Blog Post

Flash: Sucking the Life Out of Your MacBook Air Battery

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

Steve Jobs has repeatedly insisted that Flash (s adbe) is a resource-hog. A review of the 11-inch MacBook Air (s aapl) 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):

24 Responses to “Flash: Sucking the Life Out of Your MacBook Air Battery”

  1. So, I read through the comments and I have seen several people suggesting that adobe fix Flash or there must be something wrong with Flash. I think the issue is with the Hardware. I uninstalled Flash from my MacBook Pro and then after a full charge, unplugged it and used it the entire life of the battery and noticed NO significant change in battery life.

    If the battery life on a MacBook Pro wasn’t affected, and only the MacBook Air is affected, then it’s probably an Apple issue and not an Adobe issue.

    But I understand that we need to keep demonizing Adobe because Steve said so. LOL!

    Anywho, I think it’s an issue with the Air especially since Flash did not change the battery life of my MacBook Pro.

    Thanks guys, love the articles!

  2. It is not very meaningful to compare Flash videos to static images. The proper comparison is to compare Flash video to other video technologies. If Flash video drains the battery in comparison to other video technologies that would be meaningful.

  3. So, um, no-one thinks if the web ran on HTML5/Silverlight instead of flash that the same resource/CPU hogging wouldn’t go on? A mix would be good. Agreed that leaving something out of an OS is a bit insane. Perhaps we could have fewer ads? I like my stuff free though so I’m not complaining.

    • Sleipner

      Even Micro$oft is jumping ship and downgrading Silverlight in favor of HTML5. I run win 7 64bit and flash sucks the life out of it.

      I think that flash should be relegated to a gaming platform and let html5 do the rest. Flash would be better if everyday flash writer would reduce what they program into it for ads and interaction, but for sites like newgrounds it’s their bread and butter.

      While I like flash sites for imaginative games, content by everyday people, I prefer to use the browser without flash when I’m actually working.

      As to whether it’s an apple thing or not, just crank open your process viewer and watch flash climb to the top in any browser that can handle it.

      Sorry to the community flash site developers but maybe you can place html5 ads in your game sites.

  4. Jahan Khan Rashid

    i might as well uninstall flash my pc games, apply windows 7 basic theme, put the brightness on to 1 out of 10 and not enjoy any form of entertainment at all on my laptop.

    the best way to test this would to have 2 laptops fully charged one using flash video etc constantly and another using html 5 vid etc method constantly. Although i do agree that ads are to blame.

  5. Here is another one to cheer you up: don’t watch any videos or play any music on your mac and you’ll save a bazillion hours of battery life. Don’t play any video games either… Lol I love pointless articles

    • Perhaps because they are tired of reading comments like the one that was posted by Rodney Reynolds above? Maybe life is not all about what the “Steve” says? But then, hey what do I know? Maybe we should ask Steve?

  6. spinedoc

    Cut off your nose to spite your face? I’d rather just use an adblocker, flash ads gone but I can still use flash if I want to. It’s amazing how much flash I encounter, and I’m so much more aware of it when for example browsing with my ipad.

  7. 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.

  8. Ian Kemmish

    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….

    • Reality Check

      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. Rodney Reynolds

    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.

  10. Cold Water

    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.

    • 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?

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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…