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Memory Efficiency

Web Browser Grand Prix: Chrome 20, Opera 12, Firefox 13
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Composite Scoring

Over the past couple of years, many of you asked us to de-emphasize (or completely remove) the memory usage tests from the Web Browser Grand Prix because memory is there to be used, after all. While we can't argue with that assertion, the fact remains that some browsers use far less memory than others in the exact same workload. But what we could not see on our modern test system was how the browsers scale their usage to the available hardware. In our last installment, we used a decade-old Windows XP test system. That scenario demonstrated that some of the worst memory hogs under Windows 7 dramatically scale back total memory usage on the older hardware, but still display the same content. So, memory usage is tied to the test system's available resources.

Therefore, memory usage is no longer being factored into the final scoring. However, the 40-tab test is still needed in order to achieve the memory management and page load reliability scores, and to get a general sense of browser responsiveness under load. Overall memory efficiency is now gauged by the difference between a browser's single-tab memory usage and -39-tab memory management total. The browser with the lowest score is able to return the most physical memory back to the operating system without actually closing the application itself, but simply by decreasing workload (closing tabs).

Chrome 20 keeps a tight grip on Google's memory efficiency lead, only hanging onto 94 MB more RAM than its pre-40-tab total. IE9 doesn't disappoint either, keeping just 117 MB to place second. Firefox 13 earns a very close third place, retaining far less memory than previous versions. Safari still holds onto 331 MB, placing it in fourth, while Opera 12 is in last place after closing 39 tabs..

Drill Down

The charts below contain the single-tab and 40-tab memory usage, as well as the -39-tab and -39-tab plus two-minute memory management tests.

Memory UsageMemory UsageMemory ManagementMemory Management

IE9 uses half as much memory as most of the competition with only one tab open. Firefox has always had the lowest 40-tab memory usage total, but version 13 takes its single-tab total down to just 61 MB, which is right in line with Safari and Opera. What the composite score does not show is the speed at which the different browsers return memory back to the operating system. Chrome is the only contender to do this instantaneously. While Firefox and IE9 drop usage totals a great deal, they can take a minute to do so.

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Top Comments
  • 24 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , July 5, 2012 5:10 AM
    1.what the benchmarks dont show is that in Firefox , if a tab has a heavy page with a lot of CPU intensive workload, the complete browser UI starts stuttering. That means the browser UI is on the same thread as the page loading.

    2. in the 40 tab test, try working in a tab during the loading of the 40 tabs. you will find lots of difference between browsers. FF hangs, Opera and Chrome remain fluid.

    3. how about a test where a browser is using 1GB+ RAM and you are trying to open/close tabs. Then see the UI responsiveness. most browsers can easily handle 800MB RAM. but which browser easily handles 1.2GB+ RAM ?
  • 22 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , July 5, 2012 5:17 AM
    How many firefox users dont use ADblockPlus ? very very less.Also ABP developer is a regular contributor to the Firefox source code.
    maybe you should do a few memory benchmarks with ABP installed just to realistically judge what 99.99% of FF users go through.
  • 21 Hide
    ben850 , July 5, 2012 5:22 AM
    WTF Chrome is already on 20?? It ninja updated to 19 just a few days ago..
Other Comments
  • 24 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , July 5, 2012 5:10 AM
    1.what the benchmarks dont show is that in Firefox , if a tab has a heavy page with a lot of CPU intensive workload, the complete browser UI starts stuttering. That means the browser UI is on the same thread as the page loading.

    2. in the 40 tab test, try working in a tab during the loading of the 40 tabs. you will find lots of difference between browsers. FF hangs, Opera and Chrome remain fluid.

    3. how about a test where a browser is using 1GB+ RAM and you are trying to open/close tabs. Then see the UI responsiveness. most browsers can easily handle 800MB RAM. but which browser easily handles 1.2GB+ RAM ?
  • 13 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , July 5, 2012 5:13 AM
    IE9 does so good on HTML5 HWA accelerated benchmarks because its able to offload more of the processing to the GPU.

    i tested this and found that during a HTML5 benchmark, IE9 had the least CPU usage, and most GPU usage amongst all the browsers.
  • 22 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , July 5, 2012 5:17 AM
    How many firefox users dont use ADblockPlus ? very very less.Also ABP developer is a regular contributor to the Firefox source code.
    maybe you should do a few memory benchmarks with ABP installed just to realistically judge what 99.99% of FF users go through.
  • 21 Hide
    ben850 , July 5, 2012 5:22 AM
    WTF Chrome is already on 20?? It ninja updated to 19 just a few days ago..
  • 20 Hide
    lethalsam , July 5, 2012 5:35 AM
    i won't ever use a browser a browser WITHOUT AD BLOCK Plus. (ABP)

    ABP works wonderful on Firefox, i RARELY see any ad. While I have used ABP on Chrome BUT its doesn't block half the ads.
    I know its Not Google's fault, its just that ABP developers are putting more effort with Firefox.

    So for me, Firefox > Chrome.
  • 9 Hide
    adamovera , July 5, 2012 5:42 AM
    @mayankleoboy1: 1+2) Interesting, I'll be looking for that next time 3) That would require a different workload for each browser.
    IE9 does so good on HTML5 HWA accelerated benchmarks because its able to offload more of the processing to the GPU. i tested this and found that during a HTML5 benchmark, IE9 had the least CPU usage, and most GPU usage amongst all the browsers.

