Firefox Quantum vs. Chrome: Which Is Faster?

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Accompanying every new web browser version release is a flood of claims that it’s faster than anything else on the internet. And why not? In a cramped market, where name value matters and personal preferences reign, anything that can shift attention for a few minutes is welcome. So with this week's drop of Firefox Quantum, the latest incarnation of Mozilla's stalwart browser, the company's boast about its new version being speedier than Google Chrome was pronounced more quickly than, well, you can open a new tab.

Chrome Firefox Comparison 675403

Mozilla insists that Firefox Quantum's "crazy powerful browser engine" makes the process of loading pages twice as fast as it is on Google's flagship browser. It also claims that it's 30 percent lighter in terms of memory usage. But is any of it true?

To slash through all the bragging and unearth some facts, I fired up a series of benchmark tests and did some real-world investigation to get a better idea of the performance of both browsers under typical usage. All tests on Firefox Quantum 57 and Google Chrome 61.0.3163.100 were performed on the same Windows 10 machine, a Dell XPS 13 laptop with a 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-7660U processor and 16GB of RAM.

Synthetic Benchmark Tests

First up in the regimen of synthetic benchmark tests was WebXPRT 2015, a test that is made up of six HTML5- and JavaScript-based workloads that cover a range of basic, everyday tasks. Firefox Quantum was the winner here, with a score of 491 (from an average of five runs, with the highest and lowest results tossed out) to Chrome's 460 — but that wasn't quite the whole story. Whereas Firefox performed noticeably better on the Organize Album and Explore DNA Sequencing workloads, Chrome proved more adept at Photo Enhancement and Local Notes, demonstrating that the two browsers have different strengths.

WebXPRT 2015 Performance
Things were tighter still on BrowserBench's JetStream 1.1. Described as "a JavaScript benchmark suite focused on the most advanced web applications," JetStream 1.1 uses more than three dozen tests to measure browser latency and throughput, and to provide a geometric mean of the scores (which is what we're reporting). Firefox Quantum was faster here, too, with a score of 183.1 to Google Chrome's 178.4.

JetStream

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You might think that Octane 2.0, which started out as a Google Developers project, would favor Chrome — and you'd be (slightly) right. This JavaScript benchmark runs 21 individual tests (over such functions as core language features, bit and math operations, strings and arrays, and more) and combines the results into a single score. Chrome's was 35,622 to Firefox's 35,148 — a win, if only a minuscule one.

Octane 2.0

Browser Start Time

Although you may frequently think about the boot time of your computer (especially if it's older!), the start time of individual programs tends to be overlooked more often. When you click on an icon, you want it to open, and if it lags, you notice. (We're looking at you, Photoshop — but you do a ton of stuff, so it's okay.) Given how simple a web browser is, it doesn't seem too much to ask that it open immediately.

The good news is that you essentially get that with both Firefox Quantum and Google Chrome. I used PassMark AppTimer to measure the timing of opening and closing 50 windows of each program, and I rebooted the computer before switching between them. With an average time of 0.287 seconds, Firefox again won. But since Chrome averaged 0.302 seconds, you don't have to worry either way.

Memory Usage

If there's a natural enemy of web-browser performance, it's RAM usage. More or less since their advent, web browsers have tended to gobble up memory resources and compound the problem with each new tab or window you open. But although the gradual uptick of RAM amounts in most computers has mitigated this problem somewhat, it is still a problem — and something you want to be aware of.

In order to determine which browser (if either) was less of a mud-wallowing memory hog, I gathered together a list of 10 popular websites, including our own Tom's Guide and Laptop; CNN and ESPN; Facebook and Twitter; and others. I then opened them all in individual tabs within one browser window (with the YouTube tab playing a video), and used the Windows Task Manager to monitor the memory usage after 5 minutes. (As I did previously, I rebooted the computer before switching to the other browser.)

Memory-Usage-2
Again, the results were close. Yes, Chrome used marginally less memory just running its main app (an average of 126.3MB versus 145.3MB for Firefox), and it averaged a lower amount of memory across all the background processes it started when it ran (1,362.4MB across 13 or 14 processes, as compared to Firefox's 1,400.5MB across a consistent six). It's worth noting, though, that in two of our three tests, Firefox did finish leaner, but in no case did it live up to Mozilla's claim that Quantum consumes "roughly 30 percent less RAM than Chrome."

The news changed a bit when more tabs were involved. With 30 tabs open, Firefox Quantum averaged 3,883MB of RAM from six processes and Chrome averaged 4,151.3MB from 34. As Mozilla touts Quantum's facility with multiple tabs, this is good to know, though Firefox was more sluggish keeping up with multiple simultaneous YouTube video streams. (Both browsers flipped through and closed tabs snappily.)

