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How I increased my MacBook's battery life by 39 percent

The Opera browser introduced a new feature to help extend the life of your laptop's battery.

If you are like me, then you are more concerned with the battery life of your laptop than the battery life of your cell phone. My aging MacBook Pro barely makes it to lunch on a single charge, while my iPhone lasts all day.

I have tweaked a few settings to extend the life of my laptop's battery, but I still can't stray too far from an outlet for too long. I spend most of my day inside Chrome, a browser notorious for its power consumption, and while Google continues to turn a blind eye toward my MacBook's meager battery life, there is one browser that is paying attention. Opera recently introduced Power Saver, which it claims can help your laptop's battery run 50-percent longer.

To get the new Power Saver feature, you must use the experimental version of Opera in the developer channel. With this version, a battery button appears to the right of the URL bar when you unplug your laptop and are using battery power. Click the button and then click the toggle switch to turn on Power Saver.

opera-power-saver.jpg
Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Power Saver also kicks in automatically when your battery has less than 20 percent of its charge remaining.

According to Opera, Power Saver helps extend battery life by reducing activity in background tabs, waking CPU less often, pausing unused plug-ins, capping video playback at 30 frames per second, tweaking some video codecs and pausing browser-theme animations.

Opera's developer channel version is available for laptops running OS X, Windows and Linux.

Should you switch?

That is, does Opera and its Power Saver feature provide enough of a boost to battery life that it's worth switching browsers?

To answer this question, I've been using the developer version of Opera for the past couple of weeks to put Opera's claims of 50 percent longer battery life to the test.

With only Chrome running, my old MacBook Pro provides roughly 2 hours and 20 minutes of battery life on average. When I use Opera instead with Power Saver turned on, I get about 3 hours and 15 minutes of runtime on a single charge. In both tests, I had two windows open with multiple tabs open in each window.

While these figures do not measure up to Opera's claims of 50 percent longer battery life, they do represent a not insignificant 39 percent increase in battery life on my admittedly unscientific tests. No matter how you slice it, Opera is giving me nearly an extra hour of battery life.

In addition, I have found the developer version of Opera to be stable and have not witnessed any negative side effects to using Power Saver. Capping video playback at 30 frames per second, for example, produced no ill effects in my experience; Netflix and YouTube videos appear no different with Power Saver enabled as they do without it.

Given that Opera's Power Saver gives me nearly an extra hour of battery life, I have begun to use Opera as my secondary browser when I know I'm going to be away from an outlet for a good portion of the day. Since I'm a creature of habit, however, I continue to use Chrome when seated at my desk or otherwise running on AC power.