Finally, we took a look at CPU and RAM usage. Similar to what we did in 2015, we loaded a set of 20 websites in a single window in quick succession using either a batch file or the command line depending on the quirks of the browser in question. Once all tabs began loading, we waited 45 seconds, and then checked the CPU and RAM usage. The idea was to see the amount of system resources the browser would use during a heavy workload.
One difference from 2015 is that Flash was turned off for each browser—benchmarks were done with and without the plugin in 2015. In recent years, most browser makers have de-emphasized Flash, enabling it as “click-to-play” and blocking nonessential website elements that use Flash. Since the web is moving to a Flash-free existence we decided to live the dream right now.
For these tests our rig was an Acer Aspire E15-575-33BM laptop loaded with Windows 10 Home (Creators Update), a 1TB hard drive, 4GB RAM, and an Intel Core i3-7100U. Each browser was tested over a hard line internet connection.
Edge makes big gains
Looking at both Jetstream and SunSpider, Edge won top marks by a wide margin. SunSpider has been deprecated for some time and is no longer supported, but the result was still surprising. For Octane 2.0, which is also no longer supported, Firefox and Opera vied for top spot, with Chrome the laggard by a wide margin. For this set of benchmark scores higher is better with the exception of SunSpider.
Moving on to the more modern Speedometer test, which quickly iterates through a bunch of HTML 5-based to-do lists, Chrome came out on top. Google’s Blink-based cousin Opera came in second, with Edge and Firefox way behind. The numbers were much closer for WebXPRT 2015, which uses a wide number of web apps, from photo collections to online note-taking to data sets. Edge came out on top there, while the others were closer together with only a few points separating the back three. Again, higher is better for these tests.
Finally, we come to the memory and CPU test. Slamming an average PC with 20 tabs of mostly media rich sites all at once is certainly going to chew up a good chunk of CPU and memory. These browsers did not disappoint in that respect.
Despite its reputation, however, Chrome was tops here, using less than 40 percent CPU power, followed by Edge. The results were similar for memory with Chrome using the least. Take those impressive Edge numbers with a healthy dose of skepticism, however, as during testing the PC froze, and we couldn’t access task manager as swiftly as with the others. The fact that the whole PC slowed to a crawl suggests Edge’s numbers don’t tell the whole story. Based on that experience, power users with multiple tabs open in Edge would feel some serious pain trying to get work done.
As for Firefox, you may notice that the browser chewed up CPU usage, but was relatively low in memory usage. The reason for that, as Mozilla reminded us, is that Firefox alone is transitioning from one browser process to four. Whereas Chrome and Edge use multiple processes for each tab. The idea behind the latter is that individual tabs running on separate processes won't take down the whole browser if they crash. That approach does use more memory, however. Mozilla is trying to find a middle ground. On the one hand, Firefox helps maintain overall PC performance under heavier workloads, but it's not great if you want dozens of sites to load as quickly as possible.
And the winner is...
So who wins? Here’s the way we see it.
Once again, Edge gets honorable mention for making some serious gains in performance and earning some truly impressive scores. But when you factor in customizability and how Edge fared in the live site stress test, it still has some work to do—like offering a wider extension library and the ability to sync across devices.
As in our previous showdown, Chrome continues to capitalize on these strengths, and even improves in the performance department by addressing its past resource issues, making it, once again, our first choice.
Opera again earns second place since it performed relatively well in the live stress test, and can be set up to take advantage of nearly all the same conveniences Chrome can.
As for Firefox, it’s also a fine choice. Mozilla’s browser definitely gets the job done, it’s very customizable, and its open source roots puts the browser in a league of its own.