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What browser is the best? We have the information you need to decide

In the last segment of our next generation browser benchmarking and comparison, we looked at user interface features and installation details.  We also benchmarked install times and application launch times.  We now will turn our attention to CPU and memory usage in this segment.  We'll also briefly contrast security in the next gen browsers.  This segment will be followed by a third and final installment in which we'll examine performance in popular benchmarks and standards support.

4.  Resource Usage

One of the most critical aspects of a program is the amount of resources it uses per the amount of work it does.  We measured memory and CPU usage for each browser with ten tabs open and loaded -- DailyTech, AnandTech, CNET, CNN, Sports Illustrated, Gamefaqs, Google, Yahoo, Bing, and Facebook (logged in).  We then took measurements after 15, 20, and 25 minutes of operation.


When it comes to memory, Firefox really shows its worth.  This may be surprising to some as early in its development the Firefox browser was known as a memory hog, due to memory leaks.  This has completely turned around and it is now the slimmest entry. Namoroka uses significantly more memory than 3.5.2, but hopefully this is just one of the rough edges that are to be expected of an alpha release.

Looking at the rest of the pack, Opera deserves an honorable mention for a close second in memory usage.  Safari and Chrome, on the other hand, were both memory hungry.  However, no application was quite as bad when it came to memory as Internet Explorer 8, which used nearly twice the memory of its closest competitor.




Turning to the CPU, Opera was in the lead for least average use.  Opera 9.6 also led for the lowest maximum observed CPU use.  Opera 10.0 did show a rather high maximum usage.  This is due to a brief, rather uncharacteristic, spike.  This appears to be a rather isolated occurrence, but nonetheless we kept the result.

Chrome, Safari, and Internet Explorer were all rather poor when it came to CPU use.  Chrome 4 ate up the most CPU, topping at an unpleasant maximum of 64 percent.  Firefox, on the other hand, showcased low usage (with no add-ons installed), though 3.6a1 was a bit more CPU hungry than 3.5.2.  Again, hopefully these issues will be resolved before release.

5.  Security:

Having looked at the resources used, its also important to look at what is being done with them.  We already concluded that Opera provides the most built in features (non-security) in our first review (though Firefox wins when add-ons are considered).  But what about security features?

The below table illustrates some highlights of these browsers' track record:

Browser Tab/Process Isolation Private Browsing Mode Popup Blocking Ad-Filtering (JS, Flash) Anti-Phishing Malware Blacklist Unpatched Security Flaws, Secunia Unpatched Security Flaws, SecurityFocus
Opera 9.6 No No Yes Yes, click required Weak Weak 0 2
Opera 10.0 No No Yes Yes, click required Weak Weak 0 2
Firefox 3.5 No Yes Yes Via add-on Moderate Moderate 0 0
Firefox 3.6 No Yes Yes Via add-on Moderate Moderate 0 0
Chrome 2 Yes Yes Yes No Weak Weak 0 0
Chrome 3 Yes Yes Yes No Weak Weak 0 0
Chrome 4 Yes Yes Yes No Weak Weak 0 0
IE 8 Yes Yes Yes Yes (via InPrivate Filter) Strong Strong 2 16
Safari 3 No Yes Yes Via add-on Weak Weak 0 0
Safari 4 No Yes Yes Via add-on Weak Weak 0 0

As you can see, security is a rather confusing topic to rate the browsers on.  On one hand, IE 8 offers an excellent private browsing mode, tab isolation, and great blacklisting of malicious sites.  On the other hand, its InPrivate Filter doesn't catch all ads.  IE 8 is also the most frequently attacked and exploited browser, though Microsoft puts great effort into patching as quickly as possible. 

Despite this, IE 8 for the very inexperienced/naive user is probably the best bet as it blocks more blatantly malicious sites than the rest of the field.  Microsoft-sponsored research puts this block rate at 81 percent versus the next closest competitor -- Firefox -- at 27 percent.  This may be a bit of an exaggeration, but Microsoft deserves praise for its progress on this front. 