Chrome Firefox Comparison 675403

Is Firefox Quantum Faster Than Chrome?

Firefox Quantum delivers on the spirit of Mozilla's promises. It did demonstrate speed increases, albeit ones that were generally modest and intermittent, and memory savings that were primarily noticeable only with loads of active tabs. What this proves, though, is that no matter which browser you choose, you're getting one that's decently fast and capable when both handle all of the content you're likely to encounter during your regular surfing sessions. And that, more than performance that's a tad better here or there, is what matters most.

Credit: Laptop Mag

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33 comments
  • tsturzl Says:

    For clarification, they spawn a process per core because it's faster, but then it uses more memory in turn. I don't notice any draw backs when I scale it back to 2 processes, but also the only reason I do this is because I'm running VMs locally pretty often, and it's nice to not have to buy more memory so that an application can just use it haphazardly. Most people will probably benefit from having more processes more than they would benefit from using less memory. Though either way it probably doesn't matter that much. If it wasn't for work, I would probably be running qute.

  • John S Says:

    Always makes for good press to talk about browsers and which is better, faster, stronger against bad stuff. Truth is any one of them is perfectly acceptable for a average and its more about personal preferences then anything. Pretty obvious Chrome wins the important number which is users. Which back when Internet Explorer had dominated it brings to mind how much control Google has with Chrome dominating. Some of this is deserving some of it most likely is follow the leader where users simply use Chrome because so many others do.

  • mikkle Says:

    I gave up on stinky Chrome a long time ago and won't ever go back. Even using Firefox on my Android devices with full, proper ad-blocking.

  • Darko Says:

    FFQ is running colder on my laptop. About 10 degrees Celsius colder then running Chrome.

  • Roger Pack Says:

    You should benchmark cpu usage when playing an HD movie (ex: youtube)

  • aj in AZ Says:

    Oh yeah FFQ in privacy mode on my Android Rocks! compared to chrome & their constant tracking!

  • Juhan Says:

    Very pleasantly surprised with the new Firefox. Switched from Opera to Quantum now (Opera good too - better than Chrome imo -but now not really as good as Quantum now in my optinon)Previously Firefox was slow but now it's fast and in all way better than before. There were some plugings that Opera didn't had and I was sad because I still didn't want to use the previous old Firefox but now I can use it. It's really well thought-out now I think. Yea, very happy! Thanks for making these meaningful improvements

  • Patrick G Says:

    FF Quantum is really good. According to my tests, it out performs Chrome in every benchmark, including Google's own. It uses less RAM and battery than even Edge! And, by far, less than Chrome.

  • Mark B Says:

    Quite a few years ago, I was a big fan of FF (never used I.E). But the Adobe Flash integration was a joke. It would inform you that it was out of date, then leave it to you to find the latest version! With Chrome, it would take care of it for you. You could also 'sign into' Chrome and your settings would appear on whatever PC you chose. Not sure if Quantum has these 2 features, but since the speeds are very close, I'm sticking with Chrome.

  • Conor Devlin Says:

    Scratch that. I just double checked, and with one tab, firefox does use marginally more ram than chromium. The lack of noticeable scroll lag, still wins me over though.

  • Conor Devlin Says:

    All I can tell you is that on my cheap low powered laptop. Browing facebook, for example, has a lot a scrolling lag on every browser I've tried, except the new firefox.
    With just one tab open I get pretty much exactly the 30% ram saving over chromium that they claim (which matters a lot when you only have 2GB). All the benchmarks I'm seeing say something completely different to my real world experience.
    I use linux, so maybe it's just on this platform, but I'm very impresssed so far.

  • zaggernut Says:

    I recently switched to FFQ, and I think I will stick with it for some time.
    What I did not like that much, however, is the text rendering that so many others have a great opinion of; I think Chrome's text is sharper, while FFQ's text is bolder but fuzzier.

  • Joseph Says:

    People claiming Firefox uses less ram than Chrome... Well I don't know what if they are just opening google searches in 50 tabs or something like that but Firefox eats ram like crazy. I've both Chrome and Quantum installed and I've tested opening the same pages and the same numbers of tabs and Firefox starts using ram like there is no tomorrow. Quantum IS faster than previous versions of FF but it's not lightweighted at all.

  • Mitch 74 Says:

    You misread Mozilla's claims - they said that they doubled Firefox's speed over the previous version, thus catching up and in some cases overtaking Chrome.
    As for the 30% less RAM usage, it is indeed in low-memory, multiple-tabs tests (when there's RAM aplenty, Firefox keeps more stuff in RAM such as uncompressed images).

