Steve Jobs has repeatedly insisted that Flash is a resource-hog. A review of the 11-inch MacBook Air conducted by Ars Technica shows he’s quite right. The new Air shows a drop in battery life with Flash installed, at a cost of around two hours of use.


Steve Jobs has repeatedly insisted that Flash is a resource-hog. A review of the 11-inch MacBook Air conducted by Ars Technica shows he’s quite right. The new Air shows a drop in battery life with Flash installed, at a cost of around two hours of use.

The Air is marketed around the idea of portability, of which battery life is a major component.  A “long-lasting battery” is one of the four major features mentioned in Apple’s advertisements for its slim notebook. Ars claims that they weren’t intending to test the notebook’s interaction with Flash, while investigating these claims, but couldn’t ignore the obvious problems when the plugin, not pre-installed on the MacBook Air, is added to the mix:

Having Flash installed can cut battery runtime considerably—as much as 33 percent in our 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.

Ars is clear to state that, with light web surfing, users should be able to enjoy a full workday on a single charge. But heavy Flash usage, such as gaming and video, will usually require carrying your power adapter. In fact, many won’t encounter enough Flash through regular usage to merit a major problem if they don’t have the plugin installed, not with the success of HTML5.

As web developers debate over whether to use HTML5 (suggested by Jobs & widely considered more efficient) or stick with Flash, Apple continues to make the decision easier by not including Flash in its new machines, and now we see why. Adobe can’t be enjoying the media attention this latest development will bring to its web video and interactive media platform. Now that I’ve seen that it might actually impede performance, I’m going to try going without Flash entirely. Who else is jumping ship?

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

  1. Would clicktoflash solve the issue? One may want to load a flash content now and then…

  2. I think this needs looking into a bit more to ask questions like:

    Are there any performance improvements Adobe can make to Flash? and;
    How efficient and well written are most flash objects?

    I can’t help but feel that perhaps some of the blame should be on some flash developers creating poor, inefficient code and this could very well happen with HTML5.

    Also, with regard to videos, is it the Graphics card or Processor on the Air which is decoding videos?

    I think there is more than meets the eye here…

  3. If you could put directions on how to uninstall flash and reinstall, (in case I want it back) I would really consider jumping ship with you. I’m a student and I’m always after better battery life. It’s a pain to bring your charger to class and try to find a seat near an outlet.

  4. @Heath – Install Chrome on your Mac. It has a built-in flash plug-in so you can run Chrome when only flash will do.

  5. Already uninstalled Flash on my Mac and must say that the battery life seems even better than before with a much faster Safari browsing experience. The few times I come across flash, I look elsewhere for the same information in an HTML5 version and so far have had no issues finding such alternatives.

  6. Cool story, bro.

    Things that tax the system with actual work will drain the battery, period. HTML5 video isn’t going to make two licks’ worth of difference.

    1. Rocket Scientist Friday, November 5, 2010

      Wrong answer dude. Steve says it will and he is like sooooo much smarter than you.

      Consider yourself schooled !

    2. You have a good point. If advertisements and animations keep the processor running, why would HTML ads and animations not have the same effect on battery use? My understanding is that HTML5 simply passes the video off to Quicktime as a H.264 file. Is HTML5 and H.264 really that much more efficient at running the exact same thing as FLASH?

  7. Rodney Reynolds Friday, November 5, 2010

    Once again Steve is right. He is almost ALWAYS right. He was right on tablet computing when the so-called experts said FAIL. Go with Steve and you will be okay. If Steve says you don’t need Flash then YOU DON’T NEED FLASH !!!

    Some people are just dense and have fog on their brain, especially in the tech world. Unfortunately most people know just enough to get themselves in trouble.

    Best heed Steve’s warnings people ! It has been said by many experts over the years that “Steve is always the smartest man in the room”. Now you know why. Just another example.

    Wise Up People.

  8. Weird that the most awesome computer in the universe struggles so epically with Flash while the computer for the other 90% of us works just fine with it.

    1. Reality Check Friday, November 5, 2010

      I am a PC ! Last time i checked with the windows task manager it showed Flash 10.x was a cpu whore.

      Sorry but Flash is more than a bitch, its the Queen Bitch on my PC.

  9. This sounds like yet another argument for installing ad-blocking software. Not only will browsing be more comfortable, not only will your connection run faster, not only will your security be enhanced, but you will even experience better battery life….

  10. OR: the real problem could be companies like yours using Flash for evil, to create ever more annoying and in-your-face ads, instead of using it for good.

    Flash is a tool. It can be used for good (videos, games, interactive data) or evil (ads). Don’t blame Flash for the evils of ad providers or ad networks or the sites that use them. Blame it for a bad security model or poor QA that allows security holes to get through.


Comments have been disabled for this post