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Why you should install Chrome on your laptop

If you ditched Google's browser due to performance or battery concerns, now may be the time to come back.

Updating to Chrome 57 should net you better battery life.

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

For quite some time, Google Chrome has had a reputation: great browser, terrible performance. In particular, if you're a laptop user and typically keep more than a few tabs open, expect hits to not only overall speed, but also battery life.

Google has acknowledged this in the past, and in fact promised to make reducing power usage a "top priority for Chrome in 2017," according to Chrome Product Manager Rachel Popkin.

Sure enough, the team is making progress: Chrome 57, which is now available, includes a new tab-throttling method designed to reduce background-tab power consumption.

According to the Chromium Blog, background tabs (meaning the ones you're not currently using) consume a third of Chrome's power usage. In version 57, "Chrome will throttle individual background tabs by limiting the timer fire rate for background tabs [that are] using excessive power."

That's a little bit of geek-speak for "better battery life." How much better? "We've found that this throttling mechanism leads to 25 percent fewer busy background tabs," Alexander Timin, software engineer, noted on Google's Chromium blog. While that doesn't directly translate to battery numbers, it does translate to improvement.

Which is an ongoing goal, Timin said: "Chrome will continue to take steps in this direction to prolong users' battery life."

To update Chrome or see if your version of Chrome has been updated, click the Menu button (the icon with the three vertical dots), then click Help > About Google Chrome. On my laptop, this caused Chrome to install version 57.

What are your thoughts on Chrome's effort to improve performance? Enough to win you back if you've switched to another browser? Too little, too late?

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