Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

Memory Efficiency Benchmarks

Web Browser Grand Prix 9: Chrome 17, Firefox 10, And Ubuntu
By

We use the Internet's Top 40 Web sites (according to Quantcast) for our memory and page load reliability testing. Unlike our startup and page load times, this test uses live sites; the test sites are not hosted on our local Web server.

Chrome's memory usage is measured through its about:memory flag, while the other browsers are measured with the Windows Task Manager/Ubuntu System Monitor. Each browser is opened with the Google homepage as the only tab. Memory usage is recorded, and then the additional 39 tabs are loaded. Once all tabs report as loaded, we inspect each page for broken elements and reload any pages that have not opened properly before recording the 40-tab memory usage.

Next we close all tabs except the original one containing Google's homepage and re-record the memory totals. Finally, we wait two minutes and record the final memory usage figure.

Memory Usage

Single-Tab

IE9 is the least memory-hungry browser when only displaying one tab, consuming less than 30 MB. Firefox rolls into second place at roughly 63 MB. Safari is close behind in third place, using 65 MB. Opera falls to fourth, while Chrome takes last place.

In Ubuntu, Chrome uses the least amount of memory to display a single tab. Firefox places second, and Opera uses the most memory.

Forty Tabs

Safari moves into the top position after getting hit with 40 loaded tabs. Firefox is close behind in second place, while Opera places third. Chrome uses nearly 1.2 GB of memory, and Internet Explorer uses more than a gig and a half.

In Ubuntu, Firefox 10 takes the lead, using 662 MB (nearly 75 MB less than Safari's winning total in Windows 7). Opera places second, and Chrome comes in last place, using just under 1.5 GB.

Memory Management

-39 Tabs

After closing 39 of the 40 tabs, IE9 immediately approaches its pre-40-tab memory total of just 40 MB. Chrome drops down to 140 MB, taking second. Firefox is close behind in third place, while Safari trails behind in fourth. Opera places dead last at just over 450 MB.

In Ubuntu, Chrome takes the win at only 109 MB, beating its Windows 7 total. Firefox uses 666 MB in Linux, while Opera still hangs on to nearly 800 MB, both significantly higher than their Windows-based builds.

-39 Tabs + Two Minutes

After an additional two minutes, all five Windows-based browsers maintain the totals we've already seen.

In Ubuntu, Firefox drops down to only 155 MB, which still earns it second place. That's much better than Opera's 800 MB finish, though.

Overall, Internet Explorer and Chrome are the winners during periods of light usage. They also seem to manage memory best. Safari and Firefox shine more prominently during heavy loads. Chrome and IE9, however, are hogs when it comes to heavy use, and Opera for Linux demonstrates poor management.

Ask a Category Expert

Create a new thread in the Reviews comments forum about this subject

Example: Notebook, Android, SSD hard drive

Display all 87 comments.
This thread is closed for comments
Top Comments
  • 11 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , February 21, 2012 3:45 AM
    IMO, Firefox is concentrating more on HTML5, ignoring CSS and JavaScript.
    It does well in HTML5 benches but 99% of the websites use primarily CSS and JS and HTML3, in which Firefox does poorly.

  • 11 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , February 21, 2012 3:42 AM
    just wondering if use of a DX11 capable GPU will change scores in some HTML5 and other benchmarks as the browsers use DX11 assisted rendering.

    Also, AMD driver support in linux is poor compared to Nvidia.
    For future Linux articles, can you use a Dx11 based Nvidia GPU?
Other Comments
  • 11 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , February 21, 2012 3:42 AM
    just wondering if use of a DX11 capable GPU will change scores in some HTML5 and other benchmarks as the browsers use DX11 assisted rendering.

    Also, AMD driver support in linux is poor compared to Nvidia.
    For future Linux articles, can you use a Dx11 based Nvidia GPU?
  • 11 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , February 21, 2012 3:45 AM
    IMO, Firefox is concentrating more on HTML5, ignoring CSS and JavaScript.
    It does well in HTML5 benches but 99% of the websites use primarily CSS and JS and HTML3, in which Firefox does poorly.

