Google Chrome is the world’s most popular browser. Are Safari, Firefox, or Microsoft Edge really better alternatives?
(This is a brief review that addresses the use of computer resources by browsers.)
Taxing the processor: it’s not just Chrome
The Google Chrome browser is an often cited as a processor or memory “hog.” This is due to processes such as the Google Chrome Helper (Renderer) often consuming a disproportionate amount of CPU resources – and memory.
On my MacBook Air Retina* (late 2018), for example, when I look at the Mac Activity Monitor, Google Chrome is often using more CPU resources than any single app and sometimes as much as 50 percent of those resources.
The suggestion or implication often is, other browsers are better.
But here’s the problem. All the other browsers are resource hogs too. I tested Safari, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge on both macOS and Windows 10 and they hog resources too when you’re using them as your main browser with multiple tabs running.
Another way to put it: because Chrome is my primary browser, it stands out as a hog. But if I switch to Firefox or Microsoft Edge or Safari, I have, more or less, the same resource hogging issues – based on my testing.
So, you really can’t pin this on Chrome, as many user forums do. (I’m guilty of accusing Chrome of being a resource hog in the past.) In fact, testing shows Chrome overall to be the best browser.
Safari on the MacBook Air
Yes, Safari tends to be more efficient on the Mac but even Safari gets sluggish when I have more than a few tabs open and simultaneously have tabs open in Chrome. So much so that I get warnings at the top of Safari about web pages using too much memory. And invariably my MacBook Air slows down.
I typically have about a dozen tabs open in Chrome and multiple tabs open in Safari – by necessity (i.e., I don’t leave tabs open unless I’m using them). And I typically stream cable TV news in one of the tabs in either Safari or Chrome.
I’ve discovered that in some cases this can bring the MacBook Air almost to its knees, slowing it down enough that I have to stop using it temporarily.
The problem isn’t fixed by closing tabs in Chrome. It’s fixed by closing tabs in both Chrome and Safari.
Moral of the story?
If you have a fast laptop with lots of memory (16GB) and a fast processor (a newer Intel quad-core processor), you probably won’t be affected, i.e., you may not notice the issues described above.
But if you keep a lot of browser tabs open and active and use (1) an older laptop or (2) a new low-cost laptop (under $700), or (3) a new ultra-thin laptop with an ultra-low-power Intel processor with 8GB or memory or less, you’re probably going to have a problem.