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Google Replumbs Chrome on Mac for Better Battery Life

Watching YouTube videos for 18 hours straight may not be a great idea, but now you can with Google's browser.

A Google Chrome lapel pin on a MacBook keyboard
Chrome on Mac is getting power consumption improvements.
Stephen Shankland/CNET

Google has reworked the innards of Chrome to give its web browser longer battery life on Macs, a step to address a big complaint and an area where Apple likes to brag about its rival Safari's prowess. The changes mean people using Chrome can browse the web for 17 hours or watch YouTube videos for 18 hours on a 2022 13-inch MacBook Pro.

Google on Tuesday detailed its power-saving tricks that arrived with Chrome 110, released in early February. And if you enable Chrome's Energy Saver mode, introduced in 2022, you'll get yet another 30 minutes of battery life on a Mac too, Chrome programmer François Doray said in a blog post.

Battery life is crucial for students carrying laptops around campus, businesspeople on the road and people sitting on the couch. As smartphones grow in capability and desktop computers fade out of most people's lives, working without being plugged into a wall socket is increasingly the norm.

Google has worked for years to address the Chrome power-consumption concerns. "We have a bunch of people working on it," Chrome product manager RK Popkin told CNET in 2017.

The changes came in Chrome versions 109 and 110, but with Chrome's gradual release schedule, were initially available only to a tiny fraction of Chrome users, spokesperson Joshua Cruz said Tuesday. 

"It will be available to 100% this week," Cruz said.

Among Google's new techniques is a change to how Chrome schedules the multitudes of behind-the-scenes actions that browsers take. Chrome relies on timers to trigger those events, but will now schedule timer events to take place in bunches instead of more continuously, an approach that lets chips spend more time idling in a low-power state. That's a technique that's also borne fruit on operating systems, which are the lower level software that every computing device uses and that web browsers increasingly resemble.  

Google also tweaked how Chrome handles dynamic websites, distinguishing between behind-the-scenes processing and changes that require updates to what the browser displays. If changes are invisible, Chrome no longer unnecessarily updates what you see on your screen, which saves processing power, Doray said.