Chrome is still a memory hog on macOS compared to Safari

Posted:
in Mac Software
Long been derided as a resource-consuming web browser, a recent test by a developer reveals Google Chrome to use multiple times the memory of Apple's Safari in macOS.




Chrome is often the source of ire for users who find the Google-created browser to be bloated and too keen to consume a Mac's available memory. In many cases, users are pointed in the direction of the lightweight Safari, but in a new test report, a developer shows how bad Chrome is on RAM.

A blog post by Flotato developer Morten Just spotted by iMore attempted to find out how much the memory disparity is between Safari and Chrome. Two tests were performed, with the browsers experiencing minimal load alongside a more realistic scenario.

For the minimal load test, a virtual machine was set up with a clean macOS installation, and the browsers were made to open up two tabs showing Twitter and Gmail. A snapshot of the memory and CPU utilization was captured 250 times per second using psrecord.

In the minimal scenario, the average RAM usage for Chrome for just the Twitter tab was 730 megabytes, ten times the 73 megabytes observed for Safari. Flotato, an app for loading mobile versions of websites as an app on macOS, shaves the RAM usage down a bit further to 63MB.

Under the two-tab test, Chrome's memory utilization reached 1 gigabyte after a minute, while Safari stayed consistently below 80 megabytes.

The memory and CPU consumption of Chrome (left) and Safari (right) when opening 54 tabs in macOS [via Flotato]
The memory and CPU consumption of Chrome (left) and Safari (right) when opening 54 tabs in macOS [via Flotato]


Instead of a virtual machine, the second "stress test" used Just's own macOS installation and opened up 54 tabs in each browser. While Safari kept the average amount of RAM used per tab to a svelte 12 megabytes, Chrome's average per-tab memory usage was a massive 290 megabytes.

Both Apple and Google regularly improve their respective browsers, with Safari 14 introducing more performance improvements alongside new features like a tab bar redesign, customizable start page, and privacy-related elements.

To Google's credit, it has been working to introduce some enhancements to change how it handles background webpages, improving processing performance as well as reducing the load on a Mac's battery, and even a version built for Apple Silicon. Memory consumption has been a long-running problem, which Google has repeatedly tried to address, but evidently it is still an issue.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 36
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 2,884member
    What in God's name could require Chrome to use 10-20x the amount of memory that Safari uses??? Just one of the reasons I keep Chrome off my MBP. For another reason, search Chrome Keystone Mac
    elijahgllamaStrangeDaysolswatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 36
    I have a 2019 iMac with a 3.6GHz i9 CPU, 64gb of RAM, and 8gb of video ram- so quite a powerful system. 

    I was using Chrome for quite a while, but I noticed I was hearing the iMac's fan a lot. I installed the program MenuBar Stats which gives all sorts of system info- CPU and RAM usage, reading on the almost 30 temperature sensors inside the machine, and of course, fan speed.

    Well, the fan would often go to 100%. The CPU temp would soar to 165-170º.  

    Then I switched to Safari. Not only did everything load faster, but the fan stopped coming on. The programs that were operating at the same time, worked faster. The CPU temp rarely goes about 145º.  

    Chrome simply sucks.
    gregoriusmMplsPPetrolDaveolswatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 36
    I really wish Safari would support multiple users so I could ditch Chrome, because I use different accounts for different clients.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 36
    When the news broke a couple of months ago I removed Chrome using the detailed removal instructions and my Macs have been fine ever since. I still have Google Earth on my computer and it hasn't been a problem.

    Does the M1 version of Chrome have the same problem? The article doesn't say.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 36
    XedXed Posts: 752member
    What I want to know is whether this is occurring because Alphabet is really bad at writing code for macOS or because Alphabet is good at doing nefarious things on macOS.
    edited February 20 firelocklkruppwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 36
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,896member
    MplsP said:
    What in God's name could require Chrome to use 10-20x the amount of memory that Safari uses??? Just one of the reasons I keep Chrome off my MBP. For another reason, search Chrome Keystone Mac
    It’s just a great example of just poor programming, or it was done on purpose to make Mac’s look bad. There is no other reason. 

    Back in the day when Apple laptops were making PC laptops look horrible from power stand point Microsoft was caught doing things in excel and word to run down the battery so Macs were no better than PC’s. Microsoft claim they only did it so laptop users would not see performance hit because Apple chose to power cycles the processor.

    Alex1Nwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 36
    fred1fred1 Posts: 729member
    Sadly, however, some web sites still don’t work on Safari. My bank’s web site, for example, and Zoom only plays with the Chrome browser. 
    PetrolDavewilliamlondonllama
  • Reply 9 of 36
    dk49dk49 Posts: 78member
    I wonder how Microsoft Edge compares to Chrome on Mac, as they are both built on Chromium. 
    PetrolDavewatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 36
    I wouldn’t use Chrome, but some site are not working well with Safari. Not sure who’s fault is that… So i only use it with those specific website…
    PetrolDavefirelockllamawatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 36
    macguimacgui Posts: 1,983member
    I use Firefox for those times that Safari doesn't cut it. But I'm not up to date on most of my Macs, so I'm guessing an outdated Safari is part of the problem. Safari in High Sierra seems to be pretty reliable for me, compared to Safari in Sierra.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 36
    fred1 said:
    Sadly, however, some web sites still don’t work on Safari. My bank’s web site, for example, and Zoom only plays with the Chrome browser. 
    That is because they have not fully updated to HTML 5 or their using feature which they developed using one browser and never bother to test with the others. There sites out there which support activeX and .net. I do run into site which do not work on mobile safari but fine on the Mac safari, sorry to say there are lots of hack programmers out there.
    fred1Alex1NStrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 36
    dewmedewme Posts: 3,425member
    I suspect Chrome is spinning up a full process for each tab while Safari is spinning up new threads within the same process to do the same thing. 

