If Windows-based users of the Google Chrome Web browser check the Windows Task Manager, they will find that Chrome uses more than its fair share of system memory. But more than being a resource hog, it now turns out that Chrome can drastically affect the life of laptop batteries and even hinder performance.
Tech writer Ian Morris of Forbes recently discovered that the problem is still chronic, even though it was first reported in 2010.
Variable Tick Rate
Morris reported that at the root of the problem is a misuse of the "system clock tick rate," a Windows internal process. When Chrome is opened, it sets that rate to 1.000 milliseconds, where it stays until the browser is closed. The idle clock tick rate under Windows is supposed to be 15.625ms. That means the laptop's processor is awakened 1,000 times per second when running Chrome, which can raise power consumption by as much as 25 percent.
The system clock tick rate for running Internet Explorer or Firefox, on the other hand, stays at 15.625ms until the processor is required to do something more demanding (such as play a YouTube video), at which time the rate increases to 1.000ms -- but only while that tab is open. The default of 15.625ms wakes the processor wakes just 64 times per second.
Windows allows apps to modify this value to boost the performance of applications running under the operating system as needed. Microsoft says that tick rates of 1.000ms can increase power consumption by as much as 25 percent.
An Old Problem
Google had claimed the boost only happened when a laptop was plugged in, but users have determined that it also takes place when running on batteries. Mac, Linux and Chrome operating systems aren't affected by the tick rate discrepancy. A new mode on Mac computers running OSX Maverick allows tabs to sleep when they're not visible, meaning they don't wake the processor.
Four years ago when the discrepancy in power usage among Web browsers was first pointed out, Google Chrome engineers said the increased system clock tick rate was common in browsers since most contained at least one plug-in or multimedia feature pushed the clock tick to 1.000ms. Google decided to leave the increased rate as a permanent part of the Chrome browser.
Now, however, many of the plug-ins used most widely in 2010 -- including Flash and Java applets -- aren't as popular, and Chrome is the only browser still misusing the system clock tick rate.
Google has acknowledged the problem, saying it has assigned technicians to bug reports related to the tick rate discrepancy. Windows users have been advised by observers to keep an eye on Google's Chrome Releases blog (http://googlechromereleases.blogspot.com/) while a fix is being developed, or to just use a different browser.
Image credit: Google/Chrome; iStock/Artist's concept.
Posted: 2014-07-24 @ 11:07am PT
I have several windows open in my browser and that just isn't handled well by Google Chrome. It eats memory up too much. I am ditching it as a browser. I just want clean and simple and not all the energy consumption and fancy frills. They need to get back to basics.