IE 8 consumes more RAM than Windows XP

exo.performance.network is declaring IE 8 to the be one seriously bloated piece of software. Not only is it fatter than IE 7, it's also more resource-intensive

Now there's a shocker! After evaluating Internet Explorer 8, the folks over at the exo.performance.network (the ones who brought you Windows Sentinel) are declaring it to be one seriously bloated piece of software. Not only is it "fatter" than IE 7, it's also more resource-intensive. Here are the stats in all their gruesome glory:

  • 350-400MB memory footprint
  • 150-200 concurrent execution threads
  • 6 discrete iexplore.exe process instances
  • Over 2x more demanding than Firefox

The above was recorded during a rather pedestrian-sounding, 10-site browsing scenario featuring popular sites like Fox News, CNet, and the New York Times, not to mention InfoWorld.com. During testing, they compared IE 8 to IE 7 and FireFox 3.01 running atop box Windows XP (SP3) and Vista (SP1), using the DMS Clarity Tracker agent to record system and process metrics from the test boxes.

Of course, the numbers don't mean much without some context. Suffice to say that IE 8 consumes more RAM than Windows XP does (the entire OS). If I boot XP (SP3) on a 1GB system, I have more than 800MB free. Add IE 8 to the mix and, depending on the site workload, I can suddenly find myself with less than half that. The situation is even worse under Vista. In fact, IE 8 is fatter than my word processor (Word 2007), spreadsheet (Excel 2007), and presentation software (PowerPoint 2007) combined. It's even fatter than Visual Studio 2008 with 10,000 lines of code and several complex, multi-part Web forms loaded into the IDE.

IE 8 is fat. Period. All of which begs the question: What were these people thinking? Since when does making an application 50 percent larger (in terms of RAM consumption) and nearly 3x more CPU-hungry (in terms of concurrent execution threads) constitute progress? And I thought Vista was bloated!

My guess is that they're designing IE 8 for the future. Microsoft knows that the next generation of CPUs from Intel and AMD will sport at least 4 discrete processing cores. They also know that RAM is cheap and that many die-hard Windows "fan bois" are already running with 8GB or more of RAM under Vista x64. If anything, IE 8 is a shout-out to the company’s hardware vendor partners, a way to prod people into moving up-market to 64-bit computing on tomorrow's stat-of-the-art, "many-core" platforms.

And it's a strategy that might actually pay off. Once the hardware catches up to IE 8's voracious appetite, users may discover that all those extra, concurrent code paths provide for a smoother, more efficient browsing experience. After all, what's 200 execution threads when you spread them across 8 cores? Roughly 25 threads per core? When I put it that way, it doesn't sound quite so bad!

Now all I need to do is go out and buy one of those new 8-core PCs (when they become available) and equip it with lots and lots of RAM (16GB should hold me for a while). Oh, and the 64-bit flavor of Vista so I can actually use all that RAM (32-bit Vista supports a paltry 4GB, and we all know how limiting that can be).

Maybe I should simply dedicate an entire PC to IE 8. Yeah, that's the ticket! A dedicated Web browsing PC! Sort of like one of those eePCs, only more expensive!

Or I could just run Firefox and use the money I save to take a well-earned vacation.

Hmm ... decisions, decisions ...

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