Video: Speed and resource testing Safari, Firefox, and Chrome on the Mac

Posted:
in Mac Software
Mozilla just released their new Firefox "Quantum" browser with new features including built-in screenshots, a save-for-later feature named Pocket, and a Library that holds all of your pocket saves, bookmarks, browsing history, screenshots and downloads in one spot. AppleInsider compares the new release with Safari, and Google's Chrome.




We've tested out the new Firefox on an iMac and it is surprisingly clean and simple. It's extremely snappy when browsing the web and adding more tabs.

Mozilla claims that it is twice as fast as Chrome, while using 30 percent less memory.

We decided to run some benchmarks and speed tests between Firefox Quantum, Chrome, and Safari. We loaded each with a bunch of tabs and also ran a few videos at once to see how they'd perform.

All browsers have their upsides with certain features that users love.
If you're on a Mac, chances are Safari is the best choice, since it supports the rest of the Apple ecosystem, with added features like Hand-off and Safari Autofill which automatically syncs with your iPhone. That feature was recently revolutionized with Face ID on the iPhone X, with instant autofill without having to tap any buttons at all.

We ran our tests on a 2017 5k iMac, equipped with the 4.2GHz i7 CPU, Radeon Pro 580 graphics card, 512GB SSD storage, and a total of 40GB of RAM.





While running the benchmarks, we used iStat menus to monitor the process usage for each browser, and noted the maximum usage at any given time. The usage is displayed in relative percent, so it won't be limited to a total of 100% like the CPU sensor shows.

High usage isn't always a bad thing, since it can just mean that it's well optimized, but it can also lead to higher CPU temperatures and a louder fan. If CPU usage is through the roof, then you should expect a big boost in performance, otherwise it's inefficient.

We first ran Antutu's HTML5 benchmark. Firefox was a little bit behind the other browsers, but it used the least amount of processing power. Safari for some reason, used a huge amount.

We also ran Jetstream 1.1. Firefox beat Chrome while using the same amount of processing power. Safari destroyed both of them, but was demanding.

Running the Octane 2.0 benchmark, Firefox was right under Chrome, but used less power. Safari beat them both again, while using much more power.

Firefox actually beat both of the other browsers in Speedometer 2.0, while using much less power.

Chrome and Safari destroyed Firefox in Ares-6, while using not that much more processing power.

Firefox gets completely mauled by the other browsers under the Motionmark test, and surprisingly, Safari actually uses the least amount of power this time.

We averaged the maximum power usage for all of the tests and found that Firefox used the least, while Safari used the most. We don't blame Safari though, since it definitely outperformed the other two.

We decided to run all of the benchmarks at once on each browser.

The maximum process usage for Firefox was 540%, and the actual CPU usage sat at around 60%. The scores averaged around 34% slower while running them all at once.

Chrome on the other hand had a maximum process usage of 735%, with around 85% of actual CPU usage, and the fan noise definitely showed it.

The benchmarks averaged around 55% slower while running in tandem.

Safari also had a hefty 716% maximum process usage, with around 80% CPU usage, so the fan kicked up, just like on Chrome.

However, the benchmark scores averaged around 37% slower, which is still pretty good.

We were extremely impressed with Firefox, being able to run all the benchmarks at once and only kicking the CPU usage to 60%.

Real-world testing

Our first test was to time how long it takes to open and load nine of the most popular websites. We got our stopwatch ready and ran through each set of sites three times for accuracy.

Chrome destroyed the other browsers, with Firefox lagging behind. Safari was right in the middle.

Now we decided to see how each browser would handle 20 different AppleInsider articles open in tabs at the same time.

Firefox used the least amount of RAM, and we also found that Firefox only used one extra process for every five open tabs, while Safari and Chrome had an extra process for each tab.

All browsers were snappy when switching between tabs, but Chrome was pretty slow to close tabs compared to Firefox. Safari was able to close tabs as fast as we could click.

Chrome actually crashed and froze during this test. That isn't surprising, given Chrome's performance when users have loads of tabs open.

For our final test, we decided to run five YouTube videos at the same time.

Chrome stayed between 60 percent and 70 percent usage while playing back five videos, and it was choppy when switching back and forth between them. The CPU also got very hot with Chrome, and the fan was going at full blast during the entire test.

While using Firefox, CPU usage was at a shockingly low 10 percent. Playback was very smooth, and the fan didn't kick up.

Safari did even better, with CPU usage ranging from 5 percent to 10 percent, with playback and switching between videos very smooth.
After running all of these tests, we are extremely impressed with Firefox Quantum. While it may not be that fastest browser, it definitely uses the least amount of processing power and RAM.

Safari can be quite power hungry, is extremely quick in every situation. And, we can definitely say that Chrome is the least reliable browser.

There hasn't been much time to really test how well Firefox Quantum works for day to day use, but it's definitely off to a good start. It's also very clean and simple, just like Safari.

