We have witnessed endless debate on the web regarding which browser performs the best. Firefox, Chrome and Opera have provided much needed options for the end users who are fed up of Internet Explorer and Safari browsers. Though IE still holds a big share of web browser market, Mozilla’s Firefox and Google’s Chrome have managed to consistently strengthen their foothold over the past few years.

firefox-vs-chrome

In the recent past, companies have used different Javascript benchmarking tools to show how their browser is the fastest amongst the competition. Off late the speed of browsing has gained tremendous importance and somewhere most of us had started to forget other important features like memory footprint and security.


If we go by the general perceptions, Google Chrome is considered to be the fastest browser. Some believe that the reason for Chrome’s speed is it’s lower memory footprint, which is more of a myth than a fact, as we found out during our tests in real world scenario.

Chrome 14 vs Firefox 7 – Memory Footprint

Every time a new version of these browsers is released, the companies and independent agencies/blogs will publish a comparison based on certain benchmarking tests. But then, testing them in real world scenario is much different and I believe is more accurate.

Intention behind this comparison

Because, we hardly ever run a browser alone. I personally will have multiple applications open – be it another browser or Twitter clients like Tweetdeck. All of them are known to be memory intensive and should impact the performance of each other. But those benchmarking tests done by companies never consider these things.

By the way, I have deliberately kept out IE from this comparison. IE is always known to be bad when it comes to memory management. At least that was the case with IE8 & IE9. I haven’t played with IE10 a lot, but that is still in beta anyway.

Test setup

I ran the tests on a Dell Studio 1555 Laptop running Windows 7 Ultimate SP1. It’s a Intel Core 2 Duo CPU @ 2.4GHz and 4GB RAM. I restarted the PC and then opened Windows Explorer & Tweetdeck. Both Firefox and Chrome were updated to their latest stable versions (7.0 and 14.0.835.186 respectively). Both of them have some basic plugins installed.

Benchmarking Tests

Chrome-vs-Firefox-Memory-Footprint

  • I first opened Google Chrome which has Google.com as the default homepage. Then I opened Mozilla Firefox which also has Google.com as the homepage. Then I opened Windows Task Manager and noted down the Memory consumption of all chrome.exe processes (there were 3 or 4 of them running). Then I noted down the memory consumption of Firefox.exe and plugin-container.exe. As you can see in the chart above, Chrome was consuming lesser memory than Firefox.
  • I repeated the test by opening websites like Facebook.com, plus.google.com & twitter.com one by one and noted down the memory used at each point. These websites are ajax based and have dynamic content getting added all the time. As you can see from the chart, Chrome started to consume much more memory than Firefox for each of these cases.
  • Then I opened Google docs on both browsers and tried editing an excel sheet (which opened in a new tab). The trend remained same. Chrome was consuming more memory than Firefox, but the increase was consistent all the while.
  • Next, I opened Techpp.com, Apple.com & Microsoft.com and left the PC idle as I had some work. I came back after an hour and noted down the memory usage. I was surprised to see that Firefox had started to consume more memory than Chrome!
  • I repeated the tests by opening 3 new websites (IBM, Intel, Adobe) in new tabs of each browser. At this time there were 12 tabs in total in each browser. Chrome started to consume more memory than Firefox as before.
  • The trend of Chrome using up more memory continued when I opened 5 more websites in 5 new tabs on both browsers. At this time there were 20 tabs opened in total in each browser.
  • I left the PC idle for 15 minutes to observe the changes. Again, I saw that Chrome was stable, but Firefox had started to consume more memory in idle state. Though the chart doesn’t show this, the memory consumption of Firefox went till 580MB, while Chrome was stable at around 675MB.

Conclusions

  • It’s clear that Chrome 14 consumes more memory than Firefox 7. I believe that CPU consumption graph should look similar.
  • Higher the number of tabs open, greater the difference in memory footprint.
  • In idle state, Chrome remains stable, while Firefox starts hogging more memory.
  • When the PC comes out of idle state, Firefox’s memory consumption drops back.

