Brave claims its mobe browser batt use bests whatever you're using. Why? Hint: It begins with A then D then V...

Blocking ads, analytics code gives browser an edge over, well, Edge, Chrome, etc

Hiker checks dead battery on smartphone... against wild valley backdrop. Photo via Shutterstock

Brave ran some benchmark tests on the Android version of its browser, and – funnily enough – found it to be less power-hungry than a handful of competitors.

Specifically, the benchmark involved running battery-historian, an open-source testing tool. Using a Samsung Galaxy S9 running Android 9.0, Brave's researchers compared Chrome, Firefox, and Edge alongside browsers designed or configured to block ads including Firefox with uBlock Origin plugin, Adblock Browser, Firefox Focus, and Kiwi.

The testing tool loads a series of websites in a new tab, waits five seconds and scrolls over the page multiple times for about 30 seconds. This routine gets executed over about 11 minutes, and gets repeated five times per browser, amounting to about an hour of browsing time per browser.

"In our research, we show that Brave consumes 40 per cent less battery than popular browsers like Chrome, Edge, and Firefox, thanks to a combination of bandwidth savings and lower CPU pressure," explained the San Francisco-based software maker on Monday. Compared to the ad-blocking browsers, Brave still consumed less battery power, as much as 20 per cent less, though Firefox with uBlock Origin, at 90mAh, on average, was close to Brave's sub-80mAh.

The bandwidth savings, and associated lower CPU usage, come from Brave's blocking of third-party tracking code and ads. With less data to download, there's less Wi-Fi usage, less for the CPU to process, and ultimately less demand for battery power.

Not too exciting

Blocking ads and trackers has long been known to improve browser performance. In 2017, browser maker Opera reported that on desktop browsers, ads and associated code account for more than half the load time of web pages. Also, it said that laptop battery life drops by about 13 per cent when ad blocking is disabled.

Earlier this month, a former Google engineer published details on the performance cost imposed by third-party advertising and analytics scripts. And the resource usage of such code has been known for years. Back in 2011, researchers from Stanford University and Deutsche Telekom published a report on mobile browser energy consumption and found JavaScript is "one of the most energy consuming components in a web page," along with CSS and images.

It's worth noting that JavaScript on mobile phones takes significantly more time to parse and execute – 2x to 5x – than it does on desktops, so stripping out JS tracking and ad code is beneficial.

But Brave owes its efficiency to more than just exiling ads. It also also bested ad blocking browsers, or so the company claims, with battery savings of about 20 per cent. That's the result of lower CPU usage, the company contends.

Via Twitter DM, Brave CEO Brendan Eich explained one of Brave's advantages over Firefox and the Firefox-based Adblock Browser. "We block using native C++ code from the network thread," he said. "Not JavaScript from an extension."

In terms of bandwidth consumption, however, Brave scores about as low as the Adblock Browser.

Brave's benchmarks may soon change however: the company last month began testing opt-in ads in its developer build, and is in the process of making its own ad system more widely available. ®

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