In the end, it all boils down to which browser offers the best balance of features and speed for your individual use case.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 21
    Just one little small question:  How does one get rid of the Pocket feature in the iOS version.  I'm sorry but I hate it.  I searched for the answer but couldn't find it.
  • Reply 2 of 21
    I do find this much faster, which is great. Not fond of the bookmark manager though, I'm staying Bookmark OS
  • Reply 3 of 21
    pakittpakitt Posts: 143member
    It’s a pity safari is not available for Windows anymore. I am stuck at work with either Edge (with the worst bookmark manager ever), IE11 for compatibility, and “something else”. Until now I used Chrome because FF was pretty horrible. 
    I installed yesterday Quantum and it feels slower. I will give it a try for some more time and see if it gets better in the near future with a new release.
    Still...I miss Safari...
    watto_cobraGeorgeBMac
  • Reply 4 of 21
    I’ve tried to like Safari. But for years when loading most webpages it occasionally pauses loading for 10-20sec then restarts the loading. Sooo slow. This is on multiple Macs, multiple is upgrades with clean installs. Anyone have any idea??? Otherwise I might ditch chrome and head to Firefox. 
    tipoo
  • Reply 5 of 21
    py99ajh said:
    I’ve tried to like Safari. But for years when loading most webpages it occasionally pauses loading for 10-20sec then restarts the loading. Sooo slow. This is on multiple Macs, multiple is upgrades with clean installs. Anyone have any idea??? Otherwise I might ditch chrome and head to Firefox. 
    Safari 11.x is excellent. Not a problem for me. Love it. Firefox 57 is fantastic on both OS X and Linux. What extensions do you run on Safari? By the way, a lot of sites don't like the non-video load and trigger delays because of it.
    dewme
  • Reply 6 of 21
    irnchrizirnchriz Posts: 1,555member
    I always use safari on the Mac and Firefox on windows.  We don’t use chrome on anything and advise clients likewise.  We have seen too many sites infected by rogue chrome extensions which chrome quite happily installs with no user interaction.  You just can’t trust a product after so many failures.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 21
    mike54mike54 Posts: 226member
    Generally browsers speed these days are quite fast, what is more important now is CPU and RAM usage, and extensions. On windows 10 (still waiting for updated mac mini), Chrome has the least and stable CPU and RAM usage for me. May try this new Firefox.
    SoundJudgment
  • Reply 8 of 21
    py99ajh said:
    I’ve tried to like Safari. But for years when loading most webpages it occasionally pauses loading for 10-20sec then restarts the loading. Sooo slow. This is on multiple Macs, multiple is upgrades with clean installs. Anyone have any idea??? Otherwise I might ditch chrome and head to Firefox. 
    Safari 11.x is excellent. Not a problem for me. Love it. Firefox 57 is fantastic on both OS X and Linux. What extensions do you run on Safari? By the way, a lot of sites don't like the non-video load and trigger delays because of it.
    Adblock and 1Password only.  But I’ve had the problem without extensions in the past. It’s so weird I’ve always wandered why everyone else doesn’t complain about this. I would love someone to diagnose this so I can enjoybsafari across platforms
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 21
    croprcropr Posts: 815member
    As a developer I am using the Firefox Developer Edition (on MacOS, Linux and Win10) as my main browser and I love it.  But the other developers in the company use Chrome.

    Never really liked Safari for developing activities: the developer tools are from my point of view the weakest compared to Firefox or Chrome, Safari was rather late supporting new web standards like WebRTC and service workers, and because it is not cross platform.  We are only using Safari during the integration tests, before a new release of our software
  • Reply 10 of 21
    I would love to use Safari.   But, since I cannot afford (or is it justify?) the cost of a MacBook, I have been using FireFox on my cheap Windows laptop.  I am very happy with it.

    I won't use Chrome because I avoid using any Google products because I don't like peeping toms.
    Edge works OK -- but I don't like it's closed, proprietary storage method for bookmarks.
    IE is just too slow.
  • Reply 11 of 21
    The latest version of Firefox version 57.0 runs so much faster, seems a lot more stable too.
  • Reply 12 of 21
    rob53rob53 Posts: 1,887member
    I would love to use Safari.   But, since I cannot afford (or is it justify?) the cost of a MacBook, I have been using FireFox on my cheap Windows laptop.  I am very happy with it.

    I won't use Chrome because I avoid using any Google products because I don't like peeping toms.
    Edge works OK -- but I don't like it's closed, proprietary storage method for bookmarks.
    IE is just too slow.
    It's difficult to agree with a PC troll but I refuse to use Google products as well. I'm surprised people just don't understand how much capturing of usage and personal information Google products does and what the ramifications to your privacy are. My father-in-law is a Windows user and his support person told him the latest Firefox was going to make a mess of things on his PC. I suggested he simply use Edge (after upgrading to W10) and just use Microsoft apps as much as possible to cut down on any problems he'll have in the future. He's 90 and hates change and I thought Edge was supposed to be an adequate update to IE. 

