Web Browser Grand Prix 7: Firefox 7, Chrome 14, Opera 11.51

Memory Efficiency

We made yet another change to how we run the memory tests. First, we're using the about:memory flag to calculate total memory usage for Chrome. Since Chrome runs each tab in a separate process, there is a slight amount of memory shared between processes. Windows Task Manager can double-count this shared memory. Although such double-counting only ends up amounting to 50 MB or so in a 1+ GB 40-tab load, the about:memory flag is more accurate.

The memory totals of the other Web browsers are still tallied using Windows Task Manager.

Light Load

Internet Explorer remains the lightest Web browser when it comes to the memory footprint of loading a single tab. Chrome 14 drops Google from second down to fifth, though it's still under 75 MB. Meanwhile, Firefox 7 moves Mozilla up from fourth place to second. Safari remains smack in the middle, while Opera moves up to fourth place.

Heavy Load

When the load is changed to a hefty 40 tabs, Firefox 7 doesn't disappoint, shaving about 300 megabytes off the Firefox 6 tally from WBGP6. Safari drops to second place, though it's still comparatively sleek at under three-quarters of a gigabyte. Opera retains third place at over 800 megabytes, and Chrome 14 moves up to fourth place, utilizing just over one gigabyte. Internet Explorer drops to fifth, using the most amount of memory (an astounding 1.3+ GB).

Being the only browser to use less than a half gigabyte under heavy load and the second-place finisher at a light load (less than 50 MB), Firefox 7 is the clear winner. Safari takes second and Opera places third. IE9 and Chrome give us the poorest showings in raw memory usage. IE9's only saving grace is its super-low single-tab total.

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Memory Management

We combined the two memory management tests into a single chart. The memory totals were recorded instantly after closing 39 of the 40 tabs, and once more five minutes later.

Chrome is the quickest to immediately release memory back to the operating system, followed by Internet Explorer. Opera comes in an even more distant third, trailed by Safari in fourth.

Surprisingly, the champion of memory usage (Firefox 7) does not give much of its monopolized memory back to Windows right away. After an additional five minutes, Chrome settles in at just 20 MB over its single-tab usage, while IE9 drops back down to just 10 MB over the single-tab tally. Firefox 7 finally gives all but 160 MB back to Windows after a few minutes. While this is still four times the memory tied up in a single tab, it is a good 100 MB less than Firefox 6. After the additional five minutes passes, Safari and Opera both drop down to around 350 MB, placing fourth and fifth (respectively).

Chrome is still a powerhouse when it comes to memory management, needing no time at all to release unused resources back to the operating system. IE9 needs a little more time, but remains incredibly efficient. Firefox 7 gives us the biggest surprise here, using the least amount of memory under a heavy load and dropping to just over 150 MB after five minutes. Safari and Opera are fairly mediocre in this discipline, though neither is as bad as they once were. Comparatively, they're at the bottom of the heap.

Naming a winner for overall memory efficiency is really tough this time, but we have to give the victory to Mozilla. Firefox 7 is simply never weak in our testing.

  • gerchokas
    Well done Mozilla!
    Now they could change their famous icon to a more minimalist/modern style and we're done. Speedy AND classy, just like a fire fox.
  • shiftmx112
    Enjoy it while you can Firefox fans

    Indeed. I have been quite content with FF8 though.
  • soccerdocks
    Until another browser beats Chrome in the speed/performance benchmarks I'm sticking with it.
  • iam2thecrowe
    im sticking with IE, its perfectly fast enough and stable and why should I have to install another browser when it works perfectly fine?
    I'm on FF10. :D Nightly 64-bit!
  • compton
    I have to say, I do really like chrome. I stopped using Firefox as much one I tried the chrome beta, and now I use IE9 and chrome all the time. I used opera for a while, but Netflix streaming doesn't work with it, nor do many other sites I use.

    Now that IE is good again, I can't fault anyone for using it in lieu of the others.
  • makaveli316
    "Until another browser beats Chrome in the speed/performance benchmarks I'm sticking with it."

    lol people still think they can feel the difference in terms of speed in real world performance and there's still people that doesn't use a browser for their needs and preferences, but just because they have seen some silly benchmark.
    Ridiculous. I bet those are the same people that are always complaining in the forums about crashes, viruses and blue screens.
  • killik
    Even better yet,if you use FF7 with the MemoryFox addon,Firefox simply obliterates the competition.try it for yourself.
  • killik
    Even better yet,if you use FF7 with the MemoryFox addon,Firefox simply obliterates the competition in the memory management department.try it for yourself.
  • frostmachine
    I noticed firefox will use progressively more memory. Even if it's just refreshing the same pages. I use firefox, opera n chrome, keeping them open 24hr/day. It can go from intial 100mb to over 500mb. I don't see this in the other browsers.