Chrome vs Vivaldi - Raw elements


Updated: December 1, 2017

As I've written once upon a time, like Alien vs Predator, only completely different and totally unrelated. Several weeks ago, I birthed an article pitting a number of Firefox-based browsers against each other, testing their overall goodness for daily consumption - but in a good way - especially given the radical changes introduced by Firefox 57.

You asked, so it's time to do the same for Chrome and Vivaldi. Not a browser benchmark. Again, as I've outlined in the review above, testing browser speed is not an exact science, it's an approximation that requires thousands of users, and it can never be accurately done in a lab. Even Google will tell you so. Besides, that's not the reason why we're here. More sort of, Chrome and the most popular Chromium-based browser, what gives?

Teaser

Note: Image taken from Wikimedia and modified, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Google Chrome 61

I have to say that I like how Google did their browser - with forethought and making sure the frontend only undergoes minimal changes while they do the whole backend haul. The company also knows where to puts its focus - on user-perceived browser speed and responsiveness, as with Android, they cater to the touch crowd, and with text-thin experience that most mobile users have, it is important to have a fast and lean product.

However, my focus here is on the desktop. Chrome has been my secondary browser for a while. It has a lot of interesting extensions, nowhere near as many or as powerful as Firefox, though. It's also quite snappy, and usually, it will pop up open before other browsers, regardless of what happens with system resources in the background. Then again, the restricted nature of its behavior is probably why I don't find it adequate to be my primary Internet portal. Something about the je ne sais quoi that just isn't there. Must be the mindset of being Android-loving or not.

All that said, this is a pretty robust browser. Simple, stable, visually quiet, and it works well. Responds fasts to your input, and gives you a feeling of being fresh and lithe, which I guess counts a lot with most people. A fair amount of decent extensions.

Chrome running

Performance

You learn so much about browser behavior, even if you do a small number of things, like open a page and check the memory and CPU utilization. Chrome goes for a large number of processes, which probably helps better manage browser resources and adds stability, but also gives a higher figure. Makes sense. On idle, with a single tab open, Chrome utilized about 280 MB RAM and about 350 MB shared memory. If we look at Firefox from the previous test, this one is much higher. I don't subscribe to the whole 'memory hog' notion, because it's all about how the resources are used. But as a starting point, it means Chrome has more to tinker with.

Chrome memory

Using the same HD video test like we did with the Fox family, I hit the following values. CPU about 30-35% on average, with a tiny overall responsiveness degradation in both the browser and the underlying system, more than what I've experienced using Firefox and alike. But then, if you're watching a video, the browser does not really need to be real-time fast, does it? In this regard, Chrome is fast when it matters, initial loading and basic user interaction, but then it chugs CPU when it needs the cycles to complete the job, and the responsiveness takes a penalty. So perhaps Firefox is more balanced overall, and less hungry, only most people will care about how snappy the first few steps take, not what happens after. The differences are minor, but still there.

Chrome, CPU usage

Vivaldi 1.12

I've tested early releases of Vivaldi and found it - strange. So think Windows Phone versus Android as an earlier comparison analogy. Now, Vivaldi, by this extension Opera, behaves like something else entirely. It's nerdy, overcrowded and yet abstract all at the same time, and it hits completely different resonances in your brain.

Setting up

Setting up 2

Setting up Vivaldi; a bit of a sensory overload.

The browser comes with tons of features and options, and luckily you can tweak most of them off if you want a simple interface. I find the Speed Dial to be particularly annoying, and I always turn it off, natively or through extensions in every which browser. Vivaldi makes it more challenging than most - but less than Chrome - to have a simple and unadorned blank new tab page. I am also not keen on all the preloaded tabs with links to commercial software and products, plus the wagonload of bookmarks of the same nature.

Speed Dial

Vivaldi bookmarks

I don't want any bookmarks.

Visually, tabs have different highlight colors, and I haven't figured out how and why. The contrast isn't sharp enough, and my eyes started to strain after a while. It's hard to distinguish Vivaldi from background windows as it has no border/shadow.

Vivaldi, contrast

Can you tell where the browser ends and Kate in the background begins?

All in all, I had a similar setup to Chrome, but it took an effort taming down all the extras. I'm happy they exist, and they sure will help a lot of people who want their browser to be a jack-of-all-trades, but that's not me.

Vivaldi running

Performance

Vivaldi is an ever bigger glutton than Chrome, but then, it comes with so many features and options, it makes sense. You can add filters and effects to your pages, add notes, and so much more, it's indeed overwhelming. And the numbers prove it. Almost 400 MB private set and a bit more than 650 MB shared memory. That's a respectable record. Again, unless you're starving for memory, this doesn't mean much.

Vivaldi, memory

With the HD video on, CPU utilization was about 45%, going down to about 40% but not much less than that. This is quite interesting. And it's perceptible, too, with the browser and the system not responding as fast as when I was testing with Firefox. Now, don't get all too excited. Without comparing other CPU architectures and operating systems and a billion other parameters, it's hard to tell why exactly. But it's still an indicator. For me, this means Vivaldi is the hungriest of the bunch, and the system is ever so slightly affected by the high processor number crunching. Also a tad slower than Chrome.

CPU usage

Conclusion

This was an interesting test. When it comes to Chromium-based browsers, and there are tons more we haven't explored here, Chrome seems to make most sense. It is simple and robust. Straightforward. Very snappy, but under load, it loses some of its instant responsiveness, and it eats merrily into the resources. Looking at Firefox, Mozilla's product might have a ray of hope here by being more frugal in general.

Vivaldi is a rich, complex browser with too many features for its own good. Its features are a double-edged sword, as it may deter less skilled folks. It is also less responsive than Chrome, and has the highest overall resource usage of all the browsers I've played with recently. Nothing dramatic, no showstoppers. However, when you put all the bits and pieces together, I struggle seeing myself using Vivaldi.

If you want Chromium and friends, then Google's article is the way to go. If we expand our view of the world, I'd like to say that new editions of Firefox do have a lot of merit, and a more flexible overall spectrum of performance. Google is sharp, which is why you notice the penalty once it's there, like video playback. If Mozilla manages to salvage its addons fiasco, it might be able to recuperate some of the love it lost in the past five years. Anyway, of the two candidates today, Chrome is the obvious choice. In general, despite feeling probed by Mozilla's bullshit recently, I'd still say Firefox is the most rounded desktop product. Mobile? A different story altogether. And we're done.

Cheers.

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