Resource Hog No More? 🐽

Amid the latest flare-up of the Chrome RAM consumption debate, let’s wonder aloud if ARM processors could end this debate once and for all. (I think they can.)


It’s like a meme that will never die: Google Chrome, for all its benefits, is a gigantic memory hog that uses way too many resources for its own good.

This is not, like, a new thing (and there are legitimate reasons for it), but a recent blog post from a startup named Flotato put some fresh gasoline on the fire by conducting a test comparing Chrome’s memory use with that of Safari as well as its own browser, which uses a variant of the Webkit engine used by Safari.

The study, much like the recent data from Intel comparing its processor line to the Apple M1, instantly drew questions from skeptical observers. And yes, while that’s probably the correct assessment, I also kind of wonder if the coming rise of ARM-based processors threatens to kill the debate over browser memory use entirely.

My case is basically this: When relying on optimized applications, the M1 processor is an absolute champ when it comes to battery life and processor use, which is the real reason this debate is coming up. No matter if I’m using Chrome-based browsers like Vivaldi (which I recently wrote about) or Webkit-based browsers like Safari, the result is the same: processor use is kept in check, and memory consumption isn’t too much of an issue, because the operating system works around it.

What causes things to go off the rails, however, is when I use Intel-based apps, which seem to tax the processor significantly more. (And it reminds me of how web browsers alone were often enough to kick up the fans on my old machines.) To me, that suggests that a big reason this whole debate is coming up comes down to a problem with hardware optimization on Intel-based platforms, which is less purpose-built for the types of data commonly coming in from a browser—such as Javascript and encoding-dependent video.

On my older computers, I feel like the amount of battery life a particular browser allowed for was a major deciding factor in whether or not I actually used it. Safari was always the best, but it had such a paltry number of extensions that I never took it seriously. (Honestly, I still don’t. It’s to the point where I don’t understand why anyone would use it.) But the browsers with the most bells and whistles seemed to kill battery life way quicker.

But the M1 seems to allow for all-day battery life no matter which browser I use. Which means that the processor seems to be threatening to make the whole browser-resources-consumption debate obsolete.

That would be pretty amazing if it did. Let’s hope it kicks off a trend.

Now whether or not that happens, let’s remember that companies releasing graphs that rip on their competition obviously have a vested interest in making sure their offering looks the best. So, before looking at the numbers, make sure you consider the source.

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Ernie Smith

Your time was just wasted by Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the editor of Tedium, and an active internet snarker. Between his many internet side projects, he finds time to hang out with his wife Cat, who's funnier than he is.

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