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Efficiency Benchmarks: Memory Management

Web Browser Grand Prix VI: Firefox 6, Chrome 13, Mac OS X Lion
By

We're tweaking the memory management testing methodology. Instead of recording the memory totals five minutes after closing 39 of the 40 tabs, we record the totals immediately. We also throw out the 10 minute totals. Ten minutes is just too long to wait for an application to return unused memory to the operating system. The 10 minute figure is replaced by five minutes.

-39 Tabs

While Chrome demonstrates heavy memory usage, it manages that memory superbly, giving back all but 75 MB to Windows immediately after closing 39 of the 40 tabs. IE9 is in second place, dropping its memory usage to just under 200 MB. Apple Safari takes third place with 325 MB. Firefox 6 holds onto nearly 400 MB, landing itself in fourth place, while Opera actually hits 400 MB, ensuring the Norwegian Web browser a last-place finish.

Chrome also wins in OS X, dropping from 1.8 GB to only 200 MB, which is still lower than any other browser's total in Windows 7. Opera comes in second with nearly 520 MB (not quite half of its 40-tab total). Surprisingly, Apple Safari only places third at 620 MB, just 110 MB less than the 40-tab count. Firefox 6 is the worst performer for immediate memory release on OS X, still using over 1 GB of RAM.

Five More Minutes

After an additional five minutes, Chrome remains firmly in the lead, now only using 50 MB. IE9 also retains second place, giving back another 70 MB to close at 130 MB. Firefox 6 jumps to third, dropping from nearly 400 MB to just over 250. Safari 5.1 loses an extra 60 MB, but not enough to keep Apple out of fourth place. Opera still uses the most memory, only releasing 40 MB more to Windows.

Chrome leads again after five minutes in OS X, dropping down another 70 MB to weigh in at 130 MB. Opera is still in second place at 510 MB, only dropping another 10 MB. Safari remains in third with 560 MB, just 55 MB less. Firefox 6 finally releases a significant amount (300 MB) of memory back to OS X. Unfortunately, that still leaves nearly 750 MB tied up.

Chrome and Internet Explorer are the clear winners in light-load memory usage and management. However, they also eat up the most memory under heavy load. Firefox and Safari are pretty much equals in Windows 7, and Opera still performs the worst when it comes to memory efficiency. However, on OS X it's Firefox that loses big, while Opera and Safari are close together in the middle. Overall, the Windows 7-based browsers have a substantial edge over their Mac OS X Lion counterparts in this discipline.

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  • 5 Hide
    ne0nguy , August 29, 2011 4:22 AM
    The first chart says "higher is better" for the load time
  • 2 Hide
    adamovera , August 29, 2011 4:29 AM
    ne0nguyThe first chart says "higher is better" for the load time

    thank you, workin' on it
  • 8 Hide
    SteelCity1981 , August 29, 2011 5:14 AM
    Chrome is the best browser out there right now. While FireFox maybe more popular then Chrome is, Chrome has shown why it is the best browser out today. If you haven't used Chrome yet it's def worth a look.
  • 0 Hide
    soccerdocks , August 29, 2011 5:14 AM
    The reader function in safari actually looks really nice. Although I'd never use Safari on principle. I hope other browsers implement a similar function.
  • 0 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , August 29, 2011 5:21 AM
    why does firefox(6/8/9) performa so horribly on the IE9 maze solover test?
    chrome13 completely obliterats it.

    and firefox 8/9 are still a memory hog.
    not really surprised by poor show of ie9. moat updates it gets are "security updates".
  • -5 Hide
    tofu2go , August 29, 2011 5:50 AM
    Being on a Macbook with only 3GB of memory, memory is the most important factor for me. I open a LOT of tabs and I keep them open for long periods. For awhile I used Chrome, but recently switched to Firefox 6 and saw my memory utilization drop by well over 1GB. Granted with Firefox I was able to do something I am not able to do in any other browser, I could group my tabs into tab groups. I believe this allows for more efficient memory management, i.e. only the current group uses much memory. Not having done any tests, this is pure speculation. All I know is that I'm seeing MUCH lower memory usage with Firefox on OSX. Despite what this article would suggest.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , August 29, 2011 6:00 AM
    @soccerdocks

    Yeah? And exactly what principle would that be?
  • -7 Hide
    andy5174 , August 29, 2011 6:09 AM
    @Google:
    Bring back the Google Dictionary, otherwise I will use Bing Search, Firefox and Facebook instead of Google Search, Chrome and G+.
  • 0 Hide
    kartu , August 29, 2011 6:34 AM
    Quote:
    Firefox 6 comes in third for both OSes, representing a major drop from Firefox 5.