    Really interesting, what utility do you use for measuring GPU usage?
    How many firefox users dont use ADblockPlus ? very very less.Also ABP developer is a regular contributor to the Firefox source code.maybe you should do a few memory benchmarks with ABP installed just to realistically judge what 99.99% of FF users go through.

    I'd estimate ABP usage on FF at around 5% or less based on ABP and FF usage statistics. Besides, that would give FF an unfair advantage.
  • 6 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , July 5, 2012 5:51 AM
    Quote:
    Really interesting, what utility do you use for measuring GPU usage?


    MSI afterburner for GPU. windows task manager for CPU.

    Quote:
    @mayankleoboy1: 1+2) Interesting, I'll be looking for that next time


    i sent a mail regarding this to Chris. but maybe i sent it too late for this article...
  • 6 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , July 5, 2012 5:56 AM
    if you open multiple tabs together in chrome, it can use each CPU core for each tab. so if you have a quad core, and you open 4+ tabs together, the CPU usage will be 100% (using all 4 cores) during the tab loading time.
    but if you run 4 instance of dromaeo in 4 tabs, the CPU usage is still 25% (using only 1 core).
    so chrome is not completely multiprocessing.

    in IE10 beta, if you run 4 instances of dromaeo benchmark in 4 tabs, it uses all the for cores. so we can expect better multiprocessing from IE10 and win8 :) 
  • 3 Hide
    adamovera , July 5, 2012 6:08 AM
    @mayankleoboy1: I got that email yesterday or the day before, this article was completed a few days before that. Sorry, my inbox usually gets a few pages deep after a doing long benchmark-heavy article.
    Is Dromaeo (the DOM portion) working in Chrome for you? I could not get it to finish in Chrome or Safari on any of my Windows machines.
  • 1 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , July 5, 2012 6:22 AM
    i ran the javascript benchmark that ran fine. Didnt run the DOM benches.

    BTW, i run chrome dev version. so that could make a difference.
  • 9 Hide
    Regor245 , July 5, 2012 6:40 AM
    I have Both Chrome and Firefox.

    I still prefer Firefox since it has more features and i like it's features.

    I disabled Smooth Scrolling to make it more responsive.

    I just hate random freezes/stutter sometimes and some problem on Youtube while watching,
    when you scroll up/down, the youtube screen is messed (Glitch).

    By the way, ABP user here too.
  • 4 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , July 5, 2012 6:44 AM
    Quote:
    when you scroll up/down, the youtube screen is messed (Glitch).

    thats a flash issue. disable the protected mode of falsh.
  • 6 Hide
    Memnarchon , July 5, 2012 7:41 AM
    mayankleoboy1IE9 does so good on HTML5 HWA accelerated benchmarks because its able to offload more of the processing to the GPU.

    i tested this and found that during a HTML5 benchmark, IE9 had the least CPU usage, and most GPU usage amongst all the browsers.


    +1.
    IE9 uses also a lot more GPU Memory than Chrome. I am listening to internet radio when I am playing games and I found that a single tab from IE9 (opened for more than an hour) uses 150MB VRAM oO. Now this amount is not significant for some users but for most users that have 1024MB VRAM and doing the same thing like me (or have open tabs and alt-tabing during games) while playing at 1920x1080/1200 might cause fps drops.
  • -1 Hide
    s3anister , July 5, 2012 7:48 AM
    lethalsami won't ever use a browser a browser WITHOUT AD BLOCK Plus. (ABP)ABP works wonderful on Firefox, i RARELY see any ad. While I have used ABP on Chrome BUT its doesn't block half the ads.I know its Not Google's fault, its just that ABP developers are putting more effort with Firefox.So for me, Firefox > Chrome.

    Chrome has Adblock, just to let you know. But personally I prefer Firefox Aurora with Adblock Plus, anyway. I couldn't imagine using a browser that didn't have any version of Adblock on it, though; it'd be torture.
  • 2 Hide
    PreferLinux , July 5, 2012 7:50 AM
    Has anyone ever investigated why the MS Maze Solver is so slow on Firefox? It almost has to be a FF bug that hasn't been fixed rather than just that FF is slow at CSS3 when the difference between FF and everything else is so huge, and also that FF does very well in CSS2.
  • 9 Hide
    s3anister , July 5, 2012 7:52 AM
    princesiddiquiFire Fox 14.8 has been announced, version 13 is old version.

    jerm1027Why is Firefox 13 on here? Firefox 14 has been out for a little while (even on Android), and it's support for SPDY may very affect the results. Just saying.

    13.0.1 is the latest stable release. I'm using version 15.0a2 of Firefox, but it's a moot point in any browser competition because it's not a release version.
  • 7 Hide
    PreferLinux , July 5, 2012 7:53 AM
    jerm1027Why is Firefox 13 on here? Firefox 14 has been out for a little while (even on Android), and it's support for SPDY may very affect the results. Just saying.

    Where? Not here: http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/all.html
  • 9 Hide
    jerm1027 , July 5, 2012 7:59 AM
    s3anister13.0.1 is the latest stable release. I'm using version 15.0a2 of Firefox, but it's a moot point in any browser competition because it's not a release version.

    i stand corrected. I'm not sure how i got mixed up.

    However, I'm not sure how Silverlight takes importance over WebGL or HTML5 in this test. >~
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