Researcher: Chrome's isolated tabs make it memory 'pig'

But he credits Google with efficient use of processor threads

Google's new Chrome browser chews up more memory than even Microsoft's recent Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) Beta 2, a researcher said yesterday.

"Chrome's a pig," said Craig Barth, chief technology officer at Devil Mountain Software, a US-based maker of PC performance testing software. "Like IE8 Beta 2, it's targeted at the next generation of hardware, not older PCs running Windows XP on a half-gig of RAM."

Barth ran Chrome, the new Google browser released Tuesday, through the same 10-site scenario Devil Mountain used earlier in the week to benchmark the memory footprint and processor thread count for IE8 Beta 2, IE7 and Mozilla's Firefox.

In the test, each browser opened the 10 sites -- including media-rich domains such as boston.com, channel9.com, cnet.com, infoworld.com and nytimes.com -- in separate tabs, with links on those sites opened in additional tabs.

Chrome's peak memory consumption under Windows XP was 324MB, slightly less than IE8 Beta 2's 332MB, Barth said, but the Google browser's average footprint of 267MB was 26 percent larger than IE8's 211MB.

In Monday's test, IE8 Beta 2 consumed far more memory than other browsers -- 52 percent more than IE7, for example -- and easily led all others in the dubious honor. At the time, Barth called IE8 "epically porcine."

But even though Chrome tipped the scales even more dramatically than IE8, Barth was willing to cut Google some slack. "It's going to be fat by virtue of what they're trying to do," he said, noting that Chrome eats more memory because it essentially opens a separate instance of the browser for each tab, a design Google said it used to segregate tabs, and the sites on them, so that if one crashes the browser as a whole does not.

"It's going to be fat, but you have got to give Google credit for doing [the browser] from scratch. It's fat by design, and they come out and say that.'We're willing to isolate each tab,' Google says, so you know that and expect it."

As he did with the other browsers, Barth also tallied the processor threads that Chrome spawned. The numbers, he said, "befuddled" Devil Mountain.

"Given its use of a multi-process model [similar to IE8's], we would have expected Chrome to introduce a comparable thread workload," he said. "[But] we were surprised that Chrome had spun a much more manageable 48 execution threads at the peak."

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Gregg Keizer

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