Chrome offers good overall protection with tab isolation, a private browsing mode and less vulnerabilities, but it is victim to probably the most ads of any of the browsers.  Firefox is a close runner up to IE 8, especially when add-ons are considered.  However, it lacks tab isolation.  Opera and Apple have both put a fair deal of thought into their security efforts, but they just aren't as strong or focused as those of Microsoft, Mozilla, and Google.

Note: All benchmarks were performed in 32-bit Vista on a Sony VAIO laptop with 3 GB of RAM, a T8100 Intel Processor (2.1 GHz), and a NVIDIA 8400 GT mobile graphics chip. The number of processes was kept consistent and at a minimum to reflect stock performance.


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RE: Why?
By PhoenixKnight on 9/8/2009 3:24:07 PM , Rating: 2
What about netbooks, which often have single core Intel Atom processors and 1GB of RAM? Do you not think that having a small memory and cpu footprint would be useful there?


RE: Why?
By fatedtodie on 9/8/2009 3:43:37 PM , Rating: 2
Anyone expecting a netbook to be fast is a moron.

Also all the browsers have less than 1GB in their benchmark results. With a netbook's ONLY useful feature being is it is able to show a webpage on a light weight package, it succeeds and not a single one of these browsers is worth change to, or from on a netbook.

Semi rude comments aside, the main problem I have with this set of articles is NORMALLY when you display any benchmarks you qualify them before hand with the "test hardware specs" so you can say "OH on a netbook it is 500MB of RAM but I am running a i7 with 24GB of ram so it will be very different"

You comment regarding memory/cpu footprint is semi valid, but anyone that buys a netbook "stock" isn't going to care about benchmarks, especially when a bigger/faster hard drive is less than 80 bucks, and 2GB of the fastest ram a netbook can handle is less than 30 bucks, both keeping the total price of the average netbook well below 400 bucks.


RE: Why?
By Alexstarfire on 9/8/2009 4:09:11 PM , Rating: 2
You sir need to take a step back. First off, you're assuming that people only do one thing at a time on a netbook which is just simply false. Not that it's meant for heavy mutlitasking, but come on now. Also, I don't think you've looked at netbooks recently. Most netbooks are already price over $300. If they wanted to spent over $400, easily, then they'd probably just get a cheap ass laptop. Got myself a cheap laptop for $380 that spanks netbooks, even with upgrades that you provide. Not only that, but what kind of average user installs upgrades on a laptop at all. Heck, most advanced users don't even do that.

If you believe that 500MB is no big deal then go right ahead and use IE. Even if it's not 500MB like it says it's still the highest memory hog out of all of them, even if you take user comments as 100% truth. And that wouldn't be caching websites in RAM cause that would be very stupid. Ram is limited space, although very fast, and website info isn't exactly needed ASAP. HDD makes much more sense, which is why EVERY web browser has an option to change the amount of HDD space the cache uses.

Of course, if we're just arguing about the average user then we might as well just stop there because this wouldn't even matter. They very rarely do research on products at all. Means they are likely to use either FF or IE since they have the biggest market shares. But since we're all reading and commenting on this article let's assume we're all slightly above average.

The whole point is that the memory usage in IE is absurd no matter how you look at it and it doesn't provide anything in return. If that's acceptable to you..... then you are the sucker every company is hoping to hook.


RE: Why?
By Smilin on 9/8/2009 4:28:22 PM , Rating: 2
I'll agree that 1/2 gig of memory for those 10 web pages is absurd.

I still don't believe it's the case. Waiting on the article author to clarify.


RE: Why?
By fatedtodie on 9/10/2009 10:38:43 AM , Rating: 2
We have already examined the flaw in your data and your failure to clarify YOUR data so with your lack of qualifying your data why should the author waste his time with the likes of you?


RE: Why?
By Smilin on 9/15/2009 12:03:24 PM , Rating: 2
No YOU have already found some flaw in my data.

Everyone else I can see on this thread agrees with me.

You won't let this rest will you. Where is YOUR data?


"I mean, if you wanna break down someone's door, why don't you start with AT&T, for God sakes? They make your amazing phone unusable as a phone!" -- Jon Stewart on Apple and the iPhone

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