Chrome uses 10x more RAM than Safari on macOS

The Dock on Mac
The Dock on Mac (Image credit: iMore)

What you need to know

  • New research from the creator of Flotato suggests Chrome uses 10x the amount of RAM that Safari does on macOS.
  • In one stress test it was as high as 24x...

New research from Flotato creator Morten Just has revealed Chrome uses 10x more memory than Safari when browsing on macOS Big Sur.

In a recent blog post Just stated:

I reached a point where I could barely hear the podcast I was trying to listen to. That's how loud the fan was. Then I closed down all open Chrome windows, and a few minutes after, the fan went silent. So I decided to see if it was just me.I ran the 2-tab test in a completely fresh macOS install on a virtual machine. Then I ran the 54-tabs test on my own Big Sur installation, but with all extensions disabled. To record a usage snapshot ~250 times per second, I used psrecord.

The results

Testing the browsers by visiting Twitter, opening a new tab with Gmail and then checking an email, Just found the following results:

Chrome Test

Chrome Test (Image credit: Morten Just)

Yikes. Just found that Chrome reached 1GB of RAM usage using just two tabs, whilst Safari in the same scenario only used 80MB. Flotato, Just's lightweight version of Chrome that turns web pages into app windows, used even less memory.

However, as most of you know, two tabs can kindly be described as "rookie numbers". In a stress test where Just opened 54 tabs, he found that each Chrome tab used on average 290MB of ram, compared to 12MB on Safari, that's 24x as much!

Suspicious of the numbers and whether the virtual machine was hampering results, the same tests were repeated on a regular Mac running Big Sur (and a 16-inch MBP with an i9 processor and 32GB of RAM at that). The results were worse.

A notorious memory hog, the results aren't too surprising. Last year Jonathan Morrison managed to max out Apple's Mac Pro using 6,000 Google Chrome tabs.

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.

Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9

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  • That site describes how a Mac user speed was degraded, and then suggests using Safari instead. Lets not forget that Safari is still the least compliant HTML5 browser on the planet today. You can easily check that on the web yourself, especially when there is tons of sites that will confirm that fact. Checkout, or many other sites for instance. Plus to this day Apple still gimps web apps, especially PWAs. Apple purposely goes out of their way to discourage developers from making and implementing PWA, and would rather have developers make native apps, or programs instead.
  • So the trade off is 1. Install an app that slows your entire machine even when you are not only not running it, but have delegated it, or 2. Not be fully HTML5 compliant. Hmmm. This is like the environmentalist problem, do I have some minor discomfort but save the world, or do I burn everything down so I can have a truck that gets 8 mpg and also makes chemicals that are slowly killing me... this is a hard choice. Maybe they can upgrade chrome to 9mpg?
  • If you actually read what Flotato is, they run web apps in a controlled environment. What better way to sell your product by scaring the public about the competition, and then pumping up your product to sell for $20, which in this case Flotato runs web apps in their controlled environment. Ask yourself why Safari is not 100% compliant in the first place, and then ask why do you need to buy Flotato to run web apps, when Chrome is fully compliant, and it uses the latest and most current web standards. Plus it runs all web apps as they were intended to run. Something that Apples Safari still to this day cannot do.
  • For Intel absolutely, but what about the M1 optimized version? I want to know if I need to tell my wife to switch to Safari or Firefox LOL. For me, I almost always use Safari.
  • Yes, she should switch. Do I have M1 measurements? No. But chrome has always been a disaster of bad thread and memory management, it is made by a company that in most cases you should avoid if you can, and there have always been better options. Safari is better. Opera is better. Firefox is better. Edge is better. Literally, giving up browsing the web on a computer and buying an iPad for that sole purpose is a better choice than chrome. See the above post with the chromeisbad site and remove all traces of it. It is an evil POS.
  • You must work for Apple, or you really have no clue on what you are talking about. To say that Safari is better as a browser, clearly means that you don't use web apps, or any PWA. Apple has specially gimped their Safari, and made it almost impossible to run web apps as the web standards originally intended. Its obvious that Apple wants developers to make native apps instead of creating and running web apps for Apples iOS platforms. Otherwise Apple would have made their browser fully compliant with the web standards many years ago. Yet you have the nerve and gall to call Chrome evil and a POS. So what does that make Apple for not fully implementing all the web standards? Try and remember if Apple fully implemented them, then developers wouldn't need to create any NATIVE apps for iOS. So who is evil here?
  • Do you even know what you are talking about? The article is about Chrome on Mac OS, not iOS. Chrome on iOS doesn’t even use “Blink”. Go read the article Googl-ite!
  • The interesting thing is Have found that MS Edge even though it's based on Chromium is very efficient. What I do find with Safari though is that serval sites I visit including iMore really kicks in the battery drain. What I would really like to see is Edge being able to leverage the KeyChain.