  • 8 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , February 21, 2012 3:46 AM
    Waiting for OPERA12. It keeps impressing me.
    Even without hardware acceleration, it keeps up with the competition,

    When that beast launches, it will kill FF/IE and most probably chrome too.
  • 3 Hide
    PreferLinux , February 21, 2012 4:45 AM
    Who wants to guess that the poor Linux Flash and WebGL results were because Flash and WebGL don't use hardware acceleration with that graphics card and driver? I would be thinking so.
  • -2 Hide
    mitch074 , February 21, 2012 5:10 AM
    Firefox performance took a dive starting with version 4, where all hardware acceleration was disabled: before then, in version 3.6, XRENDER was used when available (it was 4/5th as fast as IE9 on the same PC) while it is now really slow - it's all software.

    Moreover, the only driver enabled for hardware acceleration on Linux is the Nvidia driver: according to Mozilla (and verified by yours truly on AMD and Intel hardware), most display drivers in Linux suck when it comes to 2D rendering - ouch. Note that Mozilla and Google could add shims to circumvent those bugs, but they don't -not worth the effort, especially when driver makers could fix their bugs rather easily, leaving the browsers broken yet again.
  • 6 Hide
    indian-art , February 21, 2012 5:23 AM
    I use Chrome (19.0.1041.0 dev presently) the most on Linux (Ubuntu) and empirically I felt Chrome works very well. Now your tests confirm it.

    I find Opera 12 really nice too. It can run with Opera 11.61. Opera 12 has a silver icon & 11.61 has its classic red. I like Firefox & Epiphany too.

    Its a shame Safari and IE are not truly cross-platform.
  • 5 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , February 21, 2012 5:36 AM
    how many of those top 40 sites use HTML5?

    i think that the HTML5 scores should be weighed by a factor of the percent of top40 sites that use HTML5.
    This way actual importance of HTML5 can be judged in real world.
  • -5 Hide
    nd22 , February 21, 2012 5:38 AM
    It's a shame Apple does not pay enough attention to the Windows market and optimize their browser! On Mac Safari is king of the hill - personal opinion of course!
    On Windows I feel that IE9 works really well for me, although Chrome is the speed demon! FF 4+ lost their appeal for me.
  • 6 Hide
    forestie , February 21, 2012 6:55 AM
    The OSes that are used are 64 bits but the browsers are mostly (all?) 32bits on Windows, and probably 64bits on Linux.

    Internet Explorer has 64bits builds on Win7, and Firefox has "almost" a 64bits browser on Windows too: Waterfox, which is a semi-official Firefox for 64bits Windows. Waterfox in particular claims huge improvements over base 32bits install, I would like to see how that translates into real-world.

    Not sure about availability of 64bits editions of other browsers on Windows.

    Here are my wishes:
    -clearly mention if the 32bits or 64bits version of the browser is used
    -where applicable and relevant, test with both 32bits and 64bits variants. I would like to see IE and FF split into 32 and 64 variants on Win for example.

    I personally migrated from FF to WF on my machines 3 weeks ago and find it noticeably faster in everyday use. WF is now my main browser.
  • 1 Hide
    doive1231 , February 21, 2012 7:27 AM
    As long as phones keep using Android, Chrome will be the most popular browser for a long while. Google have got it all sorted.
  • 6 Hide
    mll0576 , February 21, 2012 7:36 AM
    One test that is missing in almost all browser test is memory leak over time

    I find almost all browsers require more and more memory the longer they run

    Example: Chrome 17: 8 new tabs =1500MB
  • 5 Hide
    Marcus52 , February 21, 2012 8:06 AM
    Quote:
    If you caught our recent review and cross-platform benchmarks of Ubuntu 11.10, you saw that Ubuntu won most of the tests, especially in segments where it simply cannot compete, like gaming.


    This sentence makes no sense to me. how can it "win" where it "simply cannot compete"?

    ;) 
  • 1 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , February 21, 2012 8:35 AM
    Quote:
    The OSes that are used are 64 bits but the browsers are mostly (all?) 32bits on Windows, and probably 64bits on Linux.

