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Efficiency Benchmarks: Memory Usage And Management

Web Browser Grand Prix 3: IE9 Enters The Race
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This page ends our performance-based benchmarks, which used to make up the entirety of the WBGP. Now we'll switch gears and look at efficiency; specifically, memory efficiency.

Memory Usage

We open each browser with just one tab, in this case Google.com. We then wait five minutes and record the memory usage numbers from Windows Task Manager. We then open 39 more tabs (the rest of the Quantcast Top 40), wait five more minutes, and again record the memory usage. These first two figures give us an idea how much system memory each Web browser uses, one with a full load of tabs, the other at near idle.

Single Tab

Microsoft's new creation steals the show, consuming only 18 megabytes with a single tab. Previous efficiency champ Chrome drops to second place, using 27 megabytes. Always good for light systems, Firefox only uses 40 MB. Opera ties up just over 50 MB, while Safari hogs almost 100 megabytes.

40 Tabs

Firefox is again the most frugal Web browser for memory usage under heavy load, utilizing only 256 MB to display 40 tabs. Apple's Safari comes in second, employing 800 MB of system RAM, while Opera uses 850 MB. Both Chrome and Internet Explorer 9 use the most amount of system memory to fully load 40 tabs. Chrome uses just shy of one gigabyte, while IE9 uses 1.2 GB.

Memory Management

After we record the memory usage from the 40 tab load, we close 39 of the tabs, leaving only Google.com open. After five minutes, we record the memory usage to see how much system memory the browser gives back. Finally, we wait another five minutes to see if the overall memory usage continues to drop. After closing the browser, we again look at the total system memory to see if any of the applications hang onto or lose memory after being closed. This has not yet happened with any of the browsers tested in the WBGP.

-39 Tabs (5 minutes)

In another serious blow to the previous efficiency king (Google Chrome), IE9 uses less memory after closing all but one of the 40 tabs. Chrome still manages memory extremely efficiently though, holding onto only 42 MB after returning to a single tab. After five minutes, Firefox keeps less than 100 megabytes, a little more than twice the amount of memory before the extra 39 tabs were opened. Fourth-place finisher Safari keeps 330 MB, over three times its original single-tab total. Opera is weak in this area, keeping over 420 MB after closing all but one tab. That's over eight times the single-tab total.

-39 Tabs (10 minutes)

After an additional five minutes, Internet Explorer 9, Chrome, and Firefox remain in the same order. Safari also remains the same, though Opera drops down to 330 MB, beating Safari for the number four spot. At 330 MB, Opera still holds six times the memory of its single-tab load. Safari keeps three times its single-tab load, while Firefox doubles its usage.

Only Chrome and IE9 take memory usage down to less than twice their original one-tab totals, which are already the lowest of the bunch.

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  • 20 Hide
    andy5174 , March 21, 2011 4:25 AM
    Will there be a " Web Browser Grand Prix 4: Firefox 4 Enters The Race " after Firefox 4's release (22 Mar)?
  • 19 Hide
    turboflame , March 21, 2011 4:34 AM
    I like how this article was released one day before Firefox 4 is released.
Other Comments
  • 3 Hide
    pirateboy , March 21, 2011 4:17 AM
    I wonder how much microsoft paid tomshardware not to include Firefox 4 RC1
  • 1 Hide
    cruiseoveride , March 21, 2011 4:18 AM
    Now everyone is going to switch from Chrome to IE?
  • 0 Hide
    bison88 , March 21, 2011 4:18 AM
    Nice comparison Adam. I think people don't give MS credit for IE9 because of their history with web standards and lack of competition with updating their browser since they destroyed Netscape so many years ago. Hopefully they have their head in the game and continue with a somewhat constant update cycle. Currently the transition from IE8 to IE9 was somewhat FireFox'ish with speed instead of waiting for another revision of the OS. The browser definitely surprised me, some quirks here and there that are definitely noticeable and the Chrome/FF influence is obviously present. I wish them luck as the competition heats up.
  • 20 Hide
    andy5174 , March 21, 2011 4:25 AM
    Will there be a " Web Browser Grand Prix 4: Firefox 4 Enters The Race " after Firefox 4's release (22 Mar)?
  • 1 Hide
    illuminatuz , March 21, 2011 4:28 AM
    i felt the speed once i switched from firefox to chrome and now chrome to IE..
    but there is no mention of any addon/extentions for IE..
    i mean there is no comparision on who's got nice addons and startup time "with" addons.. since users tend to use web browsers with addons knowingly or un-knowingly..
    it would be better if you include those two comparisions as well.. and who takes advantage of GPU and all..
  • -2 Hide
    winner4455 , March 21, 2011 4:29 AM
    Won't take that long for IE to lag behind.
  • 1 Hide
    illuminatuz , March 21, 2011 4:33 AM
    winner4455Won't take that long for IE to lag behind.

