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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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Memory use
By damianrobertjones on 9/10/2009 7:08:35 AM , Rating: 2
Two days later and the memory graph still hasn't been changed DESPITE people stating that they cannot reproduce the obviously incorrect results.

Are people being paid? Yesterday, Toms Hardware had 6 apple posts in the top lists and 4 basically on the 'same' subject.

People are being paid.




RE: Memory use
By fatedtodie on 9/10/2009 8:13:50 AM , Rating: 2
I will tear apart your comment line by line.
"Two days later and the memory graph still hasn't been changed DESPITE people stating that they cannot reproduce the obviously incorrect results."

It is a FEW people and they test one part of the results they only cannot reproduce the IE results and they don't prove the relationship to the other parts of their data (seeing as all but 1 claim they didn't even bother to try other browsers and that 1 won't admit his results). This makes their data compromised and unquantifiable. Te process to prove someone wrong about a graph isn't to say "my different computer got different results on 1 part of your display" the way to do it is to say "my computer got different results on all the parts of the graph" or "my computer while different reproduced the results on all of the graph items except for the IE data". None of these have been accomplished so end of story move on.

"Are people being paid? Yesterday, Toms Hardware had 6 apple posts in the top lists and 4 basically on the 'same' subject."
The ONLY tech thing going on yesterday was the Apple invite only Jobs love-a-thon, so handle it. When Microsoft makes any announcement they spend just as much time on them (how many articles have their been on the Zune HD? 4? 8? ok then quiet dow).

"People are being paid. " No kidding? you mean people working a job get paid? holy crap I thought they did the job just for the love and respect they get from their fellow man... Wake up everyone is getting paid, again move on.


RE: Memory use
By Smilin on 9/14/2009 8:54:35 PM , Rating: 2
Your logic is incorrect sir. 6-10 different tests with IE all BLATANTLY refute the graphs in this article. There is enough statistical significance that the article author should revisit his testing.

And you sir, should either do your own tests or stop criticizing everyone else.

You keep refuting everyone who offers proof yet never offer any of your own. Do you have an agenda? I am beginning to believe so.


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