Chrome has an advantage with its separate process for individual tabs and plugins, as user can manually kill the memory hogging process without closing down the browser completely. But then many users have complained that Chrome crashes much more than Firefox in real world usage.

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Raju is the founder-editor of Technology Personalized. A proud geek and an Internet freak, who is also a social networking enthusiast. You can follow him on Facebook and on Twitter. Mail Raju PP. Follow rajupp

 
 
  • http://Jajodia-Saket.SJbn.Co/ Saket Jajodia

    :O I open 100+ tabs at a time in Chrome. :P Sometimes bcoz of Facebook and flash it gets hang.

  • Ashish Mundhra

    I would love to see Opera in the list ..

    • http://facebook.com Bill

      Opera is really SHIT !! Believe me.

      Google CHROME is the best.

      Cheers
      Bill. Facebook Support Team

      • xink64

        What a useless comment you brought by there.. Shame on being so gigantically ignorant and narrow minded.

  • http://techgyo.com Sreejesh @techgyo

    Chrome is impressive all the time, but when you consider that Firefox is not managed by a giant like Google, Firefox does a pretty impressive job than the buggy IE.

  • Swamykant

    I am happy with Chrome.

  • http://am22tech.com Soan

    The tests are good to find out the RAM consumption. But do they really mean that chrome is slower than Firefox?
    I think more memory consumption does not really mean a slower application. Chrome may be using it to cache more resources for better response.
    I use Chrome and i really like it and obviously this is my personal opinion. There are lot of people who like Mozilla and may not agree with my words.

    • http://techpp.com Raju PP

      I haven’t talked about the speed at all! Right from the title, the onus has been on the memory consumption alone.

  • Alex

    One important detail when checking browser memory consumption: memory release.
    Real world one opens and closes tabs on a regular basis. How well do these browsers return memory to the system after they’re done with it? Your article fails to cover that.

    • http://techpp.com Raju PP

      You mean Memory leaks? True! I never claimed the analysis to be comprehensive, but you do have a point!

  • http://www.linuxnix.com Surendra Kumr

    I belive The extra memory consumption by Chrom is due to Addons?
    did you add same adons to both the browsers?

    • http://techpp.com Raju PP

      both browsers had a couple of add-ons like web developer plugin & firebug

      • gerry

        wtf… do it again without the extensions… especially the gigantic firebug, or remove this terribly misleading post.

        At the very least you should have mentioned the extensions at the start of the article. *sigh*

  • HaXan JaWad

    firefox 7 is best now.. <3

  • fabimaru

    In the Windows Task Manager, both Memory Usage and VM Size are not ok (because of shared code, swap, memory mapped files).

    http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc938567.aspx

  • Richard Cranium

    I don’t see the relevance of this article. Chrome probably uses more ram to cache a lot of things and make the browser faster. RAM is so cheap these days I would rather have a higher memory usage program that runs faster, than a slower program that’s light on memory consumption.

    8GB of DDR3 is often on sale at newegg for $25-30

    20 tabs is probably more than most people use, and its only 500-700MB. Even if you only have 2-4GB of ram, your still fine.

    • AlexSh

      @Richard Cranium And what about laptop, where max RAM – 4GB? I always used Ghrome, but when I got problem whith usage memory I turned to FF. Now, for same extensions and open tabs: FF – 1,4 Gb, Chrome – 3,1Gb.

  • Evan

    The idle memory usage conclusion has enticed me to make the switch to chrome. Thank you very much.

  • Guenter

    Chrome is an unbelievable memory hog. And memory consumption goes up event when Chrome window is just in the background with some tabs open.
    Some single pages use hundreds of Megabytes.
    I thought FF uses much memory, but Chrome is much worse.
    I hate those stupid tips I find everywhere to disable plugins. This saves some Megabytes.
    What’s the use of 50Mb saved if Chrome uses 3Gig of RAM (with about 50 tabs).
    The advantages of separate processes isn’t worth hundeds of Mb RAM, not at all. 
    If I close Chrome and reopen it and the tabs, a few minutes later Chrome uses the same amount of memory as before.
    I’m really disappointed in this Google product.