    lol
    maybe not!!
    and FFS why doesnt that "submit my comment" button not working in IE!! I am using chrome for that ;(
  • 19 Hide
    turboflame , March 21, 2011 4:34 AM
    I like how this article was released one day before Firefox 4 is released.
  • 7 Hide
    dimamu15 , March 21, 2011 4:37 AM
    duck it, i stick to firefox.
  • 1 Hide
    Scanlia , March 21, 2011 4:38 AM
    Is there a wrong picture on the efficiency page? The 40tabs graph comes up as GUIMark 2?
  • 1 Hide
    IzzyCraft , March 21, 2011 4:38 AM
    The 40 Tabs chart is wrong for Efficiency Benchmarks: Memory Usage And Management it shows flash vector charting.

    pirateboyI wonder how much microsoft paid tomshardware not to include Firefox 4 RC1

    Then they would have to include every random nightly build of every browser? Comparing the latest release is fair you'll always get one browser or two that is near a new stable version but that's just how it works.

    winner4455Won't take that long for IE to lag behind.

    depends in Microsoft moves up an update schedule that doesn't just include making the browser more secure and fixing bugs. IE8 was pretty snappy back when it was first out it got old in like 3 months compared to other browsers though.
  • 0 Hide
    adamovera , March 21, 2011 4:43 AM
    pirateboyI wonder how much microsoft paid tomshardware not to include Firefox 4 RC1

    We only test final products in the WBGP.
    andy5174Will there be a " Web Browser Grand Prix 4: Firefox 4 Enters The Race " after Firefox 4's release (22 Mar)?

    turboflameI like how this article was released one day before Firefox 4 is released.

    Where are ya'll getting a set date from?
    illuminatuzi felt the speed once i switched from firefox to chrome and now chrome to IE..but there is no mention of any addon/extentions for IE.. i mean there is no comparision on who's got nice addons and startup time "with" addons.. since users tend to use web browsers with addons knowingly or un-knowingly..it would be better if you include those two comparisions as well.. and who takes advantage of GPU and all..

    We add/modify tests every time with the WBGP. We're already looking into those suggestions.
    ScanliaIs there a wrong picture on the efficiency page? The 40tabs graph comes up as GUIMark 2?

    Doh! Fixing that now.
  • 3 Hide
    andy5174 , March 21, 2011 4:51 AM
    Quote:
    Where are ya'll getting a set date from?


    http://groups.google.com/group/mozilla.dev.planning/browse_thread/thread/d7cd3c9e9650b1b3
  • -2 Hide
    molo9000 , March 21, 2011 4:53 AM
    Wait a second. Did they really include Safari? Who uses Safari for Windows?
    (I'm assuming they tested the Windows version of Safari, because why would you compare browsers for different systems?)

    I'm sticking with Opera on my Windows machine and Safari on my Mac.
  • 4 Hide
    Benihana , March 21, 2011 4:54 AM
    To be honest I did not read this article, because you're using the "latest and greatest" browsers, but somehow jumped a day early and didn't wait for FF4. Maybe you mentioned it in the article, but if not, then was it really so bad to wait an additional 1-2 days to do this?
  • 0 Hide
    DjEaZy , March 21, 2011 4:58 AM
    ... don't know... but this all is not my experience... why there is no firefox 4.0 RC2 ????
  • 0 Hide
    jezzarisky , March 21, 2011 5:01 AM
    adamoveraWhere are ya'll getting a set date from?



    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/03/16/mozilla_ship_firefox_4_22_march/

    Although most websites link to this website, so perhaps it was nothing more than a rumor.
  • 0 Hide
    andy5174 , March 21, 2011 5:11 AM
    Quote:
    Wait a second. Did they really include Safari? Who uses Safari for Windows?
    (I'm assuming they tested the Windows version of Safari, because why would you compare browsers for different systems?)

    I'm sticking with Opera on my Windows machine and Safari on my Mac.

    Opera sucks balls in memory management and lacks handy add-on such as Tab Mix Plus (which is same for Chrome). I would definitely move to Opera if it has these 2 issues fixed.
  • 0 Hide
    luc2k , March 21, 2011 5:12 AM
    https://wiki.mozilla.org/Firefox/4/Beta

    This article looks like a case of premature e.. something.
  • -3 Hide
    adamovera , March 21, 2011 5:12 AM
    andy5174http://groups.google.com/group/moz [...] 9e9650b1b3

    On the 16th he said RC1 would become the final code on the 22nd, but they released an RC2 since. I don't believe them anymore. Where is an official announcement or press release? RC1 was supposed to be here in November 2010. WBGP3 was going to feature FF4 at the end of 2010, then again at the end of this Feb. IE9 gave a date, so WBGP3 was made to coincide with its release. IF Firefox 4 launches tomorrow, it's purely coincidental. We stopped holding the WBGP series up for FF4 when MS officially gave their IE9 release date.
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