    As for all the issues with Safari people are mentioning, most have to do with corrupt website designs. Safari protects users against multiple redirects and as many of the hidden garbage designers force on users. Using Ghostery on Safari, this page uses 3 trackers and that's about the minimum. Look at other websites and it can easily be in the teens. All of this garbage slows down every browser and only adds income and more invasion of personal privacy of users.


    freediverx
  • Reply 13 of 21
    In the end, it all boils down to which browser offers the best balance of features and speed for your individual use case.

    I failed to see anything in these test results that would qualify Chrome as offering the best balance for any use case.

  • Reply 14 of 21
    pakitt said:
    It’s a pity safari is not available for Windows anymore. 
    To be honest, Safari for Windows was pretty bad.
  • Reply 15 of 21
    dewmedewme Posts: 1,485member
    Thanks for the useful comparison. Back in the "browser wars" era I was a loyal Firefox user because it seemed closer to Netscape, had many useful plug-ins, and was further away from the abomination that was Internet Explorer with its ActiveX vulnerability honeypot. I keep Chrome around for development purposes. Chrome has some nice apps like Postman that I find useful for doing Node testing. But using any Google product is a bit like swimming in shark infested waters with open wounds. At some point you're probably going to get bitten by the personal information, data, and behavioral gathering bloodlust that is Google's business model. Safari seemed, and still does, like a benign alternative and since it's built into Mac and iOS it was always there. I used Safari on Windows until it was discontinued only because IE was categorically horrible. Beating horrible doesn't require a whole lot. On the Mac, Safari kept getting better and Firefox kept getting more bloated and slow so I gave up Firefox. However, I did install this latest version of Firefox and I must admit that I like it. Putting all the benchmarks aside, it does feel fairly snappy and responsive for my workflows, which are at the "walk and chew gum at the same time" level of complexity. I'll keep it around for a while on my Macs and lower end Ubuntu MATE setups that I have. Being less resource intensive is definitely a bigger deal on lower end systems so I'll see how it works out. Good to see the Mozilla team getting their groove back on and giving Firefox a legitimate chance of survival.
  • Reply 16 of 21
    pakitt said:
    It’s a pity safari is not available for Windows anymore. 
    To be honest, Safari for Windows was pretty bad.
    It sure was, be nice if Apple came out with a new version for Windows 10.
  • Reply 17 of 21
    Excellent review/test. But where is old version of Firefox for comparison?
  • Reply 18 of 21
    pakitt said:
    It’s a pity safari is not available for Windows anymore. I am stuck at work with either Edge (with the worst bookmark manager ever), IE11 for compatibility, and “something else”. Until now I used Chrome because FF was pretty horrible. 
    I installed yesterday Quantum and it feels slower. I will give it a try for some more time and see if it gets better in the near future with a new release.
    Still...I miss Safari...

    There are other browsers built from the same Chromium engine as Chrome while trying to improve in their own ways. Vivaldi and Opera are two examples, but there are many others. You have many choices.
  • Reply 19 of 21

    frantisek said:
    Excellent review/test. But where is old version of Firefox for comparison?
    It sounds like you want to see a comparison of just how much Firefox Quantum has improved over its predecessors? That shouldn't matter... the only thing that matters is how current browsers compete with each other, and this was an excellent review.

    Safari remains my first browser, but I use Chrome, Vivaldi and occasionally Firefox on a day-to-day basis. No point is just using one browser for everything. I treat them like web application wrappers and it works very well.
  • Reply 20 of 21
    rob53 said:
    I would love to use Safari.   But, since I cannot afford (or is it justify?) the cost of a MacBook, I have been using FireFox on my cheap Windows laptop.  I am very happy with it.

    I won't use Chrome because I avoid using any Google products because I don't like peeping toms.
    Edge works OK -- but I don't like it's closed, proprietary storage method for bookmarks.
    IE is just too slow.
    It's difficult to agree with a PC troll but I refuse to use Google products as well. I'm surprised people just don't understand how much capturing of usage and personal information Google products does and what the ramifications to your privacy are. My father-in-law is a Windows user and his support person told him the latest Firefox was going to make a mess of things on his PC. I suggested he simply use Edge (after upgrading to W10) and just use Microsoft apps as much as possible to cut down on any problems he'll have in the future. He's 90 and hates change and I thought Edge was supposed to be an adequate update to IE. 

    As for all the issues with Safari people are mentioning, most have to do with corrupt website designs. Safari protects users against multiple redirects and as many of the hidden garbage designers force on users. Using Ghostery on Safari, this page uses 3 trackers and that's about the minimum. Look at other websites and it can easily be in the teens. All of this garbage slows down every browser and only adds income and more invasion of personal privacy of users.


    "It's difficult to agree with a PC troll"
    ...  Sounds like you're the only troll around here...
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