Intel is working to make Chrome – and other browsers – less power-hungry

Two common complaints about Chrome are that it’s a memory hog and that it gulps power by the mouthful. The memory issue is likely to persist for the foreseeable future, but Intel has plans that could turn the browser into more of a power sipper.

In a discussion on the Chromium bug-tracking website, an Intel engineer suggests Chrome could make use of processor’s RGB10 overlay support when outputting HDR content to help reduce power consumption.

As Chromium is at the heart of more than just Google Chrome, the change would affect numerous other browsers – including the new version of Microsoft Edge – if it is implemented. But the power improvements would not be felt by everyone, and this could cause Chromium developers think long and hard before taking action.

As the suggestion comes from an Intel engineer, it is not surprising that the optimisations would benefit Intel users. But even then, only a percentage of system with Intel processors would see any improvement.

Writing on the Chromium bug-tracker, an Intel engineer (known only as Richard) said: “Intel platforms since Icelake begin to support outputting HDR content through it’s [sic] ovelay [sic] tech with RGBA10 format. Enable this feature would provide better energy performance on devices based on Icelake or above.”

Power improvements

As Richard notes, RGB10 overlay support is only available on Intel’s tenth generation Ice Lake chips, and those that came after it. While Ice Lake is widely used, there are plenty of older computer – and non-Intel systems – that would see no benefit from the change.

It’s hard to say quite when the power optimization will arrive – or even that it definitely will, for that matter – but it’s unlikely to be any time soon. Google has already announced that the impact of the coronavirus pandemic means there will be no new versions of Chrome for the time-being, so we’ll probably have to wait until fewer people are on lockdown around the world.