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