    According to the graphic on "Reliability Benchmarks: Proper Page Loads" on MacOS Firefox is actually second, not third.
  • 2 Hide
    LaloFG , August 29, 2011 6:37 AM
    I keep Opera, more memory used and time to load pages is nothing when it load pages correctly; and the feeling in its interface is the greater.
  • 0 Hide
    noob2222 , August 29, 2011 6:53 AM
    while these articles are entertaining, giving straight points skews the results a bit IMO. I think it would give more insight to give percentages in the analysis tables rather than just ranking them. After all, giving 1 pt for 5% better result out of the 5 is 20%, kinda throws off actual performance.
  • 1 Hide
    adamovera , August 29, 2011 6:57 AM
    kartuAccording to the graphic on "Reliability Benchmarks: Proper Page Loads" on MacOS Firefox is actually second, not third.

    thank you, workin' on it
  • 7 Hide
    Anonymous , August 29, 2011 8:09 AM
    On OSX browser 'vendors' are denied access to certain os hooks that would make their browsers better than they are.
  • 1 Hide
    yankeeDDL , August 29, 2011 8:14 AM
    Nice overview: thank you.
    These "browser" GP are getting more and more complete and the're always very interesting.
    I have to say, I am a bit surprised to see FF being so close to Chrome now: kudos to Mozilla.
    I have been using FF since 1.0 and only recently coupled it with Chrome (it is just convenient for me to have 2 completely different setups).
    FF 7.0 should have a significant boost in memory efficiency: if everything else stays the same, we´ll have a new champion ...
    But if anythin is clear from these reviews, is that nothing stays the same for very long in the browser´s domain (well, except IE).
    Looking forward to GP7, whenever that will be.
  • 5 Hide
    Anonymous , August 29, 2011 8:40 AM
    Adam, you should have mentioned in the end that even if Safari won on OSX, the victory is a pyrrhic one as OSX lacks in Java and Silverlight plugin performance; OSX Lion is also very poor at system memory management and reliability.

    You should've put more emphasis on the actual scores and performances in tests rather than count the times when certain browsers placed 1st. Thus a browser that had a small advantage in more and minor tests and at the same time severe handicaps in more important but fewer tests would seem better, when technically it is not. Suggestion: tie all the candidates when the differences between them in a certain test are less than a single digit percent. Good article anyway.
  • 9 Hide
    cookoy , August 29, 2011 9:35 AM
    Quote:
    Mac OS X is capable of providing better results than Windows 7 in Flash, HTML5, WebGL, and the ever-important page load times.


    And to think Apple hates Flash...
  • 0 Hide
    damasvara , August 29, 2011 9:54 AM
    Tried Chrome, but somehow it doesn't behave the way I wanted. Browsing pages is faster with Firefox on 384 kbps internet. Makes me wonder...
  • 0 Hide
    adamovera , August 29, 2011 10:34 AM
    noob2222while these articles are entertaining, giving straight points skews the results a bit IMO. I think it would give more insight to give percentages in the analysis tables rather than just ranking them. After all, giving 1 pt for 5% better result out of the 5 is 20%, kinda throws off actual performance.

    There are no points in the analysis tables. They simply list how each browser rates per category of testing. The 'Strong' part of the table was added a long time ago and it basically means that it's right up there with the winner in terms of performance. When we get a solid point-based scoring system figured out 'Winner' will only receive a minor boost above 'Strong', whereas 'Strong' will receive a significant boost above 'Acceptable', and 'Acceptable' above 'Weak'. We're not there yet, but we're getting closer with every WBGP. The composite tests are a BIG step in that direction, and the new benchmark rankings further lay the groundwork for a fair scoring system which accurately reflects scale.
  • 0 Hide
    adamovera , August 29, 2011 10:51 AM
    tgreaderAdam, you should have mentioned in the end that even if Safari won on OSX, the victory is a pyrrhic one as OSX lacks in Java and Silverlight plugin performance; OSX Lion is also very poor at system memory management and reliability.You should've put more emphasis on the actual scores and performances in tests rather than count the times when certain browsers placed 1st. Thus a browser that had a small advantage in more and minor tests and at the same time severe handicaps in more important but fewer tests would seem better, when technically it is not. Suggestion: tie all the candidates when the differences between them in a certain test are less than a single digit percent. Good article anyway.

    The analysis tables were created to balance the raw placing tables. The problem with what you're saying is that you would have to decide which categories are more important than others. Is JavaScript more important than CSS? Is HTML5 more important than Flash? This is going to depend on who you ask. People who only watch Netflix with an HTPC will put mega emphasis on Silverlight perf, whereas the chronic YouTuber will be more concerned with Flash, and devs are going to gravitate towards standards conformance. Ranking benchmarks based on the importance of what they test isn't a one-size-fits-all type of thing with Web browsers. As far as your other suggestion, dealing with practical ties, this is something we definitely want to look into moving forward. Thanks!
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , August 29, 2011 10:58 AM
    I had to switch to Chrome, FF was crashing like crazy here, and i only have Firebug add-on installed.
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