Firefox: Heat and the CPU usage problem

Mozilla Firefox logoFirefox has a CPU usage issue and, consequently, can cause overheating problems in some laptops, particularly ultraportables. That's what I've found over the last couple of years.

But don't take my word for it. This is documented on a Mozilla support page entitled "Firefox consumes a lot of CPU resources." The page states: "At times, Firefox may require significant CPU [central processing unit] resources in order to download, process, and display Web content." And forum postings like this one about a Dell Netbook are not uncommon: "Mini9 would get way too hot."

The Mozilla support page goes on to say that "you can review and monitor CPU usage through specific tools" and describes ways to limit CPU usage, such as: "A Firefox add-on, called Flashblock, allows you to selectively enable and disable Flash content on Web sites."

Let me describe my experience. I find that tab for tab, Firefox uses decidedly more resources than other browsers--Safari, for example. And in the past (when I was actively using a Windows Vista-based machine) Firefox also compared unfavorably with Microsoft's Internet Explorer for CPU usage.

More specifically, here's the behavior as I see it. When I'm accessing sites with multimedia content such as the CNET front door, Firefox CPU usage will bounce around between 30 and 60 percent, and sometimes spike higher (80 percent and above), as indicated by the Mac OS 10.6.2 Activity Monitor.

On the other hand, the Safari CPU usage with the same pages open is much lower--typically between 2 percent and 10 percent.

My theory is that most users don't notice this because in mainstream laptops, this isn't an issue. But it can become an issue in ultraportables--typically under an inch thick--which are more sensitive to heat because of the design constraints. The ultrathin Apple MacBook Air, which I use as my main machine, is a good example.

The fan is usually an audible indicator of CPU usage issues. When I'm using Firefox and I have tabs open on multimedia-rich sites (which is par for the course these days), the Air's fan will almost invariably kick on and stay on until I close the tabs. As I write this, the fan has finally shut down after I closed the Firefox tabs (e.g, CNET front door). Those same tabs in Safari are still open and not causing any significant spike in CPU usage or fan activity.

When I contacted Mozilla, a technical support person guessed that Safari is possibly better at optimizing Flash-based sites compared to Firefox. And that may be true. However, I had similar issues before when I was using a Hewlett-Packard business ultraportable (also very thin like the Air) that were not necessarily tied to Flash usage. In short, Firefox was less efficient with CPU usage compared to Microsoft's IE 8. And the behavior was similar. The HP laptop would quickly heat up and the fan would kick on.

Finally, let me reemphasize that I'm guessing that most users don't notice this because heat dissipation is not a big issue for mainstream laptops that are not necessarily thermally-challenged when accessing multimedia-rich Web pages. That said, this has been a steady problem for me because I use ultraportables almost exclusively and has forced me to limit my use of Firefox.

Source: CNET

Tags: browsers, Firefox, Mozilla, netbooks

Add comment

Your name:
Sign in with:
Your comment:

Enter code:

E-mail (not required)
E-mail will not be disclosed to the third party

Last news

Galaxy Note10 really is built around a 6.7-inch display
You may still be able to download your content
Facebook, Messenger and Instagram are all going away
Minimize apps to a floating, always-on-top bubble
Japan Display has been providing LCDs for the iPhone XR, the only LCD model in Apple’s 2018 line-up
The 2001 operating system has reached its lowest share level
The entire TSMC 5nm design infrastructure is available now from TSMC
The smartphone uses a Snapdragon 660 processor running Android 9 Pie
The Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) Review
The evolution of the successful smartphone, now with a waterproof body and USB Type-C
February 7, 2017 / 2
Samsung Galaxy TabPro S - a tablet with the Windows-keyboard
The first Windows-tablet with the 12-inch display Super AMOLED
June 7, 2016 /
Keyboards for iOS
Ten iOS keyboards review
July 18, 2015 /
Samsung E1200 Mobile Phone Review
A cheap phone with a good screen
March 8, 2015 / 4
Creative Sound Blaster Z sound card review
Good sound for those who are not satisfied with the onboard solution
September 25, 2014 / 2
Samsung Galaxy Gear: Smartwatch at High Price
The first smartwatch from Samsung - almost a smartphone with a small body
December 19, 2013 /

News Archive



Do you use microSD card with your phone?
or leave your own version in comments (16)