Microsoft: Internet Explorer 9's "industry leading" energy efficiency

Here's something to think about: when you ask some of your fellow geeky friends what they find best about the recently released Internet Explorer 9, see what responses you get back. You will most likely hear the words "fast," "light," or even "elegant" thrown around. Some of your acquaintances may dispute those claims. But one thing that Microsoft is not emphasizing much in their IE9 marketing blitz, but are clearly leading their competitors on, is energy efficiency. If you're a energy-conscientious laptop user, take note! If you think your energy bills could shave a few pennies this month, also take note.

On the IE blog, three Internet Explorer team members shared the results of several energy tests they conducted on the five most popular browsers available for Windows. They tested the amount of power the browsers consumed when idling on about:blank pages, when loading news sites, and working through two example HTML5 applications offered on the IE Test Drive site - "Galactic" and the ever-so-recognizable "FishIE Tank."

The results are interesting. For the about:blank test, most of the browsers did not use much more power compared to a system on idle. The one anomaly in that test was Opera, which consumed the most power on idle - the reason we'll get to in a bit. For the news site tests, Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer fared well, while Chrome and Opera caused  more noticeable power spikes. Firefox and Internet Explorer fared pretty well in the HTML5 applications thanks to GPU acceleration taking some load off the CPU.

The question remains: besides the lack of GPU acceleration in some of these browsers, what are they doing wrong that is causing increased power usage? In the case of Opera, even while the browser was relatively idle, it lowered the system timer resolution from the default of 15.6 ms (for Windows 7) to 2 ms, which improved responsiveness but prevented the CPU from entering lower power states. Internet Explorer, on the other hand, keeps the system timer resolution at 15.6 ms while the user is running on a battery, and only lowers the resolution when the system is plugged back in. Users can check the current system timer resolution by running Sysinternals' ClockRes utility.

In the meantime, this may be a cue for browser vendors to focus their attention on improving power efficiency, in addition to the current speed race amongst browsers.

Image Credit: IE Blog

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