Every Firefox release brings something exciting and new to the table. Firefox 12 does not, for those who are expecting something like the previous versions. There has been no new feature addition, worth mentioning! So this time around we have focused on the performance of the browser against its main rival Google Chrome, Firefox 12 vs Chrome 18 in various scenarios including traditional browser benchmarks.
So, What’s new?
Nothing, to be frank enough! But the release is a worthwhile considering the amount of bugs fixed and the performance improvement. Nevertheless there are minor improvements internally which are pretty hard to notice in day to day usage and for non developers.
To begin with there is only one (really) “new” feature , which is the implementation of a new Mozilla service to bypass UAC prompts in Windows Vista and above, whenever you update your browser. Google Chrome has implemented it long back, but it involves a lazy trick of installing all your browser updates to the User folder instead of regular Program Files. From now on you will get UAC prompt only when you install Firefox for the first time. When updating later, Mozilla Maintenance Service will take charge of it replacing UAC. By later this year, Mozilla expects to make the automatic browser updates completely silent, like Chrome.
Minor Improvements include:
- Now page source includes line numbers as well, which must be helpful for developers obviously. Too bad they took a while to implement this.
- WebGL performance on Mac OSX has been improved significantly.
- URL’s pasted in the download managers are now downloaded automatically.
- It is now easier to locate the search results in Find in Page option. Though I prefer Chrome for this function. Firefox needs to improve its search in page even more.
- Improvements to various built in developer tools like Web Console 3D page inspector, Style Editor and more.
- Experimental support for ECMAScript 6 Map and Set objects has been implemented in this release.
- HTML5 Video Controls are improve now, and feature a full screen option.
- Lots of Security and bug fixes
Note that Firefox does NOT support h.264 format for encoding HTML5 videos as of now, due to Mozilla’s reluctance to adapt to this standard which is wrangled in numerous patents and Mozilla’s adherence to Open Web standards. It will be better for users if Mozilla supports this format as it provides superior compression than ogg theora
Download: Firefox 12 [15.6 MB]
Benchmarks (Firefox 12 vs Chrome 18)
Here comes the fun part. Several queries have been raised over the Web with the increasing popularity of our Firefox article series over how the data is collected. So let me take time to explain the rig and the procedure:
The Machine is HP G42 with Core i3 (1st gen) clocked at 2.4 GHz, 6 GB DDR3 of 1066 MHz RAM, ATI Mobility Radeon 512 MB GDDR3 graphics and a 5400 RPM Western Digital Hard drive. Hardware Acceleration was turned on in both Firefox and Chrome
I ran the older version of Google v8 (version 6) benchmark this time to maintain harmony with previous browsers’ scores . Sunspider and Kraken were at their respective latest versions. I took the best of each browser score after running each benchmark thrice to avoid accusations of “biasing the article towards Firefox”.
Firefox 12 vs Chrome 18 : Showdown time
Kraken is another browser intensive benchmark by Mozilla, Kraken focuses on much more realistic workloads than Sunspider or V8. Kraken in a way provides a clear view of realistic workloads pushing the browsers limits. Chrome 18 almost demolishes its predecessor and all the recent Firefox release with a stunning score of 3974. Firefox 12 on the other hand fell behind all others by a noticeable margin.
Real World Metrics : Chrome the memory monger
If your planning to jump to Chrome bandwagon based on the above benchmarks, hold your guns because the above browser benchmarks barely indicate any real world usage. It is time to check out how much system resources does the two browsers consume on a moderately heavy usage.
For the memory consumption tests I opened the following 10 tabs which I surf usually as my daily routine: Techsplurge, Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, OMGUbuntu , YouTube with a 360p video being played in Flash, Rotten Tomatoes, Phoronix, Google Reader, and a Google search results page.
Errata : I had not noticed plugincontainer.exe in the earlier memory benchmarks, which is basically the Mozilla container for browser plugin. I noticed it consumed around 100 MB for 360p video. Because this process is entirely separate from Firefox processes, I missed out on this from process explorer. I have added 100 MB for previous Firefox iterations’ memory results to compensate this.
Interestingly Chrome 18 reported to be using 1.25 GB of memory when I checked from its internal task manager. However upon totalling the memory consumed by each of the chrome.exe processes, it turned out to be 1.7 GB .
Chrome seems to be munching more memory with every release. There are numerous arguments in the wild web about why Chrome consumes so much of memory , but one must clearly note that no matter what Sandboxing or process separation for each tab. Chrome uses a heck lot of memory. This basically renders your PC useless if you wish to do anything apart from browsing on Chrome when you are on a low end PC.
The CPU usage across the two browsers were the same almost , with the usage hovering around 5 – 7% in each browser. If you are smart you would have guessed that Adobe Flash was the main factor contributing to the CPU usage. But overall, both the browsers manage to be impressively low when it comes to CPU usage.
Which browser should I choose now?
I am huge Firefox fan, but both Chrome and Firefox are great browsers in their own respects and are helping a great deal to make the web better. Here is why you would choose Firefox or Chrome
- You want a fast browser which does not eat your RAM for breakfast.
- You work with lot of tabs open.
- You want a lot of customizations in your browser and use loads of add-ons.
- You are bothered about your online privacy
- You want the fastest browser on the planet .
- You do not open many tabs while browsing.
- You have a fairly powerful machine and/or don’t bother about the resource usage of your browser.
- You do not care much about your privacy and do not mind Google collecting user data.
Sadly for me, this one has been quite a mediocre Firefox release when it comes to benchmarks and new features introduced. However this release was necessary as it gave more room for Mozilla to fix important bugs and security issues. With major new features like a completely overhauled UI , improved download manager , web apps integration coming in later releases, it will be worth the wait hopefully. Chrome on the other hand has improved on every other aspect apart from Memory optimization. Do feel free to share your opinion about Firefox 12 vs Chrome 18.