Opera rebuts Microsoft claim that Edge eats less power

Google also joins the debate, says all browsers are similar in power consumption

Opera Software today disputed Microsoft's claim that Edge, the default browser bundled with Windows 10, consumes less power on a laptop than Opera's flagship.

"We love it when someone picks a fight," wrote Blazej Kazmierczak, Opera's director of software development for the desktop Opera browser, in a Wednesday post to a company blog. "If we get beaten in a test like this, we consider it a bug."

Opera has waged a minor public relations campaign the last several months, supported by new features -- including an optional power saver and an also-optional baked-in ad-blocker -- in a bid to boost usage.

The power consumption-reduction setting, which is off by default, was introduced in mid-May to Opera's developer preview channel, then rolled out to the production-grade build with version 38 two weeks ago. At both times, Opera trumpeted the power savings of the feature, asserting that running its browser resulted in a 45% to 54% increase in battery longevity compared to Google's Chrome.

Opera had not included Edge in its test -- nor Mozilla's Firefox -- but instead focused on the leader, Chrome, which became the world's most-run browser in April.

Kazmierczak said that Edge had been untested until today because it ran only on Windows 10; he then presented new findings that claimed Opera ran 35% longer than Edge before the test notebook's battery died.

But while Kazmierczak acknowledged that the two tests -- Microsoft's and Opera's -- were similar, not identical, he omitted other details. Opera was run with both the battery saver and the native ad-blocker enabled. Microsoft, on the other hand, said that it had tested browsers "without any special battery saving mode or changes to the default settings," which indicated that it did not switch on either Opera's battery saver nor the ad-blocker.

An ad-blocker should result in longer battery life, as some of the PC's prime power consumers -- the central processing unit (CPU) and the graphics chipset -- will be called less often, and when engaged, will work less hard, when the browser does not render and display advertisements. (For example, Opera's argument for putting an ad-blocker in its browser has been largely based on power savings.)

Other browser makers waded into the debate over power today.

"We've made significant improvements to power consumption in the past few releases, and it's an area of continued focus and investment," Google said in a response to a request for comment. "Since the beginning of the year, we've made a 33% improvement in video playback GPU/CPU [graphics processing unit/central processing unit] power consumption on Windows 10. And by Chrome 53, we feel confident that we'll be at parity with other browsers in terms of power consumption for the majority of video playback on the internet."

The stable build of Chrome is currently on version 51; version 53 should reach users in early September.

Google also contended that its tests -- which measure CPU and GPU power consumption -- showed that all browsers, including Edge and Chrome, depleted the battery at similar rates on Windows 10.

Mozilla did not immediately reply to a request for comment on Microsoft's original claims.

Opera is in fifth place among the top five browsers in all analytics tracking of user estimates and actual usage. Net Applications, for instance, said Opera accounted for 1.7% of all browsers used during May. Chrome, meanwhile, was in the top spot with a 45.6% usage share. Net Applications pegged Edge's share at 5% of all browsers on all desktop platforms, or 28.5% of those on Windows 10.

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Gregg Keizer

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
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