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Loading MacBook Air with Flash cuts 2 hours of battery life

updated 10:00 pm EDT, Thu November 4, 2010

MacBook Air Flash may have left due to battery

Apple's decision to remove Flash from the default configuration of a new MacBook Air and future Macs may have had as much to do with battery life as version updating, testing discovered today. New benchmarks found the 11-inch model getting an above-spec six hours of battery life with the default no-Flash install and several websites open but just four with those same websites and the latest version of Flash. Test conductor Ars Technica noted that the constant cycling of Flash banner ads on those sites was the likely culprit as it kept the CPU constantly active instead of letting it step down.

The results parallel similar results obtained for higher-performace MacBook Pro models in the past. Anandtech has regularly checked browsing both with and without Flash and has usually seen major declines in running time whenever Flash was a significant component.

Adobe had mitigated some earlier concerns about battery life by bringing GPU acceleration to the Mac version of its plugin, but on all platforms it still primarily relies significantly on the processor for rendering animations and video. While not given as a reason for removing the default install of Flash for the desktop, battery life and resource usage were cornerstones for Steve Jobs' opposition to Flash on the iPhone. Android phone using Flash can run some sites well but are also discouraged from running large-format video and usually see a significant drop-off in battery life with frequent use.

No response has come from Adobe to the battery findings.

By Electronista Staff


  1. Paul Huang

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: Sep 1999


    Right. stop global warming, stop flash

    Now we know whom to blame.

  1. Fast iBook

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Mar 2003



    Proof that flash's days are numbered.

    - A

  1. Eug

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: Dec 2000


    That's just common sense, but is missing the point

    It's just common sense that using more CPU cycles will use up more battery power. However, while it's true that Flash is overly bloated and probably uses too many CPU cycles for its functionality, the greater truth here is that it's compute-intensive ads in general that are the problem.

    What people forget is that if Flash dies, it will simply be replaced by something else. Most are betting that HTML 5 will fill the void… so instead of Flash ads eating up extra precious CPU cycles, it will be HTML 5 ads eating up precious CPU cycles.

    One wonders if HTML 5 ads will be even worse. The good thing about Flash is that you can simply just refuse to install it if you don't want to have it. Steve Jobs did that with the iPhone and iPad and has even done that with new Macs as well. OTOH, HTML 5 will be part of every new browser, and will offer all the annoying versatility that Flash offers now for ads, and more.

    I'm not a fan of Flash myself, but those out there who think the death of Flash will get rid of all the annoyances that Flash is associated with now, you are going to be very disappointed.

  1. facebook_Justin

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Nov 2010


    comment title

    What kind of idiot puts that pile of crapware on any computer in the first place? What's next, putting viruses on a PC and then complaining the PC isn't working properly?

  1. Foxypaco

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Apr 2010


    Adobe should...

    Offer an optional solar-powered usb ac adapter with every Flash download.

  1. iKenny

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Apr 2002


    click to flash

    i just installed the plugin ClickToFlash (which is amazing!!) and the battery life on my macbook pro has improved dramatically. i think i'm getting 50% longer battery life (I browse the internet a LOT) also safari doesn't freeze up anymore while some inane video-containing ad is loading on i think all this negative press is going to start having an impact on flash's adoption in the near future...

  1. facebook_Matthew

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Nov 2010


    Turning off JS also saves battery life

    As Eug points out, running animations and video simply consumes more battery life than static images. If the Flash install base shrinks expect more HTML based animated ads in the future and there's been a number of benchmarks showing some cases where HMTL5 canvas tag is slower and takes up more CPU than Flash does.

    Also you can extend battery life by turning off JavaScript, CSS and images and just reading plain text off of websites. However, most people would like to have an interactive web, rather than going to such extremes.

  1. Feathers

    Grizzled Veteran

    Joined: Oct 1999


    Independent Verification

    Finally we have third party verification. Ars and Anandtech could never be accused of a pro-Apple bias, so this is great news for Steve and seriously bad news for Adobe, who have remained remarkably silent so far. Usually, one of their zealot bloggers would have lashed out by now, but I guess the truth is a bit too much of a problem this time for the Adobe Tea Party.

  1. gmsquires

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jul 2009


    Doing without Flash installed

    John Gruber on Daring Fireball provided an excellent way to avoid installing Flash on one's computer, and just using the new Safari extensions to force HTML 5 for sites such as YouTube. His option for using Flash when one absolutely had a need was to setup an autoload hot key sequence to open the current web page into Chrome. It has Flash built in and Flash is only running while Chrome is open and running.

  1. AmiGod

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jan 2010


    What about Windows-based Laptops?

    It would be interesting to find out about battery life on a Windows-based laptop with and without Flash installed. I don't plan on ever buying a Windows-based product, but if the tests proved that the same battery problems arise from the Windows laptops, then it would prove that Flash, overall, is bad for all battery-powered devices. Not a good sign for a company like Adobe who is stuck dealing with an massive influx of battery-powered devices.

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