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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: Something is wrong.
By fatedtodie on 9/9/2009 12:28:51 PM , Rating: 0
Let me explain this again for those in the cheap seats as you are missing my point blantantly.

If I say my numbers for IE are 200 MB lower that is a single datapoint with zero comments to back it up.
If I say my numbers for Firefox 3.5 MATCH exactly, then my numbers for Firefox 3.5 AND IE are both given a second data point and both look like they can be compared to the charted data.

WITHOUT the second data point you can give the IE numbers with 10000 pages open and they are meaningless.

Please try to keep up with the discussion next time.

RE: Something is wrong.
By Smilin on 9/9/2009 3:18:52 PM , Rating: 3
Let me explain this again for those in the cheap seats as you are missing my point blantantly.

Please try to keep up with the discussion next time.

You need to lose the condescending attitude. It is unnecessary and it just makes you look like a tool with a weak argument. I am not insulting you (defending you in other posts actually) so do not insult me. Nothing about this is personal so don't make it that way.

You have explained your self repeatedly and everyone understands what you are trying to say. They are not disagreeing because they fail to understand your point. They are disagreeing because your point is wrong.

We are not interested in comparing IE to FF. It is not necessary to use FF as a data point on two different machines. I do not care if the same IE to FF ratio is maintained or differs on other machines. I am not interested in a correlation or lack thereof with other broswer performance across multiple platforms. I simply care about the IE to IE comparison on two machines.

Look at it this way... Imagine this article was not a browser comparison at all. Instead imagine it is simply an article about memory usage in IE. The author has stated that with a given set of pages open that IE consumes 500 megs of memory. 5+ other machines show it to be in the ~180 meg range. There is a problem with that. The benchmarker needs to go review his testing and find out where he introduced a variable. (and does not matter if that same variable affects FF or doesn't...not interested)

RE: Something is wrong.
By Nekrik on 9/9/2009 8:24:29 PM , Rating: 3
It's been a day since your original post and still no response from JM or any other of the staff members. By now it would be appropriate for them to at least acknowledge that they are looking into it regardless if they have found the cause of the discrepency.

RE: Something is wrong.
By fatedtodie on 9/10/2009 2:46:00 PM , Rating: 1
"You need to lose the condescending attitude. "

You mean like the comments I was responding to that were quite professional.

Some examples;

"Since you're all gripey whiney why don't YOU ..."

"fanboying for MS? The old fanboy argument? Seriously idiot? The browser I'm typing this in is Firefox, get real loser."

"and the lips keep on flapping. I have my numbers for both chrome, firefox and safari. I am intentionally holding them from you because you are indeed an idiot."

And in your own reply you say:
" It is unnecessary and it just makes you look like a tool "

Calling someone a tool isn't rude?

So, when I try to comment professionally I am called an idiot, when I am rude I am called an idiot, so your point is what again?

I think you forgot how communication works. Thank you for your comments and have a wonderful day. =)

RE: Something is wrong.
By Smilin on 9/11/2009 2:31:32 AM , Rating: 2
You're doing it again.

This is not personal.

“So far we have not seen a single Android device that does not infringe on our patents." -- Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith
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