Adobe's Flash reduces battery life 33%, says review
Things keep getting worse for Adobe's Flash. Apple - which is now officially the third largest vendor of personal computers in the US - shipped its new MacBook Airs without Flash installed. That isn't the story, though - the story is what happens to the battery life when someone puts Flash on one of those beasties.
The MacBook Air is a lovely piece of kit. I got mine on Wednesday - the 4Gb 13 inch version - and it's super fast, helped in part by the absence of a hard drive. Apple replaced its drive with flash memory, which works much faster than a traditional mechanical drive. But that's the only Flash you'll find in the system. The other type of Flash - Adobe's software plug-in, which plays interactive multimedia animations in your browser - is notably absent.
Steve Jobs has a real hate-on for Flash plug-ins. In the past, he has called it buggy and insecure, which didn't do much to strengthen the firm's relationship with Adobe. But the other big issue, which Jobs didn't explore in depth, was battery life.
Ars Technica, a trusted source of in-depth product reviews, said that putting Flash onto the MacBook Air reduced the unit's battery life by up to a third in testing:
"With a handful of websites loaded in Safari, Flash-based ads kept the CPU running far more than seemed necessary, and the best time I recorded with Flash installed was just 4 hours. After deleting Flash, however, the MacBook Air ran for 6:02—with the exact same set of websites reloaded in Safari, and with static ads replacing the CPU-sucking Flash versions."
That's a pretty clear indictment of Flash, and it isn't the first time someone has researched the issue. In an informal study, researcher Robert Hansen tried visiting a selection of web sites, first allowing the Flash advertisements on the sites to run, and then blocking them. He found his PC using 20% less power when Flash ads were blocked.
I guess it's not a concern if you're not conscious of power usage, and if you're always using a computer that's plugged into a power socket. But it does leave rather a nasty taste in the mouth, doesn't it? What would be really interesting is seeing how much time HTML 5 sites that used animations and video took away from battery life.
In any case, the best quote goes to this commentator on the Engadget post that first bought this to our attention, arguing why Apple shouldn't install Flash on MacBooks:
1. Number 1 reason why Macs crash
2. Kills the battery life
3. Harms kittens
Danny Bradbury, MSN Tech & Gadgets