10 Popular Web Browsers Tested for Memory and CPU Usage

A few years back, I used Internet Explorer for better compatibility with a number of websites. Moreover, I was already used to using Internet Explorer, so why bother changing? There are a quite a few web browsers around these days and they mostly have their own good and bad points. Whether it’s how many resources they take up or how quickly they load web pages, to what extra features they have included or can be added through extension plug-ins. If you’re not happy with your current browser, there’s really no excuse to not go out and try other browsers and see what they have to offer.

A little while back, I used to keep leaving my laptop on when I went to sleep and in the morning when I went back to the laptop, it was often quite hot and everything running slowly. I only left Mozilla Firefox running with some websites loaded which I usually visit. Checking the Task Manager found that Firefox was eating a lot of memory and CPU usage was going up and down. I removed all extensions and themes, tried again by leaving the laptop on overnight with the same websites open, but still the same thing. Luckily Firefox has improved since then and isn’t nearly so resource hungry, but it got me thinking about which web browsers around today are better or worse at consuming system resources. We’ve put together a RAM and CPU usage test with 10 websites loaded simultaneously on to 10 different popular web browsers; Avant Browser, FlashPeak SlimBrowser, Maxthon, Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Opera, Green Browser, Apple Safari and finally Pale Moon.

browser memory and cpu test

All the browsers are the latest versions at the time of writing and no extensions or plug-ins were installed apart from Flash which was required for some of the websites. I used a quad core CPU reduced to a single core to better illustrate CPU usage. The operating system used was Windows 7 64-bit and the screenshots were taken when all 10 websites are fully loaded and left to settle for 10 seconds or so. Each tabbed site was then visited in turn and the maximum CPU usage was noted.

Do bear in mind that this is NOT an exhaustive test and was done simply to demonstrate the resources taken up by each browser when visiting a number of common websites with multiple tabs open. The 10 websites chosen are simply a selection of pages the average person might visit during their browsing session. They are:

Below are the results of the CPU and Memory usage test for all 10 browsers. If you’d prefer to look at the results summary and table, they can be found on Page 2.

1. Apple Safari 5.1.7

Apple Safari

Time to load all 10 pages: 25 seconds
CPU Usage: Rarely dropped to 0% and hovered between 5% and 20%, peaked at 66% during animation.
Memory Usage: 429MB
Loaded Processes: 2

Safari process

Download Apple Safari


2. Avant Browser Ultimate 2012 b181

Avant Browser

Avant Ultimate can use 3 different rendering engines, IE9, Chrome and Firefox. Here’s the result for all 3:

Chrome Engine

Time to load all 10 pages: 17 seconds
CPU Usage: Rarely dropped to 0% and hovered between 5% and 25%, peaked at 90% during animation.
Memory Usage: 373MB
Loaded Processes: 13

Avant chrome engine memory usage

Firefox Engine

Time to load all 10 pages: 19 seconds
CPU Usage: Rarely dropped to 0% and hovered between 2% and 10%, peaked at 81% during animation.
Memory Usage: 442MB
Loaded Processes: 3

avant firefox engine memory usage

Internet Explorer 9 Standard Engine

Time to load all 10 pages: 13 seconds
CPU Usage: Mostly between 0% and 10%, peaked at 71% during Flash animation.
Memory Usage: 342MB
Loaded Processes: 3

avant IE engine

Download Avant Browser


3. Flashpeak Slim Browser 6.01

Slim Browser

Time to load all 10 pages: 13 seconds
CPU Usage: Mostly between 0% and 10%, peaked at 52% during Flash animation.
Memory Usage: 278MB
Loaded Processes: 2

slim browser process

Download FlashPeak SlimBrowser


4. Google Chrome 21.0.1180

Google Chrome

Time to load all 10 pages: 12 seconds
CPU Usage: Mostly between 0% and 10%, peaked at 80% during Flash animation.
Memory Usage: 370MB
Loaded Processes: 13

Google Chrome Process

Download Google Chrome


5. Green Browser 6.3

Green Browser

Time to load all 10 pages: 11 seconds
CPU Usage: Mostly between 0% and 5%, peaked at 30% during Flash animation.
Memory Usage: 228MB
Loaded Processes: 1

Green Browser Process

Download Green Browser

6. Internet Explorer 9

Internet Explorer

Time to load all 10 pages: 14 seconds
CPU Usage: Mostly between 0% and 10%, peaked at 60% during Flash animation.
Loaded Processes: 6
Memory Usage: 280MB

Internet Explorer Process

Download Internet Explorer 9 (Vista and 7 only)


7. Maxthon 3.4.5

Maxthon

Time to load all 10 pages: 17 seconds
CPU Usage: Mostly between 0% and 10%, peaked at 54% during Flash animation.
Memory Usage: 303MB
Loaded Processes: 4

Maxthon Processes

Download Maxthon


8. Mozilla Firefox 15.01

Firefox

Time to load all 10 pages: 12 seconds
CPU Usage: Mostly between 0% and 10%, peaked at 61% during Flash animation.
Loaded Processes: 2
Memory Usage: 266MB

Firefox processes

Download Mozilla Firefox


9. Opera 12.02

Opera

Time to load all 10 pages: 10 seconds
CPU Usage: Mostly between 0% and 7%, peaked at 30% during Flash animation.
Memory Usage: 279MB
Loaded Processes: 1

Opera Processes

Download Opera


10. Pale Moon 15.1

Pale Moon

Time to load all 10 pages: 12 seconds
CPU Usage: Mostly between 3% and 10%, peaked at 81% during Flash animation.
Memory Usage: 288MB
Loaded Processes: 2

Pale Moon Processes

On testing, the 64-bit version peaked at 71% CPU and used 351MB of memory.

Download Pale Moon


Results Summary

To summarize the results from all the browser’s RAM and CPU usage, here’s a simple table showing the scores. Green is obviously the best and pink is the worst for each category. Do note the “Peak CPU usage” is AFTER the pages have fully loaded and not while loading, all browsers hit 100% during that time.

Summary Chart for all browsers

The good points:

  • Predictably Opera was the fastest to load and stayed low on CPU usage when viewing Flash rich pages, although the problems it still has viewing some webpages properly might put people off.
  • A resource friendly surprise was GreenBrowser as it loaded fast, was low on memory and kept CPU usage to a minimum. The interface is not the best, but compatibility should be good as it uses the Internet Explorer Trident rendering engine.
  • Firefox has improved a lot recently in resource usage, but few people run it without plug-ins so the memory usage and load time will likely increase when several are added.

The not so good points:

  • Avant’s nice idea of 3 different switchable browser engines in the same browser sounds like a good idea, but needs a lot more work to make it fully optimized and really worth using.
  • It’s not clear if Apple have discontinued Safari, but with it’s high memory usage in this test and terrible load time of the 10 test pages, I’m not sure why anyone would want to use it.
  • High memory and CPU usage playing Flash meant Chrome surprisingly wasn’t great either, which is probably why they’re concentrating on these areas in future versions.

What the test does show is that overall it’s not a good idea to leave a webpage open on your machine with something like a Flash animation running for long periods of time, especially a laptop or netbook. As expected, CPU usage goes up greatly with any kind of Flash on the page, some browsers hitting 80% on a single processor core.

As many of the browsers use plug-ins or extensions to enhance them even further, this would affect all these scores greatly. For example, a Flash blocking tool would increase the browser’s used memory slightly, but load times and CPU usage would be reduced.

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