  • Joe Bean Says:

    The main differentiation now is Firefox cares more about your privacy, Chrome might be a bit better at security.

    I am always surprised to see how little people care about privacy today. Maybe they think they already gave up anyway by using social networks or they don't feel they have much choice anyway. Maybe they enjoy the targeted advertising. I find that extremely intrusive when not requested. To each is own, but I will stay a loyal Firefox user for this reason.

  • Sidereal Says:

    I use Firefox at home and Chrome on my work laptop. Both laptops have the same specifics.
    Can't tell the difference in speed (I don't count milliseconds) but I don't need to run the tests to tell that Firefox is lighter on my RAM and CPU either.
    I am working in Android Studio with browser opened, and with Chrome everything freezes like hell. In the meantime, with Firefox I can build gradle and watch YouTube videos without the slightest lag.
    On my system I have monitoring widgets that tell me RAM usage in real time, not just measuring "average". So please, I know EXACTLY how much Chrome uses, you are not fooling anyone.
    Type "Chrome ram meme" in google and see what REAL users have to say about it.

  • Emma Nicely Says:

    I use Firefox and I have a lot of problems with my browser freezing up.Is this the usual case?

  • saifuddin Says:

    have switched to firefox quantum after comparing memory usage with multiple tabs.

  • Adderly Says:

    This benchmark is really silly, it measures what is not advertised, benchmark should go from testing different web pages to cpu/gpu usage.

    Make a better effort than just opening a test in the internet and the task manager.

    The literature is great though. ;)

  • Tope20 Says:

    To the average user who really cares. Most people will never notice a difference in terms of speed or memory. What's important is the interface and ease of use.

  • Daleos Says:

    Okay, so a fast browser is a plus but at these differences it makes no practical difference.

    I think the RAM requirement for multiple tabs is far more important metric. Pretty much the only real reason laptops come with 8GB instead of 4GB these days is because web browsers use up so much RAM.

    However, with all these great browsers about I still use IE. It's slow, it'a buggy, it crashes more often than not (seemingly more so since Edge came out... hmmm?!?) and its a security sieve but it's still my *main* browser. I use Chrome and Firefox for other things but when I'm doing heavy research it's IE all the way.

    Ironically, the primary reason I still use IE is Google Toolbar. Doubly ironic is that the Google Toolbar is Google's one and only tool that actually doesn't oversimplify things and lets *ME* control what I want and not let Google AI try to do it all for me and inevitably get it wrong.

  • Lavender Says:

    I'm always using Chrome....it's better than Fire Fox Quantum...

  • Jasmine Says:

    FFQ is faster than Chrome......Bye!

  • Allishba Says:

    Whoops! I means, Chrome is faster than Firefox.

  • James Says:

    A long time I.E., FF, and Chrome user. FF is much lighter on resources; I have hundreds of tabs open without consuming Gigs of ram. Chrome can't say that. I can barely run 50 tabs. Plus, FF does a better job with its GUI when working with lots of tabs.

  • Mugsy Says:

    I've been a loyal FF user ever since Netscape bit the dust. For me, the best reason to use FF are all the AddOn's to make it more usable, and Quantum broke most of those AddOn's.

    As for speed tests, the stripped down "MS Edge" that comes with Win10 claims to be the only browser fast enough to stream 1080p video.

  • why?? Says:

    any gain of speed will be used up by supplying more ads or at least making page html less effective...

  • Sterli Says:

    Chrome so much eat memory, now im trying firefox for my web development

  • Dazza Says:

    Mozilla didn't say Firefox is twice as fast as chrome.

    They said Firefox 57 is twice as fast as Firefox from 6 months ago.

    And all of Mozilla's demonstration of speed difference between Firefox and Chrome showed it almost identical. Slightly faster than chrome on some pages, slightly slower on others.

  • Joseph Says:

    The thing I like about the new Firefox is that it is the only browser that has the same smooth scrolling as Edge does and great text rendering.

  • Kevin Says:

    The beginning of the article states "Mozilla insists that Firefox Quantum's "crazy powerful browser engine" makes the process of loading pages twice as fast as it is on Google's flagship browser." What Mozilla has actually stated is that Quantum is twice as fast as the previous version of Firefox. Chrome still wins most of the benchmark tests, but I'm giving Quantum a try anyway because I only expect it to improve and really like the privacy features.

  • Kougeru Says:

    Chrome uses far more cpu too. Makes a big difference when monitoring your own streams

  • MikeyK Says:

    It does feel like Quantum is faster. I just don't like the Pocket integration. I happily use Bookmark OS instead

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