Web Browser Grand Prix: Chrome 18, Firefox 11, Windows XP

Memory Efficiency Benchmarks

Memory Usage

Internet Explorer 8 uses the least memory, overall, in our single-tab measurement (49 MB) and a full 40-tab load (420 MB). Chrome, Firefox, and Opera end up in a three-way tie for second place in single-tab usage, all three eating up roughly 60 MB. Safari uses the most RAM to display one tab (93 MB). Chrome holds onto second place with 40 tabs up, consuming just under 460 MB. Firefox places third, while Safari takes fourth place. Opera soars to 620 MB with 40 tabs loaded, falling to last place.

Memory Management

Chrome takes the lead for memory management, dropping to just 92 MB after two minutes with 39 of the 40 tabs closed. Firefox places second at 150 MB, but takes considerably longer to release memory back to Windows than Chrome, IE8, or Safari. Third-place IE8 uses 227 MB after closing 39 of the 40-tab load, while Apple Safari holds onto 268 MB. Opera takes last place, monopolizing a lot of system memory even after we close 39 tabs and wait two minutes.

Chrome is the clear winner for memory efficiency on the older test system, and Firefox also keeps its consumption under control. While IE8 may not use the most memory under a load, its total doesn't drop substantially after closing 39 tabs. The same goes for Safari and Opera.


What raw memory measurements don't tell us is how the browsers perform with 40 tabs open.

Both IE8 and Safari froze for about 15 minutes after loading the full array of 40 tabs. Meanwhile, Firefox and especially Chrome and Opera remained fluid and responsive under the torture test. Although we don't have a benchmark for this, we definitely have to keep responsiveness in mind when it comes to our final analysis. Even though IE8 demonstrates low memory usage and respectable memory management traits, locking up for 15 minutes is an unforgivable artifact. The same goes for Safari.

Alternatively, even though Opera uses the most and releases the least memory, it gives us the most fluid heavy load experience out of the five browsers.

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  • wheredahoodat
    "Both Opera and Chrome feltmuch smoother on our old PC than Firefox"

    I do kinda feel the difference with Firefox's responsive going from my main modern desktop to my older labtop that has regulated to a makeshift HTC. I believe Firefox XUL interface is the culprit; it was a big enough problem for Firefox mobile to abandon it in favor of native Android GUI, but who knows at this point. I guess might actually give Opera a chance.
  • agnickolov
    How come only a single reader requested numerical composite scoring, that's the most logical way of scoring after all! With that said, I'd have liked if you didn't use the rankings but the raw scores after a more intelligent transformation as the input for weighted averaging...
    For example, for each category you could subtract the lowest-placed score from all scores and then normalize in the range [0-1] by dividing all adjusted scores by the topmost adjusted score. This way the top perfomer always has 1 and the worst performer always has 0 modified score (you'd need to invert them for tests where lower is better of course, e.g. subtract these from 1). Then apply your ranks to these scores and you get the composite score. It's not a perfect transformation, but it certainly has more fairly distributed weight (pun intended) than what you have used here.
  • gwiz1987
    Why is IE8 being benched and not IE9?
  • aznjoka
    Thats my Opera, for those who have never tried Opera. It's an amazing piece of software, it does the job, and it does it better then most.
  • confish21
    Interesting move to make this article. Well done! Don't waste your time on a vista run though... Im so close my release date. xD
  • csbeer
    aznjokaThats my Opera, for those who have never tried Opera. It's an amazing piece of software, it does the job, and it does it better then most.

    XP can't run 9. Need to upgrade OS in order to get higher IE.
  • dameon51
    gwiz1987Why is IE8 being benched and not IE9?

    XP doesn't support 9, only 8.
  • mayankleoboy1
    excellent review!
    some points:

    1.A lot of corporates still use IE7. maybe you should include that too in your benchmarks

    2.if you remove HTML5 (with and without H/W acceleration), i think Opera's victory margin will be quite huge.

    3.Regarding smoothness, i beleive FF is quite poor in this. But the developers know about it and are very activle working on it. I thik FF13 will be the release when smoothness will improve. look at "Firefox Snappy".

    4. i would like to have a subjective recommendation at the end of the article, something you subjectively felt was the best amongst all the browsers, even though it may be trailing in numbers.
  • mayankleoboy1
    Why did you use the AGP? I bet 99.99% of those Pentium4 era computers use the onboard Intel IGP.
    Also that would definitely disable the H/W acceleration of browsers.
  • Anyone who is still stuck using Windows 2000, Opera supports you.

  • bunnywannyAnyone who is still stuck using Windows 2000, Opera supports you.

    Toms, the "add an url" in the comment toolbar doesn't work. Here is the link:
  • ronch79
    I don't know about you guys, but I've been a fan of Opera for a few years now, until recently. I've noticed that the then-latest version, 11.61, took so long to load pages. At first, I thought there was something wrong with my internet connection. For some reason I installed Chrome. I noticed right away that browsing with Chrome was faster (pages loaded quickly). My first suspicion was that it was just plain luck; that the bandwidth simply was faster coincidentally when I was using Chrome. I did a side-by-side comparison with both browsers open, and yes, Opera did load pages sluggishly. I was stumped. For the record, I'm NOT bashing Opera here, folks. I just don't know why this is happening. Heck, I'd switch back to Opera in a flash. This all happened with Opera 11.61. I think I'll give Opera 12 a shot.
  • straatkat
    The html5 ranking is surprising. A score north of 300 for HTML5 support is, I would say, about par. In the end, HTML5 adoption in the wild is a good as the lowest score, because you want people to have access to your site, you are not going to build a site that locks out a substantial portion of the internet. So you are not going to target a HTML5 feature that is specific to a browser.
  • hellfire24
    man i still love XP!!!!
  • for me 0.5 ponts is noting and for me chrome is the winner here
  • straatkat
    Can you state which version of Windows XP you were using? Circa 2003 you had Windows XP service pack 1 only.
  • assassin123
    I love firefox
  • Cryio
    muhsi44even though the OSes are still in beta.

    What OSes?
  • Hypertraxx
  • sheol
    Out of the box, no browser that I know of comes close to Opera when it comes to usability(mouse gestures, tab manangement, "Closed Tabs " - a recycle bin of tabs if you will, an awesome feature that keeps your closed tabs for easy retrieval for when you might need them.
    This is why I believe Opera uses so much memory after 39 tabs have been closed.

    And reliability, who could complain? Routinely i have 50+ tabs open for days, and I have not had a single crash because of it.
  • Tamz_msc
    Yes, Opera is the best browser out-of-the-box, but I've seen that sometimes it takes a long time to load a page and there is no way to tell if its done or not. On complex websites it keeps showing Elements 87/88 and it seems like its stuck at that point.

    Anyways, Firefox is my primary browser and I use Opera as a backup.
  • trumpeter1994
    I use firefox still because in my opinion it's like a swiss army knife among browsers. I have chrome and use it on the rare occasion but I will definetely be getting opera now, because I'm very impressed with it's performance even on an outdated system.
    I do think its unfair though to compare IE8 to the newer versions of the other browsers, but theres not much you can do about that on this test system so I'll just disregard it.
  • LaloFG
    This is a better approach qualifying browsers, at least now you're mention the feeling in responsiveness.
    Opera deserve this win (and others that it lost for bad testing in tomshardware), maybe someday will caught a bigger quota.
  • tipoo
    I'm glad you included the responsiveness results, to me it never mattered if Firefox or other browsers met or surpassed Chrome and Opera in benchmarks, the fact was that Chrome and Opera just stay responsive no matter what you throw at them which no other browser has yet come close to.