We have witnessed an endless debate on the web regarding which browser performs the best. Firefox, Chrome, and Opera have provided much-needed options for end users who are fed up with Internet Explorer and Safari browsers. Though IE still holds a big share of the web browser market, Mozilla’s Firefox and Google’s Chrome have managed to strengthen their foothold over the past few years consistently.
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 its lower memory footprint, which is more of a myth than a fact, as we found out during our tests in real-world scenarios.
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 scenarios 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.
I ran the tests on a Dell Studio 1555 Laptop running Windows 7 Ultimate SP1. It’s an 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.
- 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 the 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 an idle state. Though the chart doesn’t show this, the memory consumption of Firefox went to 580MB, while Chrome was stable at around 675MB.
Related Read: 6 Ways to Fix Safari Taking Too Much Memory Issue on Mac
- It’s clear that Chrome 14 consumes more memory than Firefox 7. I believe that the CPU consumption graph should look similar.
- Higher the number of tabs open, the greater the difference in memory footprint.
- In idle state, Chrome remains stable, while Firefox starts hogging more memory.
- When the PC comes out of an idle state, Firefox’s memory consumption drops back.
Chrome has an advantage with its separate process for individual tabs and plugins, as users 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.