The latest version of Google Chrome has a neat new feature that prevents background tabs from sapping your laptop’s battery. This can prolong browsing time significantly when multitasking on the go. Here are the details.
Google Chrome recently overtook Internet Explorer to become the world’s most popular web browser. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a battery hog when you’ve got multiple tabs open on your tablet or laptop. If you’re running old hardware it can also make productivity slow to a crawl due to the complexity of modern web sites.
The good news is that the latest desktop version of Chrome (version 57) – which is available to download now – is much better at handling background processes and tabs. Here’s the spiel from Chrome’s official blog:
To prolong battery life, Chrome should minimize power impact from things users can’t see. This includes background tabs, which consume a third of Chrome’s power usage on desktop. Starting in version 57, Chrome will throttle individual background tabs by limiting the timer fire rate for background tabs using excessive power.
Chrome has focused on improving the user experience by throttling tab performance for many years. Like many browsers, Chrome has limited timers in the background to only run once per second. Via the new throttling policy, Chrome 57 will delay timers to limit average CPU load to 1% of a core if an application uses too much CPU in background. Tabs playing audio or maintaining real-time connections like WebSockets or WebRTC won’t be affected.
We’ve found that this throttling mechanism leads to 25% fewer busy background tabs. In the long-term, the ideal is for background tabs to be fully suspended and instead rely on new APIs for service workers to do work in the background. Chrome will continue to take steps in this direction to prolong users’ battery life, while still enabling all the same experiences developers can build today.
There are exceptions to what types of tabs Chrome will throttle, however. Tabs that are playing music in the background won’t be throttled, and neither will tabs that use WebSockets or WebRTC such as the popular chat client Slack. This helps to ensure that the apps you want to run in the background continue to work as expected.
To manually get the latest version of Chrome, just go to Settings > About and check your latest version number; you’ll need to relaunch your web browser to install the latest version.