    Internet Explorer has 64bits builds on Win7, and Firefox has "almost" a 64bits browser on Windows too: Waterfox, which is a semi-official Firefox for 64bits Windows. Waterfox in particular claims huge improvements over base 32bits install, I would like to see how that translates into real-world.

    Not sure about availability of 64bits editions of other browsers on Windows.

    Here are my wishes:
    -clearly mention if the 32bits or 64bits version of the browser is used
    -where applicable and relevant, test with both 32bits and 64bits variants. I would like to see IE and FF split into 32 and 64 variants on Win for example.

    I personally migrated from FF to WF on my machines 3 weeks ago and find it noticeably faster in everyday use. WF is now my main browser.



    IE9 64 bit performs very bad in comparison to the 32 bit builds.

    For firefox/waterfox, on Windows, using 64 bit builds has the following

    1. Native performance increase due to 64 bit.
    2. Performance degradation due to the fact that the MSVC does not have the same memory optimizations for 64 bit as for 32 bit.
    so overall the experience of 64 bit FF/WF is the same as 32 bit builds.
    For 64 bit Ubuntu, you get the 64 bit FF by default..

    For a really great optimised FF, use PALEMOON.

    @AdamOvera : 32/64 bit should be clearly mentioned in the article.
  • 1 Hide
    Chetou , February 21, 2012 8:54 AM
    mll0576One test that is missing in almost all browser test is memory leak over time I find almost all browsers require more and more memory the longer they runExample: Chrome 17: 8 new tabs =1500MB


    Memory benchmarks are almost useless in WBGP. Browsers leak, and Firefox leaks ALOT. But that is not the only problem. Opera works ok even when it fills up RAM, but Firefox becomes close to useless when it gets RAM deprived.
  • 3 Hide
    ivyanev , February 21, 2012 9:16 AM
    Quote:
    but Firefox becomes close to useless when it gets RAM deprived.

    Nothing works well when ram is full.
    And bashing Opera for doing things different is a shame:o pera don't release RAM but opening closed tab is almost instant ,so they sacrifice RAM for speed.
  • 5 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , February 21, 2012 9:25 AM
    in FF, when it begans to use 1GB+ memory, it becomes sluggish.
    So it is eating RAM AND becoming slow. I dont mind it eating RAM but it has to be responsive then.
  • 2 Hide
    cirslevin , February 21, 2012 10:36 AM
    mayankleoboy1IMO, Firefox is concentrating more on HTML5, ignoring CSS and JavaScript.It does well in HTML5 benches but 99% of the websites use primarily CSS and JS and HTML3, in which Firefox does poorly.

    indeed in your opinion.

    Maze solver is only one test among hundreds of things CSS does. If you want to argue about what 99% of websites use. then remember 99.9999999999% of websites don't use maze solver. For 99% of the websites, I would argue firefox does excellent job on CSS.

    Firefox has focused on js speed for years with dedicated team, and with current benchmark (overall 2nd), you still claim it perform "poorly"? Its hard to argue you don't have prejudice here.

    99 % of websites use HTML3? please, you argument is like mixture of 1980s and 2020s, whatever way you can put down firefox.

    If you dislike firefox, state it, no need to hide behind the fake data.
  • -1 Hide
    Chetou , February 21, 2012 11:02 AM
    mayankleoboy1in FF, when it begans to use 1GB+ memory, it becomes sluggish.So it is eating RAM AND becoming slow. I dont mind it eating RAM but it has to be responsive then.


    Yes, exactly! It's as if something brakes in Firefox when it gets over 1 GB and Opera is mostly unaffected. I have seen many reports of this, and across all FF versions. That was the main reason I was using Opera for a long time, but I can't stand some of the things they've been doing since late 10 versions. So I'm stuck with terrible Firefox performance, but at least it's customizable. It is its only saving grace.
  • -2 Hide
    Chetou , February 21, 2012 11:14 AM
    These kind of tests and comparisons are mostly useless. Only using the browser over a couple of days with 100+ tabs is what really shows its strengths and weaknesses, usability, performance, reliability...
  • 5 Hide
    mayne92 , February 21, 2012 11:46 AM
    Great review Adam!
Display more comments