting described several areas where the Chrome team had made progress in reducing the browser’s power consumption on OS X. Among the steps taken so far, Kasting said, were lowering the priority of background tab rendering and curtailing the number of times the browser “wakes” from a lower-power mode to see if it needs to do something. A high number of “wakes” can result in faster page rendering, but is more CPU-intensive, and thus eats more power.
According to Kasting, Chrome on the Mac now matches Safari in power consumption when drawing a Google search page and on Amazon.com.
“The Chrome team has no intention of sitting idly by (pun intended) when our users are suffering. You should expect us to continually improve in this area,” added Kasting.
Although users commenting on Kasting’s post were appreciative of the power improvements, many of them continued to criticize Chrome for its memory usage, another area where the browser has been knocked about for years.
In large part, Chrome’s high memory consumption derives from it running each tab in a separate process — a security and anti-crash tactic — rather than collectively under a single process, as does Mozilla’s Firefox.
“I’ll add my vote, though, to memory as the more significant issue, both on a per-page basis (why should rendering a single web page suck up 2+ GB RAM?), and overall (Chrome is constantly swapping out and making my entire system unstable and unusable),” griped Edward Mobius.
Kasting contended that the Chrome team has “been making changes to improve memory usage,” but didn’t go into detail.
The power needs for Chrome on OS X followed a broader effort earlier this month when Google announced it had switched on a feature in the browser’s beta build that it said would save notebook battery power by freezing some content rendered by Adobe’s Flash Player.
The Flash option is to be automatically enabled in the stable build in the coming weeks.
Google’s work on Chrome’s greed for power, like many of the moves it makes on Chrome, benefits the company as well as its users: The longer Google can keep Chrome running on a device, the more ads it can serve through its search engine results.
Kasting gave no clues when the battery improvements would reach the Mac Chrome’s stable build. Links he provided to several bug tracking entries, however, indicated that they were planned for Chrome versions 44 and Chrome 45.
Chrome’s stable build is currently 43.