Chrome 89 promises less memory greed and a cooler, quieter Mac

Chris Davies - Mar 12, 2021, 8:15am CST
Chrome 89 promises less memory greed and a cooler, quieter Mac

Google claims to have tamed Chrome’s memory-hungry ways, with the Chrome M89 release of the browser reportedly making big cuts when it comes to system demands. Long a topic of frustration, Chrome’s hunger for RAM – as well as other Windows, Mac, and Android resources – has also long been a focus for Google’s Chromium engine team, and this time they say they’ve made significant improvements.

In Windows, for example, Chrome 89 is showing up to 22-percent memory savings in the browser process. That’s not all, either: the Chromium team claims it can also save 8-percent in the renderer, and 3-percent in the GPU.

Browser responsiveness, meanwhile, has improved by up to 9-percent. Google gathers those results using real-world user data, anonymously aggregated across Chrome clients from those who allow the company to get performance reports.

As for just how it did that, according to Product Manager Mark Chang, it’s down to a new memory allocator. Dubbed PartitionAlloc, it’s now being used in the 64-bit Windows version of Chrome – and the Android version of the browser – with Chang saying that the system has been optimized around low allocation latency, space efficiency, and security. Chrome should also be smarter about discarding memory, too, and can now reclaim up to 100MiB per tab by discarding memory the foreground tab isn’t actively using.

For instance, if you load a webpage with big images, Chrome 89 can discard those pictures as you scroll past them. It’s enough, Chang says, to save more than 20-percent of memory on some popular sites.

As for macOS, there Chrome 89 is catching up with versions for other platforms. By shrinking its memory footprint in background tabs, it’s apparently seeing up to 8-percent Amoy savings, or the equivalent of more than 1GiB. Macs will also benefit from improved tab throttling, leading to up to a 65-percent improvement on its Apple Energy Impact score for background tabs. The result, Change says, should be a cooler-running Mac and less need for active cooling with the fans.

Unsurprisingly, given Google’s focus on Android recently, Chrome on the mobile platform is getting some extra attention. Thanks to new Play and Android capabilities, Chang says, the Chrome team could repackage the browser. He claims “we’re seeing fewer crashes due to resource exhaustion, a 5% improvement in memory usage, 7.5% faster startup times, and up to 2% faster page loads.”

If you’ve got an Android Q device with 8GB of memory or more, you’ll be able to take advantage of Chrome rebuilt as a 64-bit binary. That should be more stable, Chang says, along with up to 8.5-percent faster at page loading, and 28-percent smoother for input latency and scrolling.

Those with less potent devices, meanwhile, could see an improvement, with Chrome 89 taking advantage of Android App Bundles to optimize APK size. That means the Play store can generate tailored downloads for the specific device, so that only the necessary code is used.

Chrome on Android should start faster, too. Freeze-Dried Tabs basically now saves a lightweight version of the tabs you have open, more akin to a screenshot in size, but still with working links and scroll/zoom support. By showing those initially – while the full page loads in the background – when Chrome starts up, the Android browser can be ready 13-percent faster.


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