Look, I love Chrome. The thing crushes most of the internet under the might of its slightly-bloated resource-sucking fist.
But when I’m working portably on my MacBook in the real-world, there’s no getting around it: Safari totally destroys Chrome on battery life.
I bought a 12-inch MacBook because I wanted the battery life and portability of something like a Chromebook with the flexibility and performance of a full desktop OS. But if my browser sucks my battery life down too fast, then what’s the point?
Google has made great leaps with optimization on both Mac and PC in the last few years…but there’s no getting around tight OS integration. Google has shown this advantage with their impressive battery numbers in Chrome OS. Edge tends to dominate battery tests on portable Windows machines.
And Safari is the king on a MacBook if you don’t want to be stuck with the tyranny of a wall plug. I know that there are controlled-scenario numbers that sometimes show otherwise, but over the last year of real-world use, this has been true for me over and over again.
Part of me doesn’t want this to be true. And I’m not even sure why. Old habits die hard!
I like the beefy web-rendering performance of Chrome. I like that Google’s apps run better inside it, as that’s an ecosystem I’m pretty heavily connected to. I like that Google Play Music pays more royalties to musicians than iTunes does…but if I’m working portably, a Chrome tab running Music jacks up my CPU usage considerably and my battery begins to drain.
I get about 20 percent more battery life, on average, using a Safari and iTunes combo on- the- go compared to using Chrome and Google Play Music. I have music going near-constantly when I work on my laptop, so this is an important metric for me. I can comfortably get through the day on battery with the Safari combo. Not so with Chrome.
If you have a MacBook but you’re sticking to Chrome out of habit or out of the need to sync to other platforms, I get it. I still use Chrome on my desktop PC exclusively.
It’s hard to escape how dominant that platform is on the web.
But I’m really bothered by how okay we’ve all become with plugging laptops in when we’re on-the-go. And phones even. I thought the whole point of a portable device was that you could use it portably? Like, why even have a battery if you just have to be plugged in all the time?
That’s why, no matter how much I enjoy the slightly faster performance of Chrome, I use Safari on my MacBook and iPhone. (iPhone browsers are a whole other mess for another day). Portable computing exclusively on a battery should be possible, and all the efficiency gains made in the CPU world mean nothing if the browser just sucks up all that power. Even if it is a little faster/better on certain pages.
Google has proven they can make this all work inside ChromeOS..but that platform is turning into a weird nightmare where it seems like they can’t decide if they actually want to merge it with Android or not. (I so want them to finally go through with this merge).
Safari used to have a Windows version, but Apple deprecated it years ago…and I’m not totally sure why. Edge is really good now, but no one cares because “lol Microsoft.” Sigh.
Give a different browser a chance if you’re on a portable Mac or PC, and see if you reap the huge battery gains I notice on my MacBook. You might be surprised, and you might be able to unplug that stupid cable!