    No, this is not poor programming, it’s a purposeful design choice that Google uses to improve resilience and fault tolerance. Google also has a more open plug-in/extension model. Isolating plug-ins/extensions into their own process and memory address space within a tab keeps a poorly behaving, e.g., memory leaker, plug-in from bringing down the entire Chrome application if something goes wrong. Google made a choice and they chose resiliency and fault tolerance over memory efficiency. This makes perfect sense for their design intentions and as users it gives you a choice if you have to use or access certain sites or use certain plug-ins that are not as stable as you’d like. There are times when I'd rather have a single tab crash than have the entire browser crash. This may be more of a concern on Windows, but it's not a defect, just a characteristic of the application.

    I've had to make these kinds of design choices and there have definitely been valid reasons for choosing out-of-process over in-process. Other reasons for running out-of-process include separating the lifetime of your server process from the lifetime of your clients, maintaining state between client sessions, and keeping your service/app running and doing things in the background. Yes, it costs more in memory consumption but most virtual memory based systems including Windows can handle low memory situations reasonably well, i.e., allowing the system to slow down rather than running out of memory and crashing. It's up to the designer to choose the model that best fits their design intentions and you'll find a mix of in-proc and out-of-proc services on all OSs that support these models. Google took one approach and Apple took another. No big deal in a world where you can have as many browsers on your computer as you would ever want to have.

    If you “have” to use Chrome for a particular site it should not present a problem unless doing so requires you to open multiple tabs and you have so little memory that you get into a heavy paging situation. It’s not like you get a rebate or any material benefits from having a lot of free RAM just sitting there doing nothing. 
    edited February 21 jeffreytgilbert
  • Reply 14 of 36
    Firefox fills my RAM and starts writing to disk after several minutes. I keep it around because I can’t log into eBay in Safari on macOS or iOS. 
  • Reply 15 of 36
    auxioauxio Posts: 2,236member
    riverko said:
    I wouldn’t use Chrome, but some site are not working well with Safari. Not sure who’s fault is that… So i only use it with those specific website…
    One of the big (likely intentional) problems is that Google keeps creating new web development "standards" which, of course, only Chrome supports.  Lazy/ignorant web developers who only test their websites in Chrome will use these standards before they're fully supported across multiple browsers.  A simple check on caniuse.com would tell them what works across browsers.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 36
    Unfortunately, i have two clients that both use sharepoint log-ins, so i am forced to use two different web browsers to avoid conflicts. Until Apple can come up with a way to log two different accounts into one website, I’m forced to use Chrome AND Safari.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 36
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 8,894member
    riverko said:
    I wouldn’t use Chrome, but some site are not working well with Safari. Not sure who’s fault is that… So i only use it with those specific website…
    I, on the other hand, have yet to find a website that doesn’t work with Safari. My bank, all my credit card sites, U.S. government websites, state websites, etc. I have Firefox installed just in case but have had no use for it for years. And in my opinion the fault lies with the website’s developers who simply ignore Safari in their testing. 
    It’s the old story of incompetent developers coding for what they consider to be the dominant browser and nothing else. There may even be some basic Apple hatred going on too. I’m still around from the days when Internet Explorer was the ONLY browser developers coded for and Mac users were rudely told to just go away and die.
    Alex1NrobabawilliamlondonStrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 36
    This article is being questioned by others saying the person who tested did not count the "Safari renderer" processes (which are rather large memory consumers) when counting Safari usage.

    I, personally, set Safari and Chrome to open the same 5 tabs at start, and if you count ALL the Safari processes, it's actually MORE than Chrome.

    This article is just untrue.
    dewmewilliamlondonllamaCloudTalkin
  • Reply 19 of 36
    mcdavemcdave Posts: 1,575member
    MplsP said:
    What in God's name could require Chrome to use 10-20x the amount of memory that Safari uses??? Just one of the reasons I keep Chrome off my MBP. For another reason, search Chrome Keystone Mac
    Data harvesting’s hard work.
    MplsPwatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 36
    chadbagchadbag Posts: 1,291member
    fred1 said:
    Sadly, however, some web sites still don’t work on Safari. My bank’s web site, for example, and Zoom only plays with the Chrome browser. 
    I use Zoom daily with Safari.  It just launches the Zoom app anyway.  

    Luckily al of my financial accounts across all I agitations have no problem on Safari. 
    StrangeDaysMplsPwatto_cobra
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