Flash: Sucking the Life Out of Your MacBook Air Battery

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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?

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