I bench marked the memory use of popular web browsers such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Internet Explorer and Opera back in 2012, and a lot happened since then.
Back then, the Opera browser came first followed by Mozilla Firefox, then Internet Explorer and finally Google Chrome.
All browsers made big progress since then. Firefox jumped by 13 versions, Chrome by 12, Internet Explorer by 2, and Opera switched to Chromium.
Back then, I only looked at the memory use when ten websites were loaded in each browser. This time, I will look at three different scenarios with 5, 15 and 40 open tabs in each browser respectively.
This should cover more real-world scenarios.
- Test system: Windows 8.1 Professional 64-bit, 8 Gigabytes of RAM.
- Browsers: Mozilla Firefox 29 Nightly, Google Chrome Dev 34, Internet Explorer 11
- All browsers without browser extensions, and plug-ins disabled.
- The 5 websites: ghacks.net, google.com, bing.com, leo.org, lifehacker.com
- The 15 websites: softpedia.com, microsoft.com, reddit.com, news.ycombinator.com, youtube.com, amazon.com, petmoz.com, donationcoder.com, wordpress.com, ebay.com, and the top 5 websites.
- The top 40 websites: yandex.ru, paypal.com, apple.com, imdb.com, bbc.co.uk, stackoverflow.com, imgur.com, alibaba.com, netflix.com, cnn.com godaddy.com, dailymotion.com, dailymail.co.uk, weather.com, wikipedia.com, deviantart.com, huffingtonpost.com, avg.com, mediafire.com, yelp.com, wikihow.com, foxnews.com, theguardian.com, forbes.com, sourceforge.com, plus the top 15 and top 5 websites.
I made the decision to start with 5 pages, measure the memory use, open another 10, measure again, then the remaining 25 for the last measure.
After that, I decided to close the 25 pages to go down to 15 again, measure that, then close another 10 pages so that I would end up with the top 5, and measure again.
All measurements are taken from Chrome's about:memory page. Note that this, at least in theory, will make Chrome use extra memory as it needs to be displayed by the browser (about 24,000 k it seems)
Update: We have added Chrome 31 Stable and Firefox 26 Stable to the benchmark results:
Five open tabs
- Google Chrome 34: 258,589 k
- Firefox 26: 246,288 k
- Firefox 29: 225,552 k
- Google Chrome 31: 224,946k
- Internet Explorer 11: 221989 k
Fifteen open tabs
- Internet Explorer 11: 550869 k
- Google Chrome 31: 485,282 k
- Google Chrome 34: 448,015 k
- Firefox 26: 332,212 k
- Firefox 29: 327,060 k
Forty open tabs
- Internet Explorer 11: 1547254 k
- Google Chrome 31: 1,255,641 k
- Google Chrome 34: 1,167,298 k
- Firefox 29: 779,100 k
- Firefox 26: 704,128 k
Down to 15 tabs
- Internet Explorer 11: 595,373 k
- Google Chrome 31: 526,544 k
- Google Chrome 34: 514,872 k
- Firefox 26: 510,116 k
- Firefox 29: 442654 k
Down to 5 tabs
- Internet Explorer 11: 377683 k
- Firefox 26: 371,156 k
- Firefox 29: 358404 k
- Google Chrome 31: 263,991
- Google Chrome 34: 275722 k
Microsoft's Internet Explorer 11 performed worst in four of the five benchmarks. It performed best initially with only 5 tabs open in each browser, but landed last in all four consecutive benchmarks.
Google Chrome too made first place only once after nearly all tabs were closed again in all browsers. It seems to release memory faster or more efficiently than Internet Explorer or Firefox.
Firefox takes the crown as a heavy duty browser. It performed best with 15, 40 and down to 15 open tabs and never went above the 1 Gigabyte mark, while the two other browsers did.
In fact, Microsoft's Internet Explorer 11 used about twice as much memory as Firefox with 40 tabs open.
It is interesting to note that Microsoft's web browser recovered memory some time after it went down to only 5 open tabs. A few minutes later, its use dropped down to about 260,000 k of memory usage, while Firefox's usage dropped only by about 40,000 k to 318,816.
Depending on how you use your Internet browser, you may fare well in regards to memory use with each of them. If you have lots of tabs open at all times, then you will benefit from using Firefox the most, as the browser is the most memory efficient when it comes to opening a lot of tabs.
If you open and close tabs regularly, you may want to consider using Google Chrome or even Internet Explorer instead, as they appear to recover memory more quickly than Firefox.
Memory use should not play a big role if you are using a computer with plenty of RAM installed. If you have 4 or more Gigabytes of RAM, then it should not usually be a problem if the browser jumps to 1 or even 1.5 Gigabytes of RAM usage.
If you have less than that though, you may benefit from using a memory efficient browser such as Firefox, instead of Chrome or Internet Explorer.