Web Browser Grand Prix 2: The Top 5 Tested And Ranked

Benchmark Results: Memory Usage And Management

We modified our memory tests in accordance with some of the comments from the first article. Instead of just looking at how much memory each browser used, we also focused on how well that memory was managed. In the previous article, we tested each browser with ten, five, and a single tab open in a single browser window. This time, we took readings for a single tab after displaying google.com for five minutes. We then opened 39 more tabs, using sites that round out the Quantcast Top 40, ensuring that each site had fully loaded. After five minutes, a screen shot of Windows Task Manager was taken to record memory usage. We then closed all the tabs except the original containing google.com. We again waited five minutes before recording the numbers. Finally, we let the browser rest for an additional five minutes to see if the memory usage had dropped any further.

We performed this sequence of testing three times per browser. As stated on the previous page, we used live Web sites for this test. Too many of the top 40 sites are content-driven pages with scrolling headlines. Saving them to the hard drive would have lost content, and therefore provided a lower memory reading than real-world usage.

Single Tab

IE8 uses the least amount of memory in a single tab. Safari follows closely, with Chrome and Firefox in third and fourth (respectively). Opera uses the most memory in a single tab, more than twice as much as Microsoft's browser.

40 Tabs

Unfortunately, Apple Safari would not open 40 tabs at once. After nearly two hours, Safari only managed to fully open eight tabs of the forty-tab load. While the browser is capable of doing this, we found that the app maxes out our test system's CPU. A recreation of the benchmark was done on a top-of-the-line Core i7 rig, and though Safari took a noticeable time to completely load all of the tabs, it did finish. We ended up having to open each of the forty tabs one at a time for this benchmark to work.

Under the heavy load of 40 tabs, Firefox is the king of intelligent memory use. Mozilla's browser only monopolizes 230 megabytes with all forty Web pages fully loaded. Firefox demolishes second-place finisher Opera, which uses almost 710 megabytes. Opera is followed closely by Chrome, which uses just under 740 megabytes and Internet Explorer, which consumes nearly 850 MB. Apple's Safari uses the most amount of memory at just over one gigabyte.

Side Note: Proper Page Loads

During the 40-tab test, we noticed how each of the browsers performed when completely loading and properly rendering Web pages. Chrome had trouble opening all 40 tabs correctly. A handful of the last few tabs did not load at all. And about half of those that loaded needed refreshing for missing or broken elements. Firefox, IE, and Opera did not have nearly as many broken pages, just a few here and there between the three iterations. Obviously, we had a heck of a time with Safari.

-39 Tabs

After closing all 39 additional tabs, leaving only Google open in a single tab, Google's Chrome returns nearly all of the previously-used system memory. Chrome only holds onto ten megabytes of excess RAM from the 39 closed tabs. This memory management is nothing short of exceptional. No other Web browser returns this amount of system memory after having so many tabs open. Even Firefox, which uses the least memory with a full load of tabs by far, returns less memory than Chrome (both in amount and in percentage). Firefox uses the second least amount of memory after closing 39 tabs, but only really returns half, holding onto 80 MB more than it had before the additional tabs were opened. Internet Explorer manages to surprise yet again, giving back three quarters of the 40-tab total. Safari also gives back three quarters of its 40-tab memory total, but that still puts it at 270 MB. Opera performs the worst in this arena, keeping over 350 megabytes after closing 39 of the forty tabs. Not only is this the largest amount of memory that a browser holds onto, but it is half of Opera's 40-tab total.

-39 Tabs: Five More Minutes

After an additional five minutes, Firefox gives back a noticeable amount of system memory (ten megabytes). Opera, on the other hand, gives back a more significant amount of RAM (90 MB). But the Norwegian Web browser still occupies last place. The other browsers showed no significant changes, and the placing remains the same.

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178 comments
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    Top Comments
  • mx2138
    I've been using Firefox for about to two years now. I can't get enough of adblock plus. One of my favorite plug-ins.
    21
  • makotech222
    FF4 also has hardware acceleration
    20
  • Anonymous
    But you know what, apple said they have the world's fastest browser. I think we should just pack up and call it a day. The spoken word of god is indisputable...
    14
  • Other Comments
  • The Lady Slayer
    July 7th - Firefox 4 beta released.
    Tom's impending road test STILL BEHIND THE TIMES
    -24
  • Anonymous
    I agree. Firefox 4 was supposed to have the major speed up (especially in startup time.)
    -17
  • Anonymous
    But you know what, apple said they have the world's fastest browser. I think we should just pack up and call it a day. The spoken word of god is indisputable...
    14
  • makotech222
    FF4 also has hardware acceleration
    20
  • Tamz_msc
    I'm very happy to see my beloved Firefox's performance.Whatever people say about Opera and Chrome, Firefox is the best IMO.And Apple is proved to be a liar from this article.
    7
  • Poisoner
    Honestly, does browser speed matter?
    -25
  • Tamz_msc
    Forgot to add:I cant wait for the final release of FF 4!
    2
  • Maziar
    Great review,
    Have to wait for FF4 release to see how it performs compared to others
    9
  • mx2138
    I've been using Firefox for about to two years now. I can't get enough of adblock plus. One of my favorite plug-ins.
    21
  • wittermark
    lmao @ FFfanboys other review sites posted FF4 numbers, its performance is pathetic to say the least.
    2
  • wheredahoodat
    @Lady slayer, and Boi, this is only for stable releases. Notice that Chrome 6 is not benchmarked. FF4 is a beta, the final product is a long ways off. Judging on what they promising and what they implemented so far in the beta and nightly builds, I wouldn't be surprised if FF4 was delayed until early next year.
    14
  • Anonymous
    FF Fanboys always will be biases fanboys, but the fact is:
    Chrome and Opera are the best ones, the others are just slugs in a F1 race.
    That's the truth. Period.
    -8
  • the_krasno
    I care not for speed, but for usability. Chrome's minimalistic design fits my simple needs.
    3
  • Anonymous
    Using the Windows Task Manager to measure memory usage is flawed. Browsers like Chrome that use multiple processors will be incorrectly shown to use more memory than they actually are because of how memory is shared between each process. See http://google-chrome-browser.com/chromium-memory-usage-0 for more information.
    8
  • drudometkin
    Used Firefox for yearssss. Just started using chrome a couple months ago and can't go back to slow ugly Firefox. Love the single address and search bar, tabs on top, minimalist design and speed of chrome.
    3
  • Mark Heath
    First can we have an article like this every month or so, just like the graphics cards for the money articles?

    Second, to sum up the article imo, IE is a clear loser, Safari comes 4th trailing Firefox in 3rd, while Chrome and Opera are up ahead, close enough to say that they share 1st and 2nd, depending on updates.
    1
  • SchizoFrog
    Considering how many websites are yet to be optimised, crash or just do not work for Google Chrome I fail to understand how it can be classed as a winner. When it comes to everyday use for me Chrome is way behind other more established browsers.
    6
  • guid_aaa000001
    Firefox for Windows, Firefox for Mac OS X, Firefox for Linux & Firefox FTW.
    -7
  • Anonymous
    How can Opera be #1 when they don't even have a simple ad-blocker? Functionality is much more important than a few ms of loading.
    7
  • Lmeow
    I started using Opera on this computer and have loved it ever since. It's just... nice I suppose. Speed-wise 10.50 was quite a bit slower than Chrome, although when I upgraded to 10.60, I could feel a bit of a speed boost.
    9